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Submitted by Norman DeMerchant

The 104th Regiment of Foot and the March from New Brunswick to Kingston

Originally conceived as the New Brunswick Regiment of Fencible Infantry in 1803, the 104th would become a British Regiment of the Line in 1810. At this time tension with the United States was growing and extra defences were deemed necessary to defend British North America. New Brunswick was no exception.

New Brunswick?s western frontier was with the United States and its borders were not clearly defined. This border dispute would worsen in 1820 when Maine gained statehood and would not be resolved until The Webster-Asburton Treaty of 1842. Precautions would have to be taken to ensure protection for the loyal subjects of the Province. England was tied up with the war against Napoleon and could not afford to send troops to British North America. Instead, soldiers would have to be recruited from the fledgling colonies. This would be no easy task.

The population of New Brunswick was minuscule, as was Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. This was a definite problem when trying to raise a corp of soldiers. By Royal Warrant the NB Fencible Infantry was permitted to raise men in Upper and Lower Canada as well as the Highlands of Scotland to augment any recruits gathered in the small British Provinces.

When looking at the list of names included in "The 104th Regiment of Foot" written by Austin Squires, it doesn?t take long to make conclusions of were the men are from. Loyalist names from New Brunswick, probably sons of Revolutionary War vets. French Canadian and Acadian names are not uncommon. The majority of the Regiment was comprised of brave men from all over British North America. DeLancey, Gee, Woodward, Tibodeau, Leger, and Grant to name a few.

By September of 1810 a sufficient number of Officers and Soldiers were raised to have the Regiment officially recognized. The New Brunswick Fencibles being made a Regiment of the Line and numbered the 104th Foot. Not a moment to soon. War with the Americans was just around the corner and what lay ahead for the young Regiment would be a test for the most senior.

In The Name of King and Country

Defence of British North America

In June of 1812 the United States of America declared war against England. If not for a few exceptions, New Brunswick was as vulnerable to attack as Upper or Lower Canada. Firstly the Bay of Fundy was open year round to American invasion but New England was strongly opposed to the war. In fact the Port of Saint John allowed unarmed American vessels to enter during the conflict. This being said, several skirmishes happened on the Bay. Including one were a American Privateer captured the new uniforms destined to be issued to the 104th. These uniforms would eventually end up being worn by American musicians, whose uniforms were red instead of the traditional blue.

Secondly New Brunswick?s western frontier was with the USA. The saving grace being that it was mostly virgin wilderness. It would have been very difficult for the Americans to move troops and artillery overland to invade the Province.

A important note should be made here. Although most modern history lessons would have you believe that Britain occupied no American territory at the end of the war, this isn't altogether true. In 1814, the British sent a invasion force to what is now eastern Maine. They captured Eastport, Machias, Belfast and Bangor. All of this territory was captured "at a cost of one man killed and one officer and eight men wounded" according to Austin Squires. This would amount to almost half of the current area of the State of Maine if you include the land to the north. All of this territory was relinquished with the signing of the peace treaty.