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Sketches Illustrating the Early Settlement and History of Glengarry in Canada
Chapter 9

The First Regiment Raised in Upper Canada.—The Second Battalion R. C. V. Regiment of Foot.—Lieutenant-Colonel Macdonell, M.P. for Glengarry, Placed in Command.— Headquarters at Fort George - Volunteer their Services to any Quarter of the Globe - Thanks of Duke of Kent.—Reduction of Regiment during Peace of Amiens.—Return of Officers.—List of Officers First or Lower Canadian Battalion—Colonel Macdonell's Memorial.— State of the Militia.— Lieutenants of Counties.—Colonel Macdonell Recommends Formation of a Corps of Highland Fencibles in Glengarry - Colonel Brock Approves of Proposal and Transmits Recommendation to War Office—Death of Colonel Macdonell.

In 1794 a number of Independent Companies were in existence m Upper Canada, which in 1796 were, with others in Lower Canada, embodied in a Regiment of two Battalions, the second Battalion being under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel John Macdonell, the member for Glengarry. This Regiment was placed on the Permanent Establishment, and was known as the Royal Canadian Volunteer Regiment of Foot. The Second Battalion was the first Corps raised in Upper Canada. The First Battalion was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Da Longueuil, with Louis DeSala berry as Major. The Second Battalion garrisoned this Province from 1796 until disbanded in 1832, as did the First Battalion the Province of Lower Canada during the same period.

Colonel Macdonell's headquarters were at Fort George (Niagara) during the peril id the Regiment was on service. Detachments were stationed at the following places, viz: Kingston, under Major Spencer; St. Joseph's Island, under Captain Drummond; Amherstburg, under Captain Hector McLean; Fort Erie, under Captain Wilkinson; Fort Chippewa, under Lieutenant William Crawford.

In 1800 a suggestion appears to have been made that it would be of advantage if the Second Battalion, R. C. V., would extend its service to any part of British America, and Colonel Macdonell having submitted the matter to the officers under his command, was enabled to address the following letter to the Officer commanding in Canada:

"Fort George, February 20, 1800.


"I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 26th November, with enclosures.

"The suggestion that the services of the Second Battalion Royal Canadian Volunteers might be usefully extended to the different parts of British North America in general was no sooner made known to the five companies forming the garrison in this post, Fort Erie, and Fort Chippewa than they were most cheerfully offered, and generally showed a desire to extend them to any part of His Majesty's dominions.

"The officers (as might be expected from such Loyalists) expressed satisfaction at having an opportunity of testifying their zeal and attachment to their King by tendering their services in any part of the globe to which they might have the honour of being called. I shall have the honour of reporting to you as soon as possible the sentiments of the other four companies at Kingston, Amhersthurg, and St. Joseph. I think, however, I can vouch that their zeal to His Majesty's service is not less than the companies I have already mentioned. The example of the Nova Scotia and New Brunswick Corps is certainly highly meritorious, and would no doubt operate strongly in exciting an emulation in others; but I have the vanity to believe that the Second Battalion of Royal Canadian Volunteers would have offered their services even had the other Provincial Corps not shown the example.

"I have the honour to be, Sir,

"Your most obedient servant, " J. Macdonell.

"To Lieutenant-General Hunter,

"Commanding His Majesty's Forces in both Canadas."

The offer of service which Colonel Macdonell was thus authorized to make or behalf of his Battalion was acknowledged by H R H. the Duke of Kent in the following letters:

Extract from letter of the Duke of Kent to Lieutenant-General Hunter, commanding the Forces in the Canadas, through his Aide-de-Camp, Major Gordon :—

"Kensington Palace, December 15, 1800.

"With respect to your letter of the 26th of July, containing an enclosure from Lieutenant-Colonel Macdonell, commanding the Second Battalion Royal Canadian Volunteers, of the four companies of that Corps stationed at Kingston and Amherstburg, to extend their services as Fencibles throughout British America. I am commanded to desire that the thanks of His Royal Highness may be communicated to those four companies for this fresh mark of their zeal for the service and attachment and loyalty to their Sovereign."

Extract from a letter from the Duke of Kent to Lieutenant-General Hunter :—

"Pavillion, Brightelmstone, October 25th, 1800.


"I have the pleasure to acknowledge the receipt of your letter No. 12, dated York. July 25, which reached me together with its several enclosures on the 25th ult.

"Your !etter of the 26th of July to Major Gorden enclosing Lieutenant-Colonel Macdouell's report that four more companies of the Second Battalion of the Royal Canadian Volunteers had volunteered the extension of their services to the whole of British North America having arrived at the same time, I am enabled to desire you to authorize that officer to express to the officers and men of those companies my thanks in the same manner as he was desired to do to those of the former five.


Colonel Macdonell was obliged to adhere steadily to his post from the first raising of the Regiment, as appears from a letter addressed by him to the Military Secretary at Quebec dated September 1, 1800 :

"Not having it in my power to examine into the state of the Militia of the County of Glengarry, nor of my private affairs since the first raising of the Royal Canadian Volunteers, I take the liberty to request of Lieutenant-General Hunter leave of absence tor a few weeks for those purposes.

"Captain McMillan has requested me to apply for leave of absence for him on private affairs in Glengarry, he "not having been absent since he first joined."

This Regiment was, together with many others, and including all the Fencible Regiments in the service, disbanded during the Peace of Amiens in 1802.

The following is the return on the reduction showing the names of the officers of this Battalion, with their respective length and record of service :—

The names of the P'iist (Lower Canadian; Battalion may not be uninteresting. The officers were for the most part representatives of the most distinguished families of the King's new subjects :

Hugh Macdonell, M.P. for Glengarry, and subsequently Consul Genera! at Algiers, was at one tune Senior Captain in the First Battalion R. C. V. It is worthy of note that, judging from the names, the Chaplain of the Upper Canada Battalion was a Catholic priest, while, the Reverend Salter Mountain was a Church of England clergyman.

The folk wing memorial was addressed by Colonel Macdonell to the Commander of the Forces in Canada on the reduction of the Regiment:

To His Excellency Peter Hunter, Esq., Lieutenant General commanding His Majesty's Forces in Upper and Lower Canada.

"The memorial of the Field Officers, Captains and Subalterns of the St cord Battalion of His Majesty's Regiment of Royal Canadian Volunteers most respectfully sheweth;

4i That whilst your memorialists view with unfeigned satisfaction the general happiness afforded by the restoration of peace, they cannot on that occasion reflect without emotion upon the particular circumstances of their own situation.

"That a very considerable proportion of your memorialists had the honour to serve His Majesty during the American War. and having at the conclusion of it settled upon and cultivated the lands assigned to then, were beginning to reap some of the fruits of their exertions, and with the assistance of their half-pay to enjoy some degree of ease and comfort when the War broke out; and that the rest of your memorialists are sons to persons of the very same description.

"That as the appearances of things at that time indicated but a short period of service, your memorialists eagerly embraced the opportunity of evincing their grateful attachment to their Sovereign Without contemplating any other reward than the appointments 'of their respective rank, and with no prospects but of soon returning to that life of industry on which their principal dependence was necessary placed—both for present support and for the means of future provision for their families.

That the destructive ambition of His Majesty's enemies having, contrary to all expectations, protracted the War to such a length, your memorialists have now remained embodied nearly eight years; the consequence has been that the domestic affairs of your memorialists of the first description have in that long interval of absence and unavoidable neglect been materially impaired, and they will now be obliged (unless His Majesty's gracious favour be extended to them; to return to their homes at a more advanced period in life and with prospects less favourable both for themselves and their families than when the War began. Your memorialists of the latter description are involved in a still more gloomy situation, for having dedicated many of their years to a military life, and having passed in His Majesty's service that period of their lives during which they might have embraced other professions, unless some provision be made for them by the munificence of their Sovereign, having no resources of their own, it is painful to foresee the hardships and difficulties which must await them.

"Your memorialists therefore most humbly pray of Your Excellency that you will lay them at His Majesty's feet, beseeching him that he will be graciously pleased to place them upon the half pay list according to the rank which they at present hold in his service.

"And that His Majesty will also be graciously pleased to extend to the Battalion the same gracious bounty in donation of waste of the Crown which was extended to the Provincial Corps at the end of the American War—a measure which, brides filling the hearts of your memorialists with additional gratitude, would at the same time place at the disposal and within the immediate call of His Majesty's representatives in this Province a body of loyal disciplined men, attached to the country, and proud of transmitting their own principles and sentiments unimpaired to their posterity, and your memorialists as m duty bound will ever pray.

"J. Macdonell,
"Commanding Second Battalion Royal Canadian Volunteers,
For himself and on behalf of the officers and men of the Corps.
" Fort George, 24 August, 1802."

It is evident from the statement in the memorial of Mrs. Hugh Macdonell, quoted hereafter, that the prayer of the officers to be placed on half-pay according to their respective rank was not acceded to, but from information gathered in the Crown Lands Office I am led to believe that the men received an allotment of land similar to that granted to the soldiers of the various Loyalist Regiments of the Revolutionary War.

In addition to being a member for the County of Glengarry, Colonel Macdonell occupied a position which existed certainly between the years 1793 and 1808, though I can find no lists of a later date than the latter year, viz., Lieutenant of the County of Glengarry. The Duke de la Rochefoucault Liancourt who visited General Simcoe at York, in his "Travels through the United States, the Country of the Iroquois and Upper Canada," gives a succinct account of the duties of lieutenants of Counties and of the militia organization of the Province. He states that the division of the then four existing districts of the Province into counties :

"Is purely military, and relates merely to the enlisting, completing and assembling of the militia. The Counties are about twelve in number" The militia of each county are assembled and commanded by a lieutenant: They must be divided into regiments and companies. They assemble once a year in each county, and are inspected by the captains of the different companies at least twice a year. Every male inhabitant is considered a militia man from the age of sixteen to fifty. He is fined $4 if he does not enlist at the proper time; and officers, both commissioned and non-commissioned, who do not join their regiments at the time the militia is assembled pay a fine, the former of $8 and the latter of $2. An officer who, in case of insurrection or an attack, should riot repair to his assigned post, would be punished in a pecuniary penalty of 50, and a petty officer with a fine of 20. A militia man who sells either the whole or a part of his arms, ammunition or accoutrements is fined 5, an 1 in default of payment imprisoned for two months. The Quakers, Baptists and Tunkers pay, in times of peace, twenty shillings a year, and during a war or insurrection five pounds sterling for their exemption from military service. Out of these fines and ransoms, the Adjutant-General of the Militia receives his pay and the remainder is at the Governor's disposal. This is nearly the substance of the first Act of the Legislative body of Upper Canada, passed in 1793."

The following year a further Act was passed relating to the militia, tending to improve and more accurately define the internal form of the Regiments, Battalions and Companies, and to render the assembling of detachments more easy and expeditious. It extended, in time of War, the obligation to bear arms to sixty years, and directed that Quakers and others who were exempt should pay for their immunity up to that age. It obliged the militia to serve on board of ships and vessels, to act as cavalry and to extend their service beyond the Province, on condition, however, that the same men should not be bound to serve more than six months successively. The exemptions from service were confined to the officers of justice and other public functionaries, whose number was very small. The whole militia force was estimated at 9,000 men, and the cost of maintenance was defrayed by the British Government. The expense of civil and military administration, including money and presents to the Indians, was then, for Upper Canada, about 100,000 per annum.

Dr. Canniff states, in his "Settlement of Upper Canada," that "in all the measures I introduced by Governor Simcoe and passed into law by Parliament can be discovered a military mind actively at work. The arrangements by which he endeavoured to settle the country, to secure it against invasion, to keep alive a spirit of military ardour, to keep aglow the flame of patriotism, a love for the Mother Country, were eminently judicious and commendable. There is no doubt that the military spirit of Simcoe was pleasing to the old soldier-farmers, and in them he found willing and zealous abettors of his military schemes."

I have lists of Lieutenants of Counties of the years 1803 and 1808. I give that for the year 1803, which is the earliest I am able to find. It is taken from the Upper Canada Almanac of that year, published at York by John Bennet at his printing office, King street:

Glengarry—Lieutenant-Colonel John Macdonell.
Prescott—William Fortune, Esq.
Stormont—Archibald Macdonell, Esq.
Dundas—The Honourable Richard Duncan, Esq.
Grenville—Peter Drummond, Esq.
Leeds—James Brakenridge, Esq.
Frontenac—The Hon. Richard Cartwright.
Lennox—Hazelton Spencer, Esq.
Addington—'William Johnson, Esq.
Hastings—John Ferguson, Esq.
Prince Edward—Archibald Macdonell, Esq., of Marysburg.
Northumberland—Alexander Chisholm, Esq.
Durham—Robert Baldwin, Esq.
York—The Honourable D. W. Smith, Esq.
Lincoln—The Hon. Robert Hamilton, Esq.
Norfolk—Samuel Ryerse, Esq
Oxford—William Claus, Esq.
Essex—The Honourable Alexander Grant, Esq.
Kent—The Honourable James Baby, Esq.

It will be observed that several of these gentlemen had previously held commissions in Colonel Macdonell's Regiment. All of them were at the time in command of the militia regiments of their respective counties, except in the case of the Counties of Dundas, Grenville, Leeds and Essex, where the militia regiments were commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Allan Macdonell, Colonel William Fraser, Colonel Joel Stone and Lieutenant-Colonel John Asken, respectively.

In 1807 Colonel Macdonell proposed the formation of a Corps of Glengarry Fencibles, and the following correspondence took place between himself and Colonel (afterwards Major-General Sir Isaac) Brock and the War Office :

"Glengarry, January 28, 1807.


"I have the honour to enclose you the proposals for raising a corps of Highland Fencibles in this County, which were submitted to your perusal. The alterations you made are adopted with very few exceptions: should they meet with your approbation, you will be pleased to forward them to the War Office.

"The permanent pay asked for the Field Officers and Chaplain may be considered unusual, but in this instance it is necessary and expedient for carrying the proposals into effect. The Field Officers must undergo a vast deal of trouble, and their time will be as much occupied as if the Corps were constantly embodied.

"The County is almost entirely inhabited by Highlanders and their descendants, naturally brave and loyal as subjects, and firmly attached to the British Constitution and Government, yet from their situation and circumstances, being in general possessed of some landed property and the high ran of wages in the County, they are reluctant to quit these advantages to become soldiers. Nothing but a scheme of this nature, headed by gentlemen whom they know and respect, would induce them on any consideration to put themselves under the restraints of military discipline. The Chaplain having served in that capacity in the late Glengarry Fencibles in Great Britain, Ireland and Guernsey, has a claim to the favour of Government. He conducted a number of these people to this country, and having rendered himself useful in many respects to the people at large, has gained so far their confidence that his services in urging and forwarding this matter will be very essential. The adoption and successful issue of the present plan will greatly facilitate any future project of raising troops for a more general and extended nature of service.

I have the honour to be, sir,

"Your most obedient, humble servant.

"J. Macdonell, " Lieutenant of the County of Glengarry.

"Colonel Brock, &c."

Colonel Brock forwarded Colonel Macdonell's proposal to the War Office with the following letter to the Right Honourable Wiliiam Windham, then Secretary for War :—

"Quebec, February 12, 1807.

"I have the honour to transmit for your consideration a proposal torn Lieutenant-Colonel John Macdonell, late of the Royal Canadian Volunteers, for raising a Corps among the Scotch settlers in the County of Glengarry, Upper Canada.

"When it is considered that both the Canadas furnish only two hundred militia who are trained to arms, the advantages to be derived from such an establishment must appear very evident.

"The militia force in this Country is very small, and were it possible to collect in time to oppose any serious attempt upon Quebec, the only tenable post, the number would of itself be insufficient to ensure a vigorous defence."

"This Corps, being stationed on the confines of the Lower Province, would be always immediately and essentially useful in checking any seditious disposition, which the wavering sentiments of a large population in the Montreal District might at any time manifest. In the event of invasion or other emergency, this force could be easily and expeditiously transported by water to Quebec.

"The extent of Country which these settlers occupy would make the permanent establishment of the staff and one surgeon in each company very advisable. I shall not presume to say how far the claims of the field Officers to the same indulgence are reasonable and expedient.

"In regard to the Rev. Alexander Macdonell, I beg leave to observe that the men, being all Catholics, it may be deemed a prudent measure to appoint him Chaplain. His zeal and attachment to Government was strongly evinced while filling the office of Chaplain to the Glengarry Fencibles during the rebellion in Ireland, and were graciously acknowledged by His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief.

"His influence over the men is deservedly great, and I have every reason to believe that the Corps, by his exertions, would be soon completed, and hereafter become a nursery, from which the army might draw a. number of hardy recruits.

"I have, &c.,

"Isaac Brock."

Colonel Macdonell's wise suggestion was not at the time carried into effect, but a few years afterwards, when our relations with the United States had arrived at a crisis, the British Government adopted his plan, and gladly availed itself of the services of the hardy band of Highland Loyalists, who had made their home in Glengarry in Canada, and fortunately, though Colonel John Macdonell was unable to aid his Sovereign and his Country, the patriotic Chaplain (afterwards Bishop) Macdonell with the assistance, as will be seen, of another namesake and clansman, raised and organized the Glengarry Light Infantry Regiment, that ubiquitous Regiment which fought through the War of 1812-14, and caused the name of Glengarry to be respected by those who gloried in the freedom of British institutions, and feared by those who sought to overthrow them. I am unable to state definitely the date of the death of this gallant Officer and meritorious public servant.

I fear that having spent the best portion of his lifetime in the service of the country, his latter years were burdened by ill-health and pecuniary embarassment. I observe in a letter from his sister, the wife of General Ross, to her brother, Mr. Hugh Macdonell, Consul-General at Algiers, this paragraph "By a letter from Chichester (another brother who was then Lieutenant-Colonel of the Eighty-Second Regiment) who had letters from Canada, I am sorry to find that our brother John's health has been on the decline, and I fear his means also. Chichester has procured him the pay-mastership of the Tenth Veteran Battalion, which will be something in the meantime. Had he not trusted so much to other people, he would not have been under the necessity of accepting of such a trifle. Poor fellow, he thought all the world as honest-hearted as himself."

He died at Quebec, on his way, I believe, to England, probably lo take the appointment indicated above, and was buried under the Catholic Cathedral Church there.

He left one son, Alexander Macdonell, Major in the Lancaster Regiment of Glengarry Highlanders, which served throughout the Rebellion of '37-8, and who died many years ago, when comparatively young, and of whose family one daughter now survives, and still retains in Glengarry a considerable portion of the property, which was granted in return for the stern and unfailing loyalty of her grandfather and his father. It is known as the Schenectady property from the fact that Colonel Macdonell had married a lady from that part of the State of New York, a Miss Yates—whose family, unlike that of her husband, had adhered to the revolutionary side.


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