Annual Review of the Upper Canadian Militia

Captain George Denison, York Dragoons, 1820s

Caption: Captain George Denison, York Dragoons, 1820s

For each volunteer, in uniform and armed, who enlisted, there were 10 others who were forsaking a militia that was becoming a social club for the right-thinking people in their county. Most were content to show up for the annual review of the garrison militia, an event that had been relatively serious in the past but which in the new line of thinking had become a kind of country picnic, if not a veritable circus.

Every June 4 the militia regiment assembled in a field. But it really was more of a disparate band of men wearing all manner of clothing and armed with pitchforks, sticks, umbrellas... and even some old guns. The officers did their best to look like officers, attempting not to trip over their scabbards! After separating the men into groups - those armed with umbrellas would constitute one group, those with old hunting muskets another - attempts were made to have them do drill. The usual result was a kind of chaotic square dance with people coming and going in all directions, to the great dismay of the officers, who went hoarse shouting orders that no one was listening to, or at least hearing. In the ranks it was all jokes and laughter. The men then quenched their thirst, ending each day more or less pickled and deeply convinced that every Canadian was worth 10 Yankees! Sometimes, thanks to the alcohol, fights would break out and the entire assembly would turn into a free-for-all.

Additional Images

Coat of Captain William Wells, Grenville Regiment, Upper Canada Militia, circa 1820