Topic: Canadian Militia
Militia Organization in New Brunswick
Morning Chronicle, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 27 September 1864
Upon instituting a comparison between the condition of discipline existing in the militia of this [i.e., Nova Scotia] and the adjoining Province of New Brunswick, it would appear that in point of order and efficiency the contrast is strikingly in our favour. From all parts of Nova Scotia we have received most flattering accounts of the success of the movement, and notices commendatory of the earnestness, zeal, and attention which characterized the militiaman in the performance of the duties required of them, have occupied more or less space in all the local papers throughout the Province. With trifling exceptions, the best of order and decorum have been present without recourse to any stringent or severe measures for the enforcement of duty. Speaking generally, the militia have performed the service, by law demanded, with a readiness and cheerfulness worthy of all commendation. Our New Brunswick neighbors, however, have not been so fortunate in this respect. The Freeman, in noticing the annual muster of St. John militia on the barrack square, of that city, on Wednesday last, says:
"The men were almost as frolicsome if not as unruly as last year, and it was hard work to get them into anything like order, or to keep them in it; and they laughed, cheers, applauded, or hooted, as their fancy prompted. An attempt was made to drill them, but little success could be hoped for in so short a time and under such circumstances. Two or three disorderly men, it was said, were put under arrest and sent to gaol in the early part of the day."
The St. John Telegraph, in noticing the same muster, says:
"After the companies were got into position to muster, rolls were called and then the work of drilling commenced; and such drilling was surely never seen since the days of Falstaff and his ragged regiment. It was possible to get the militia into line after a fashion, but very attempt to move them resulted in general "demoralization." The most sage tactician in the service could not have marched companies around the town pump, even with the aid of a military guard to keep them straight, and the real soldiers who looked from the windows of the barracks upon the scene must have been much amused at the mockery of military drill that was displayed yesterday. Lieut. Col. Robertson threatened to keep some of the companies at drill until 6 o'clock, forgetting that to execute such an order would have required a much greater military force than he had at his command if the companies chose to rebel, which they undoubtedly would have done."
The following colloquy occurred between an officer of rank and a straggler:—
Colonel—"What the deuce are you doing here? This ain't your company."
Militiaman—"I'm looking for Capt. Tisdale's company"
Colonel—"Why the d—l don't you find it then?"
Militiaman—"I don't know where to find it."
Colonel—"I'll soon make you find it."
With this the Colonel ran at him with his horse and tried to run him down, but the man made his escape amidst a torrent of abuse.
Col. Robertson pronounced Company No. 3 the worst on the field, although it contained a number of first class merchants. We are sorry to hear such an account of them, but we fear they will never be able fully to appreciate the beauties of our Militia Law.
Some of the officers did not appear to know much more about the drill than their men; others, however, understood their business better and presented a very creditable appearance.
The following speech was made by Captain Rowan to his Company, and may be accepted as a fair example of military eloquence:—
"Now, men if you would become soldiers, stand up straight; hold up your heads, eyes front; draw in your toes; lean well forward on your feet; expand your chest, draw in your belly; and stand ready for the word of command." (Merriment and "hear, hear" from the Company.)
He told them to keep in as straight a line as possible, which general order, we are sorry to say, was not precisely kept to the letter.
Some of the orders given by the officers on horseback to those on foot were quite singular to a professional ear—such as "More to the right, Davidson"—"Take up your dressing, Skinner"—"Do you call that dressing, Hammond."
After the militia had been put through their facings, and marched around the parade ground once—an experiment which they did not repeat—They were again brought to a stand and formed in line. Great insubordination had by this time begun to prevail, and every one wanted to get home. Some had notes to pay, some had bills to collect, and some wanted their dinners. Company 2 had been boiling over with indignation ever since the Colonel told them he would keep them on the field until 6, and swore they would not stay 15 minutes longer for all the Colonels in New Brunswick. At this juncture the Colonel seemed about to make a speech, but the cheering and yelling was so great that not a word could be heard. The only part of it they understood was the order to disband, and this they did with an alacrity which showed their hearts were in the work. In ten minutes not a civilian was to be seen in the field where a thousand stood before. Thus ended the greatest farce of the year."