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49th Regiment of Foot

49th
Regiment of Foot


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49th Reg't in the War of 1812

1812

The 49th Regiment of Foot, which was rich in battle honours, first came to Halifax 1776 in response to the "troubles in America." During the revolution the regiment fought with distinction. In 1778 the regiment departed for the West Indies, where it participated in the capture of St. Lucia from the French. Back in Europe once more, it served as a marine unit under Lieutenant-Colonel Isaac Brock at Copenhagen. When English county titles were adopted in 1782, the 49th became the Hertfordshire Regiment of Foot. The uniform of the 49th was scarlet with green facings and white, red and green lace. Its Light Company adopted the red feather rather than the green as a distinctive badge and Grenadiers were permitted to wear a black instead of a white plume.

When Sir George Prevost, Commander-in-Chief in Canada, learned of the American declaration of war in June, 1812, he suspended British government orders to ship the 49th back to England. Instead companies of the regiment were dispersed to Montreal and Kingston. A number were also sent to Fort George where regimental headquarters for Upper Canada was located. On the eve of the outbreak of war, Brock said of the 49th "although the regiment has been ten years in this country drinking rum without bounds, it is still respectable and apparently ardent for an opportunity to acquire distinction." It did not take long in coming for on October 13, 1812 soldiers of the 49th accompanied Brock up the slippery slope at Queenston where their great general was felled by a bullet to the breast. Later that day raging "Revenge the General" the Grenadier Company and the Light Company of the 49th along with their Native allies soundly defeated the American invaders, many of whom died that day because of the fury felt by the 49th at the terrible loss of their leader. For their valor at this victory on Queenston Heights, Queenstown was added to the twenty-one battle honours emblazoned on the colours of the 49th. This honour was granted on January 27th, 1816.

The presence of a detachment of the 49th was sufficient to repulse another invading American force led this time by the eloquent but ineffective American General Alexander Smyth. Smyth, who was a better writer than a fighter, spent most of his time composing ringing declarations: "Ye who have the will to do, the heart to dare! The moment you have wished for has arrived. Think on your country's honours torn! Her rights trampled on! Her sons enslaved! Her infants perishing by the hatchet! Be strong! Be brave! Let the ruffian power of the British king cease on this continent." In the early hours of November 28th, 1812, Smyth and an advance guard of American regulars and militia climbed into their boats and started across the river. Their objective was to destroy batteries opposite Black Rock and a bridge on the road to Chippawa. The expected fight was a fiasco when all suddenly returned to the safety of the other side.

Fort George and Navy Hall as seen from the US side of the Niagara River

Mutiny at Fort George

In 1802 the 49th Regiment of Foot was ordered to Quebec where it arrived on 23rd of August. Travelling by bateaux the troops reached York the following July and in 1804 they took up garrison duties at Fort George. A plan to desert by several members of the 49th was foiled by Brock himself. The occasion occurred when Brock was stationed in York and Lieutenant-Colonel Roger Hale Sheaffe was in command of the garrison at Fort George. Driven to the brink by the brutality of Sheaffe, several soldiers decided to murder Sheaffe and then flee to the United States. Their plot was stopped at the beginning by Brock, who immediately assumed command at Fort George and returned good order and discipline to the ranks of the 49th Regiment.

1813

However, an American assault on Fort George in May 1813 was successful. After spiking its cannons and destroying Major-General Sir Isaac Brockthe ammunition, five companies of the 49th Regiment under the command of Brigadier-General John Vincent retreated westward up the peninsula with the enemy in hot pursuit. On June 5th as darkness descended the Americans gave up the chase and settled down for the night at a camp in a field at Stoney Creek. After scouting the American position the second in command Major-General John Harvey recommended to Vincent that they launch a night attack on the enemy who were located some seven miles distant. At 2:00 a.m. with a force of 700 regulars, Harvey succeeded in catching the Americans off guard and fell upon them. The American pickets were bayoneted before they could give the alarm.

Chaotic fighting followed in the darkness and in less than three-quarters of an hour, despite suffering heavy casualties, Harvey succeeded in capturing two American generals and forcing their troops to beat a hasty retreat leaving their cannons behind. Harvey had taken a calculated risk and succeeded. If he had failed the whole of the Niagara district might have fallen to the Americans. His success buoyed the spirits of British forces throughout Upper Canada and established him as an officer of unusual "zeal, intelligence and gallantry." Vincent missed the melee because he had been thrown off his horse, got lost in the darkness and only found his way to the British lines after the Battle of Stoney Creek was over. Harvey kindly and considerately omitted this from his report on the battle.

From its foes the 49th won the nickname Green Tigers because of the fierceness of their fighting and the colour of their facings. On one occasion a detachment of the 49th under the command of Lieutenant James Fitzbibbons was alerted by Laura Secord that an American force of 600 men was planning a surprise attack on them.

Known as Fitzgibbon's Green Uns the detachment and several hundred Aboriginal warriors turned the tables on the Americans and ambushed them on June 24, 1813. On entering a beech wood, the Americans were set upon by the Native warriors. By firing at the enemy from widely dispersed positions, the warriors were able to trick the Amerians into thinking they were surrounded by vastly superior forces. After the battle had raged for some three hours, Fitzgibbon rode up to the Americans hoisting a white handkerchief and bluffed them into believing they were greatly outnumbered and that more warriors were expected at any time. The American surrendered. By stealth and by craft a victory had been achieved with a small force of fighters. Fitzgibbon was commended for his "most judicious and spirited exploit with '49 rank and file'." which resulted in victory at Battle of Beaver Dams.

"Not a shot was fired on our side by any but the Indians. They beat the Americans into a state of terror, and the only share I claim is taking advantage of a favourable moment to offer them protection from the tomahawk and the scalping knife."

1814 To Home

Later companies of the 49th were ordered to Montreal, St. John and Isle aux Noix, where they remained for the balance of 1813 and all of 1814. After an expedition to Plattsburg, New York, the regiment assembled at Trois Rivieres and embarked for Great Britain on the 25th of May, 1815. Following distinguished service in Asia, Europe, Africa and Asia, the regiment returned to Halifax in 1895. Two years later it sailed for Barbados, then home to England in 1898. Reorganization resulted in the regiment being renamed the Royal Berkshire Regiment, the title 'Royal' bestowed in recognition of its distinguished gallantry.

The Regimental Time Line of the 49th (Herdfordshire) Regiment of Foot. It's history carries on within the Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment

Battle of Crysler's Farm. Painting depicts the US Forces being repulsed by the disciplined 49th & 89th Regiments of Foot

Only once did the red-coated regulars have an opportunity in Canada to exhibit the training, courage and orchestrated killing that was displayed by British soldiers in set-piece battles in Europe. Major-General John Harvey also led this successful defence of our colony. The battle took place near the head of the Long Sault rapids on the St. Lawrence in eastern Ontario. In a rough clearing in the forest, criss-crossed by gullies, ditches and fences, the Battle of Crysler's Farm occurred on November 11, 1813. The British force numbered 800 men; the Americans numbered 1800 which increased to 2400 during the fight. The Americans charged with fanatical fervor, mistaking the 49th regulars, who on that occasion were wearing grey uniforms, for militiamen. Although mired in mud, the drill and discipline of the men of the thin red line proved its worth. Using manoeuvres of the line and shattering fire, the 49th scattered into the surrounding wood a force that was three times larger. A charge by American dragoons was likewise deflected by infantry that never flinched in the face of thundering hooves. For heroic leadership at this decisive battle, small, gold medals were awarded several officers.

Regimental Timeline of the 49th Regiment of Foot During the War of 1812

1811: During 1811, Canada. 49th ordered home, but left in Canada at the urgent representation of Sir J Provost.

1812:

On 1 July 1812, Canada. War was declared by the United States on 23 June 400 armed men collected to resist them being drafted into the Militia. The 49th Light Company sent to disperse them. The Light Company was deployed back to Montreal on 3 July.

On 1 Aug 1812, Canada, Kingston. One company of the 49th deployed here after escorting stores. Three more companies deployed to join them on 2 August and the rest of the Regiment deployed there on 13 August.

On 22 Aug 1812, Canada, Kingston. Whole Regiment ordered across Lake Ontario to Fort George on the Canadian (western) side of Niagara River. On 18 September six companies deployed at Fort George and four companies re-deployed to Kingston. On 20 September the Grenadier Company was ordered to march to Queenstown, approximately seven miles up river and seven miles below the falls.

On 9 Oct 1812, Canada. 49th involved when the US Navy attacked the two brigs, 'Caledonia' and 'Detroit', at Fort Erie. On 11 October Captain Dennis said that his detachment of the 49th at Queenstown was in a mutinous condition. For two days from 12 October the Americans attacked Queenstown. The Light Company under Captain Williams, and the Grenadier Company under Captain Dennis of 49th involved in a battle which led to a British victory against superior numbers. After the battle a local armistice was granted to the Americans so they could bury their dead. This was afterwards extended until one side should give thirty hours notice of termination.

On 12 Nov 1812, Canada. Recorded the 49th was distributed between Kingston, Queenstown and Fort Erie.

On 19 Nov 1812, Canada, Erie, Queenstown. Americans gave notice of termination of the armistice. Two days later there was a report of projected attack by Americans on Fort Erie. On 23 November 70 men of the 49th took part in a successful attack on an American Post on the Salmon River about 7 miles above its junction with the St Lawrence.

On 28 Nov 1812, Canada, Fort Erie. The attack on Fort Erie materialised involving approximately 200 men of the 49th. Lieutenant Lamont and a detachment of 37 men of the 49th after driving off a superior force of Americans were out-flanked and taken by surprise as they thought the U.S troops were British reinforcements.

On 21 Dec 1812, Canada, Fort Erie. The 49th was deployed to Fort Erie, Kingston and Fort George, but remained commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Plenderleath

1813:

On 24 Mar 1813, Canada, Fort George. Regiment quartered in Niagara district with a strength of 549 rank and file.

On 13 Apr 1813, Canada, Fort George. Party of 49th under Lieutenant FitzGibbon captured Americans on an island near Fort George.

On 27 May 1813, Canada, Fort George. The Americans attacked British positions at and about Fort George where approximately 253 men of the 49th stationed. A detachment of the 49th left to hold Fort while General Vincent led a counter attack. The American odds against them were too great and the whole line, including the rest of the 49th, returned to Beaver Dams, approximately 16 miles west of Queenstown.

On 29 May 1813, Canada, Fort George. By some mistake the detachment of 49th at Fort George failed to get the order to spike the guns, destroy the ammunition and retire to Beaver Dams. The result was they all became prisoners.

On 29 May 1813, Canada, Fort George. The Regimental records were lost at Fort George in its evacuation and burning.

On 30 May 1813, Canada. Vincent, now reinforced by a small number of men but short of ammunition and transport.

On 30 May 1813, Canada, Burlington Heights. Retreated as far as Burlington Heights, south of the south-west corner of Lake Ontario.

On 1 June 1813, Canada, Stoney Creek. Two American brigades sent to Stoney Creek about 7 miles east of Burlington Heights.

On 5 June 1813, Canada, Stoney Creek. Lieutenant Crowther with a piquet of the 49th was in action with the American advance Guard and sent warning of the arrival at Stoney Creek.

On 5 June 1813, Canada, Stoney Creek. Lieutenant Crowther's information resulted in Colonel Harvey taking troops, including approximately 424 of the 49th to reconnoitre. His findings led to him proposing a night attack.

On 6 June 1813, Canada, Stoney Creek. Harvey with a force, including the whole of the 49th (430 men) approached the enemy positions. The American were completely surprised but rallied and opened tremendous fire. Lieutenant Colonel Plenderleath with 20 men of the 49th charged and silenced the guns. Sergeant Fraser of the Regiment was responsible for the surrender of the American General and his Second-in-Command. Fraser was given a commission for his services. As a result of this encounter the Americans retreated to Forty Mile Creek fairly near Fort George.

On 8 June 1813, Canada. During the retreat one of the American camps was occupied by Major Dennis with the Grenadier Company of the 49th. Except for Fort George, the Americans now held no posts on the Canadian side of Niagara.

On 13 June 1813, Canada, Forty Mile Creek. Vincent moved forward with about 1700 men to Forty Mile Creek. The 49th at this time was approximately 610 strong, including officers and men. Vincent had deployed several outposts including one of the 49th under Lieutenant FitzGibbon posted slightly west of Beaver Dams and approximately 18 miles from Fort George via Queenstown.

On 24 June 1813, Canada. The American's decided to attack these outposts, sending a detachment to Queenstown to ensure the remaining inhabitants did not want the British. However, a Mrs Laura Secord managed to make the difficult and dangerous passage and deliver a warning. FitzGibbon had only 46 men of the 49th, plus 250 Indians under Lieutenant Kerr who were used to ambush the Americans. When the depleted Americans reached open ground FitzGibbon bluffed the force of approximately 550 men into surrender. For this magnificent service FitzGibbon was promoted to a Captaincy in the Glengarry Fencibles. Later in 1837 he became the Adjutant General of Canada and in 1851 became a Military Knight of Windsor.

On 27 June 1813, Canada. 49th marched to Twelve Mile Creek.

On 5 July 1813, Canada, Fort Schlosser. FitzGibbon sent about 40 men of the 49th to surprise Fort Schlosser. This was successfully accomplished and they carried off arms and stores

On 11 July 1813, Canada. FitzGibbon's 40 men took part in attack on Black Rock, east of the Niagara, which succeeded in destroying eight guns and did much other damage.

On 17 July 1813, Canada, Ten Mile Creek. 49th encamped here and on 18 August it moved to camp on the Queenstown Heights. The 49th took part in a large demonstration against Fort George on 24 August and on 2 October it arrived back at Forty Mile Creek.

On 11 Oct 1813, Canada, Kingston. 49th reached Kingston. Americans launched an attack down the St Lawrence against Montreal.

On 9 Nov 1813, Canada. The British, including some of the 49th, followed and constantly harried the Americans who finally turned to attack at Crystlers Farm. In spite of superior American numbers the British victory was completed, but casualties to the 49th were very heavy.

On 14 Dec 1813, Canada. 49th deployed at Montreal.

On 25 Dec 1813, Canada, Montreal. 49th received reinforcement of 26 men from England.

1814:

On 19 Mar 1814, Canada, St Johns. Regiment at St Johns on the Richelieu River, approximately 25 miles south-east of Montreal.

On 5 Apr 1814, Canada, Isle aux Noix. Two companies under Captain Lewis deployed here.

On 6 Aug 1814, Canada, Isle aux Noix. Remainder of Regiment deployed here.

On 31 Aug 1814, Canada, Isle aux Noix. 49th with Provost's army from Isle Aux Noix crossed the American frontier at Bosworth.

On 12 Sept 1814, Canada. Due to the destruction of the British flotilla by the Americans, Provost recrossed the frontier.

On 15 Sept 1814, Canada, Isle aux Noix. Troops return.

During Mar 1815, Canada, Three Rivers. Troops deployed here on the St Lawrence between Montreal and Quebec. The war having ended in December 1814. 115 men discharged and allowed to settle in Canada.

1815:

On 15 May 1815, Canada. Regiment started on its homeward journey and reached Portsmouth on 15 July, where it disemberked on 17 August and deployed to Weymouth on 1 August.

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