The Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812

The Militias of the New Provinces

In Canada this period of peace was accompanied by rapid growth, with tens of thousands of Loyalist war refugees establishing towns, clearing the land or becoming shipowners and sailors. Militias were also raised from among these newcomers. In New Brunswick, for example, the first militia act was passed in 1787, requiring all able-bodied men from 16 to 50 years of age to purchase weapons and equipment and to enrol in their local company. Each such company had 50 men, commanded by a captain assisted by a lieutenant and a sub-lieutenant, all of whom were attached to the county regiment. The county regiment had a small staff: a colonel, a lieutenant-colonel and a major.

In peacetime each company was required to muster twice a year for inspection and training, and once a year - traditionally on June 4, the King's birthday - all the militia companies from a county took part in a general regimental parade. Militiamen who did not attend the various parades were fined and the money so collected was used to purchase regimental drums and flags. Officers were selected from among prominent citizens and appointed by the governor. Such positions were not paid, but they did carry some social status. On occasion the position could even be quite costly. For example, in Fredericton, one Stephen Jarvis, a prosperous man, "was invited to take command of a militia company" and he provided the company with a uniform at his "own considerable expense." 54 His purpose was to make a good impression when the Duke of Kent visited in June 1794, because, generally speaking, few officers would undertake such expenditures. The regimental colonel was usually some important figure in the county recognized for his loyalty to the Crown.

By and large, the organization was based on the militia system in Great Britain, whereby militias were organized into county regiments. Because the same type of territorial division into counties had been adopted for the new English colonies, it was also the model followed for the militia in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. The maximum age of service was, however, set at 60 years in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island but at 50 in New Brunswick.