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History of the York Rangers
By Captain A. T. Hunter (1913)


WE have tried in this volume to link up some of the honorable achievements of militia men of York Comity for a century back and show what the response has been when the bugle sounded or the alarm bell rang. We think we can discern in the men of this county a continuity of character; of deceptive equanimity in time of peace, of alacrity in time of war, of unchangeable faith in the Empire at all times.

We need not pretend that the officers and men of 1912 in the 12th Regiment are the precise lineal descendants of the officers and men of the York Regiments of 1812, any more than the Welsh Fusiliers need show they answer to the same names at roll-call as when they advanced with drums beating at the Battle of Minden. The continuity of a regiment is not at any time very tangible or definite. It is not a genealogy written by a lawyer to secure an estate. It is rather the spirit to undertake similar toils and endnre similar dangers in consideration of being allowed to keep the old glory and the old heroes in dutiful remembrance and to ennllate them if occasion arise.

It is time the histories of all our county regiments were written. Despite a number of charming books in which fragments of our I pper Canadian history have been transcribed by men of scholarly style and antiquarian attainments, the real history of nearly every county is being irremediably lost. This is particularly true of the military history of our counties, which when studied repays the student by glimpses of heroic action and then bailies him with records broken and defaced by callous neglect.

Most of our old county histories and atlases were written on a subscription plan which was unavoidable in a country where the arts of literature and publishing were struggling and precarious vocations. Under such a plan the man wdio could pay for his biography became a personage, while the man who could not was allowed to seek an ignoble grave. This bore hard upon the military veteran who is seldom the most prosperous or provident of men.

We are therefore much indebted to the subscribers and advertisers whose liberality has enabled this sketch to be produced.

A. T. Hunter.

Documentary featuring the 200th anniversary of Canada's oldest military regiment

Lieut.-Col. J. A. W. ALLAN, Commanding 12th Regt. York Rangers


Chapter I
Concerning a Deception Practised by the People of Upper Canada Prior to July, 1812—Apparent incapacity for Defence—Efforts of General Simcoe—Militia Acts and their Impotency—Lukewarm House of Assembly—Lack of Military Preparation—Small Regular Force—Flank Companies of Militia—Difficulties in Defending Province—Despondency of Sir George Prevost—Confidence of Americans—Unexpected Result—Opinion of Wellington—Defeat of four American Armies

Chapter II
The Raising of the Yorks—Larger Boundaries of the Original County—Varied Population within Present County Limits—Village of York—United Empire Loyalists—French Emigres—German Settlement— Quakers—American Settlers—Joseph Willcocks—The Flank Companies of York Militia—2nd Regiment, Recruited at Burlington—First and Third Regiments—Colonel Cruikshank’s Opinion as to Origin of the 12th Regiment—Officers in York Regiments—Graham—Chewitt—Allan—The “Fighting Judges”—McLean—Robinson.

Chapter III
How the York Militia went with Brock to Detroit and How Peter Robinson’s Rifle Company Kept Tryst—Parade of Militia on Garrison Common—General Hull’s Proclamation—Brock’s Proclamation—The Mackinac Expedition—Hull’s Invasion—How Brock Crossed to Niagara and Rack— Brock Calls for Volunteers at York—Officers Selected—Route from Burlington—Visit to Six Nations —Reasons for Water Route—Diary of Voyage—Arrival at Fort Malden—Orders Issued by Brock en route—Brock’s Boat runs Aground—Character of Brock and his Volunteers—Results of the Expedition—Arrival of Peter Robinson—Acts as Escort to Brock—Narrow Escape at Buffalo—Arrival at Fort Erie

Chapter IV
Push on the York Volunteers—The Frontier Defended by Brock—Critical State of Affairs—Brock’s Disposition of Troops—Van Rensselaer’s Plan—Attack on Queenston—Cameron Starts for Queenston— Brock Gallops to the Scene of Action—Attempt of Brock to Recover the Heights—“Push on the York Volunteers”—Death of Macdonoll—Pickets join Sheaffe’s Column—Kheaffe’s Dispatch—Effect of Brock’s Death.

Chapter V
How General Sheaffe put the Quietus on the Yorks—Indefensible Condition of York—Description of the Village and its “Fortifications”—Chauneay Sails—Sheaffe’s Duty—Conduct of Defence— Explosion of Magazine and Death of General Pike—Militia Ordered to Treat for Terms—American Sharpness—Names Added after Capitulation Signed—-Pluckjt Interference of Dr. Strachan—Futility of Resistance.

Chapter VI
The Ingredients of Sedition—Formation of Patrician Class—Land Grabbing—Clergy Reserves—Agitations—Gourlay, Collins and William Lyon Mackenzie—Political Methods of the Day—Family Compact—Attitude of Militia—Higher Officers of the Militia—Mackenzie’s Black List—Weakness of the System.

Chapter VII
The Four Thousand Muskets at the City Hall—Two Distinct Periods in Mackenzie Rebellion—What Mackenzie’s Revolt Depended on—The Four Thousand Stand of Arms—Character of Sir Francis Head—The Mackenzie Movement takes a Military Direction—Head sends the Regulars to Quebec— Mackenzie’s first plan to get the Muskets—The Restlessness of Colonel Fitzgibbon—His Snubs and his Precautions—Mackenzie’s Second Plan—Date fixed for December 7th, 1837—Rolph Changes the Date—Outbreak of Rebellion—Jarvis’ Picket—Head Dresses Himself—Arrival of McNab from Hamilton—Defeat of Rebels—V here were the Colonels?—Description of the Militia in 1837.

Chapter VIII
The War or the Patriots alias Filibusters—Mackenzie takes Post on Navy Island—Borrows from United States Arsenals—Van Rensselaer—Steamer Caroline—Cut out by Captain Drew—International Episode—Secret Society Generals—Effect on Upper Canada—Immense Growth of Militia—Scarcity of Arms—Queen’s Rangers—Samuel Peters Jarvis.

Chapter IX
Another Quarter Century of Rust—Decay of Militia Organization—Description of a Muster in 1845—And of a Later Muster at Toronto—Effect of Crimean War—New Militia Law of 1855—Slow Growth of Active Militia—Effect of Trent Affair—Gazetting the York Companies—Their Strength.

Chapter X
The Welding of the Battalions—Origin of Fenian Raids—Causes why Canada was Invaded—Sporadic Preparation for Defence—Alarm of 31st May, 1800—Response of the Militia—Departure of Companies to Niagara District—Strategy of the Authorities—Ridgeway and the Abuse of Booker— Outpost Duties of the Companies—Deficiencies of Militia System—Standing Camp at Thorold— Welding the 12th York Battalion—Impression Created by the Battalion.

Chapter XI
The Continuity of York Battalions—Originally a Nine Company Battalion—Jarvis the First Commanding Officer—His Services—The Word “Rangers”—The Regimental Motto, Celer et Audax— Ancestry of Armstrong of the Lloydtown Company—Pearson of the Aurora Company—The Selbys of the Sharon Company—Crosby of the Unionville Company—Cawthra the Paymaster.

Chapter XII
Keeping Their Armour Bright—Twenty Years of Routine—The Red River Expedition—The 12th Actually Gets an Officer Selected—The Value of an Organized Militia—Character of the Drill—Commanding Officers of the 12th.

Chapter XIII
Stepping out in 1885—Suddenness of the Riel Outbreak—Four Companies of the 12th Called Out—The Regimental Order Calling out the Companies—The Summons by Bugle—York-Simcoe Battalion Hurried to the Front—The Gaps—Tales of Hardships—The Actual Hardships—Treading on the Heels of the 65t,h—The Last Gap—Appearance of the York-Simcoes at Winnipeg—En route to Fort Qu’Appelle—Enforced Stay at Fort Qu’Appelle—Occupations There—Night Attacks—By Forced March to Humboldt—The Astringent Qualities of Colonel O’Brien—Appearance of the Battalion at Humboldt—The Meandering of Sergeant Brown—His Portrait of Riel—The York-Simcoes Become “Foot Cavalry”—The Return and Receptions.

Chapter XIV
Annals of the 12th Since 1885—Periodical Trainings—Great Changes in Militia Organization—No Effect on the Infantry—The South African War—Lloyd’s Tender of Service—The Delicious Answer of the Authorities—Imperialism—Representatives of the 12th at the War--His Majesty’s First Visit—A “Skeleton” Camp—His Majesty’s Second Visit—Migrations of the Companies—Our Splendid Armouries?—The 12th as it now is.


Appendix A Officers of the 12th, Militia List, July, 1912.
Appendix B Record of Officers’ Services.
Appendix C Letter of Colonel Cruikshank.
Appendix D Memo by Dr. Doughty.
Appendix E Rifle Shooting Record of the 12th.
Appendix F Roll of York-Simcoe Battalion.

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