The Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812

The Royal Canadian Volunteers

French Canadians in the Regular Army

The most unusual thing about this regiment was its enlistment of French Canadians for regular service, a first in the country's military annals. Even under the French regime, the authorities had had no success whatsoever in their attempts to incorporate Canadians as regular soldiers in the navy troops. On this occasion, the recruiting of the first battalion for the Royal Canadian Volunteers went off without a hitch, some French Canadians even enlisting in the second battalion. It is difficult to explain this change of heart, but it is clear at least that French Canadians no longer identified with revolutionary France. The regiment was raised without regard to the maximum authorized force, each battalion actually having approximately 450 officers and soldiers. Apart from a few details, the red uniforms of the soldiers resembled those of the British army regiments, and the equipment and weapons were similar to those of the British infantry. 59

The Royal Canadian Volunteers were sent to forts in both Upper and Lower Canada. The first battalion's headquarters was in Quebec City, with detachments in Montreal, Trois-Rivières, Lachine, Côteau-du-Lac and Saint-Jean; the second set up headquarters at Fort George with detachments in Kingston and forts Erie, Malden and St. Joseph. The second battalion was placed on alert for the winter of 1796-97, when a Spanish invasion from Louisiana was feared. Through a change in alliances in 1796, Spain had become France's ally against England. Rumours of mobilization of the Spanish in Louisiana quickly grew into fears that Canada would be invaded. The state of alert was eventually lifted when English spies learned that the Spanish had mobilized their troops along the Mississippi because they feared a British attack from Upper Canada!