Topic: Canadian Militia
Militia General Orders
Headquarters, Ottawa, 31st May, 1878
General Orders (13.)
No. 1. – Review at Montreal
I take the earliest opportunity to express to the officers of the general and personal staff and to the regimental officers and men of the various Corps assembled at Montreal on the 24th May, my extreme approbation of their soldierlike appearance, their steadiness under arms and the discipline so manifest throughout. They did full credit to the loyal celebration of her majesty's birthday and the honor of being permitted to pass in review before the Representative of Our Most Gracious Sovereign the Queen.
The long line covering three-quarters of a mile was taken up by the corps with a precision that might do credit to regular troops.
The Royal salute was fired by the Artillery without a fault.
The feu de joie was admirably fired along the whole line, with one exception the result of insufficient practice.
The march past both in column and quarter column was remarkable for solidity and steadiness. Wach Battery, Corps and Battalion evinced the strongest effort to appear to the best advantage, in which they completely succeeded.
Some loss of distance between Brigades and battalions occurred in the march in column, but it was almost unavoidable owing to the broken nature of much of the ground and the dense mass of people by whom they were impeded.
The order of battle was taken up rapidly and accurately by both attacking and opposing forces, as had been previously directed.
In the various attacks in front and on both flanks, the troops told off for that service behaved with coolness most remarkable. Each attack was delivered at the proper time and in the method indicated, and for young troops who had but little practice in the new formation of attack, I am happt to state that their conduct quite surpassed my expectations.
The field batteries were posted by Lieut.-Col. Strange, Royal Artillery, at salient points to command the enemy's position and to concentrate their fire upon his men. One of these batteries, however, owing to a judicious movement of the enemy's guns became exposed to a destructive plunging fire from the heights.
In the dense and surging crowd of some 40,000 people who covered the field in every direction, it became very difficult for the brigades of infantry to observe the cohesion and unity of action that is necessary. So impervious was this assemblage that it was with difficulty some of the Rifle Regiments could be distinguished, therefore I am afraid disappointment may have been experienced by some of the corps not being engaged as actively as I had intended."
The promptness with which the Batteries and battalions ceased action and assembled in line of contiguous columns for the last general advance in review order, struck me with admiration. Old troops could hardly have reformed and marched into line from distant, diverging points with more rapidity, steadiness and precision.
The troops representing the enemy were disposed with judgment, taking advantage of the commanding ground on which they were posted. The guns were placed and admirably served by Capt Short, "B" Battery.
I had desired that when the enemy were resolutely pushed home in front and both flanks in the final attack, they should have accepted defeat from an overwhelming force and retired by the Mountain Road. This, however, in the heat of the moment was only partially carried out, and so as I had ordered the contending forces not to approach nearer than 100 yards, I was constrained to cease fire and to terminate the field day sooner than I intended.
As it was, I regret that some of the "Queen's own" and the Montreal Artillery became engaged too closely in an orchard, resulting in the only accident of the day, which is due to non observance of orders.
The Cavalry, I am sorry to say, could not be employed in the operations of the day, their services were so useful in keeping the crowd from about the flag staff and fore-ground that they could not be spared.
They were admirably turned out and equipped, and their fine horses attracted special remark.
The Cavalry, Field and Garrison Artillery, Engineers and Infantry of Montreal Brigade were in their usual soldierlike order.
The demi battery of guns and the foot detachment of "B" Battery, could not be surpassed, they presented a model of thorough training and discipline.
They, together with the 8th Rifle Battalion, landed that morning from Quebec, and this latter corps also paraded most creditably and looked extremely well.
The Ottawa Field Battery and the Governor General's Foot Guards also arrived during the course of the previous night. They came on the ground in admirable order and as well turned out as from comfortable quarters, though their journey by the North Shore Railway was one of great discomfort and bad accommodation for both men and horses.
The Queen's Own had perhaps more special difficulty to contend against than even other corps from a distance. They traveled from Toronto 333 miles, during the night, reached Montreal at 10 a.m. and were in line 430 strong, two miles from the station, at 11:30, looking smart, fresh, clean and soldierlike, not a belt or buckle deranged. I expressed my regret at having to assign the left of the line to this battalion owing to the unavoidable lateness of its
The Queen's Own travelled 700 miles, and took part in a long and fatiguing field day all within 44 hours.
This corps and the 8th afterwards formed the right attack. I should have gladly, had it been possible, given them a more conspicuous position, but they must be contented to know that the turning movement they performed would probably in an actual engagement have mainly decided the fate of the day.
I must express likewise the pleasure it gave the whole force to be associated with a contingent of American Militia from St. Albans. They marched into the general line carrying the Stars and Stripes aloft, looking the picture of soldiers with cross-belts similar to the British Infantry before the days of rifled weapons. We received them among us as brothers in arms and we offered them a cordial and a hospitable welcome.
On the whole it is my pleasing duty to offer my hearty congratulations to the force employed on this occasion which I have every reason to hope will be useful to them as encouraging to the Militia of the Dominion in general, and that it will be long remembered as an interesting and instructive event.
I cannot conclude more appropriately than by repeating the emphatic words of the Governor General in His Excellency's speech at the Brigade dinner the same evening.
"The spectacle, however, I have witnessed this morning, the scene which now meets my view, more than repay me for my previous deprivations and disappointments. Anything more admirably arranged, more gratifying to the pride of Canadians, to all friends of Canada, than the performance this morning, cannot well be conceived. From first to last everything has passed off to my entire satisfaction, and I now beg to tender my best thanks, and to render this acknowledgement not only on my own behalf, but on behalf of my fellow spectators and of the country at large, to the Lieut.-General who planned, to the Militia authorities who have organized, and to the officers and men who at great personal inconvenience have executed and carried out the triumphant celebration with which we have this morning saluted the Birthday of our Most Gracious Sovereign."
ED. Selby Smyth,