Topic: British Army
Extracts from An Old Order Book
The Toronto Daily Mail, 31 May 1884
Amongst some interesting relics in the possession of Col. Denison, D.A.G. of this district, is an old order book of the 21st Regiment of Foot or Royal North British Fusiliers, which dates from the last century. The book is yellow with age, but still in a good state of preservation, and the writing almost as distinct as the day it was penned. The fly-leaf bears the inscription Lieut. William Cox, Acting Adjutant 21st Regiment: Granard, April, 1783. The book contains all the important parts of the King's Regulations, and opens with the "Form to be made use of by officers when they apply to their respective commanding officers for leave to sell their commissions." Next came the "Rules to be observed by the several regiments of infantry in Ireland." After this comes an order dates "Adjutant-General's office, Dublin, 27th April, 1784," just a century ago. It states that:—
"The waist belts of the infantry are to be worn over the right shoulder and not round the waist as formerly.
"By order of the Commander-in-Chief
"H. Pigot, Adjutant-General"
The orders date from as far back as 1751, the last being in 1785.
Another order, and one that no doubt gladdened the heart of many a poor private, is given a prominence not alloted to the ordinary rules and regulations. It is entitled:—
The King's Order.
In the margin is the date April 2nd, 1773, and the words "His Majesty's most gracious annual allowance to the dragoons and foot in Ireland." This order begins by stating that "His majesty having taken into consideration the increased prices of provisions and or every other necessity of life, and the great distress which must accrue themselves therefrom to the non-commissioned officers and private men of his regiments of infantry and dragoons, His Majesty, in his gracious goodness, has been pleased to direct, &c." then follows the sums allowed to each rank.
Another interesting order is that dates September 8th, 1783, giving the "regulated prices of commissions in the foot." It is as follows:— "Lieut.-Colonel, full price, £3,657; major, £2,698; captain, £1,548; captain-lieutenant and captain, £988; lieutenant, £560; ensign, £405."
Following the King's orders and regulations as above are the "Standing orders of the 21st Regiment, given out by Col. Hamilton, 20th April, 1774." These are fifty-five in number. The next important order is dated two years later, and is entitled:—
"Canada Campaign, 1776."
It refers principally to routine work and the duties of officers and men when in the field.
There is also a memorial "To the Right Honourable William Augustus Pitt, commander-in-chief of his Majesty's forces in Ireland," praying for the promotion of William Cox, acting-adjutant to the regiment. It bears the date 6th October, 1787. the memorial states that Lieut. Cox served with Lieut.-Burgoyne during six years in the campaign in North America, 1777."
"The opinions of different members passed on John Williamson, soldier, in the 28th Regiment tried for desertion by a general court martial, etc.," is an interesting page. The court consisted of seven members, four of whom recommended that the prisoner should serve abroad for life, one for fourteen years, and two recommending 1,000 lashes with the cat-o'-nine-tails. Truly a soldier's life was not a happy one a century ago.
A general order dated Quebec, 18th March, 1814, is of particular interest to Canadians. It reads as follows:—
"His Excellency the Commander of the Forces has received from Lieut.-General Drummond the report of captain Stewart, of the Royal Scots, of an affair which took place between the detachment under the orders of that officer and a body of the enemy on the 4th inst. At Longwood in advance of Delaware town. Captain Stewart reports that receiving a report late on the night of the 3rd instant from Captain Caldwell that a party of the enemy was discovered in very superior force posted on a commanding eminence, strongly entrenched with long breastworks. This post was instantly attacked in the most gallant manner by the flank companies in front, while Captain Caldwell's company of rangers and a detachment of the Royal Kent Militia made a flank movement on the right, and a small band of Indians to the left, with a view of gaining the rear of the position, and after repeated attempts to dislodge the enemy in an arduous and spirited contest for an hour and a half's duration, which terminated with the daylight, the troops were reluctantly withdrawn, having suffered severely, principally in officers":— "The enemy has since abandoned his position in Longwood."
Then follows as usual a list of the killed, wounded and missing. It has been stated that the Canadian militia are not entitled to the word "Royal." That they are not "Royal Canadian Militia," but such is not the case. An order was issued to the effect that considering the gallantry displayed by the Canadian militia when in the field with his Majesty's regular troops the militia of Canada should henceforth be termed "Royal Militia of Canada." In the official order as given above it will be seen that the Kent militia was as early as 1814 termed "Royal Kent Militia."