Reorganization of the Militia

A Farce in the Field

In the field itself, the question may be asked whether the militia's wartime effectiveness was truly improved by these measures. Poet Louis Fréchette reported on a review of militiamen in Lévis after Mass when he was a child. First there was roll-call and then: "...after that came drill - Oh! drill reduced to its simplest expression: - Face right!... Face left!... Three steps forward!... Three steps back!... To which all the kids added: 'If you're not happy, go say your prayers!'... They liked rhyme, the kids of my day. I can still hear them stamping their feet in time, crying out to the militiamen: 'Face! face! face! ... to the shop of Gnace!'... "The "shop of Gnace" was the blacksmith's, a man named Ignace Samson, across from the church on the public square. After a few minutes of parade and drill the militiamen broke ranks, lit their pipes and dispersed, while one child, more brazen than the others, and in spite of people's attempts to hush him up, ran away shouting, "Hooray for Papineau!" 109

The state of the Sedentary Militia in Canada West was no brighter. Waterloo County, for example, also had its practical jokers. One parade day, during roll-call a militiaman threw a football onto the ground. Within a few minutes the review had turned into a giant football game! On another occasion, a regimental officer, a farmer by profession, was calling out orders to the battalion as it marched along. He could not remember the command "Halt" so he shouted, "Whoa! Whoa!" 110 as if calling to his horses. The line of militiamen collapsed in laughter and the review was cancelled. Obviously much effort was still required to deal with the American threat.