The Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812

The British and Canadian Forces

An Outnumbered Militia, Dominated by French Canadians

Sergeant, Royal Regiment of Artillery, 1806-1812

Caption: Sergeant, Royal Regiment of Artillery, 1806-1812

In 1812 the British army in garrison in North America totalled 9,000 men, comparable to the complement of the regular American army. Of this number, 4,400 were posted to Lower Canada, 1,200 to Upper Canada and the rest to the Maritimes. The British colonial militias, on the other hand, had far fewer than the Americans. The total population of the British colonies in North America was barely half a million, three fifths of whom lived in Lower Canada. The vast majority of the 60,000 militiamen from this province were French Canadians. There were approximately 11,000 militiamen in Upper Canada, the same number in Nova Scotia and 4,000 in New Brunswick. By adding the militias of Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland, as well as the Amerindians, whose precise numbers are not known, the total was about 90,000 men.

The militia of Lower Canada was the only force capable of protecting the country, both numerically and geographically. Without its cooperation it is doubtful that the British army would have been able to stave off the Americans indefinitely. In addition to the members of the Canadian Voltigeurs and the four battalions of the Embodied Militia, all men capable of bearing arms were recruited into what was called the Sedentary Militia. As before, militiamen were spread throughout parish companies. However, these were combined into numerous "districts," equivalent to regiments, commanded by a colonel and his staff. The Sedentary Militia was called up for active service only in emergencies.

Additional Images

Captain Jacques Viger, Provincial Corps of Light Infantry (Canadian Voltigeurs), circa 1812-1815
Recruiting party of the Provincial Corps of Light Infantry (Canadian Voltigeurs), 1812-1813