REMINISCENCES OF SERGEANT-MAJOR RUNDLE
A Soldier's Life
Being the Personal Reminiscences of
EDWIN G. RUNDLE
Late Sergeant-Major in Her Majesty's Leicestershire Regiment of Foot, Instructor and Lecturer to the Military School, Toronto, 1866-1868. Member of the Red River Expedition.
With Introduction by MAJOR HENRY J. WOODSIDE
TORONTO WILLIAM BRIGGS 1909
Of recent years we have had many books on military history, most of them chiefly devoted to the wars which have marked the extension of the British Empire.
In Sergeant-Major Rundle's narrative we have the interesting story of how an honest English boy became attracted to the colors; how the British army lives, moves and has its being in the British Isles and in the Dominions beyond the seas; how that boy rose by honest effort to the highest non-commissioned position in that army; and most interesting of all, his experience on foreign service when his regiment took part in the Trent affair and Fenian raids, following the close of the American civil war.
Later, Sergeant Rundle became instructor at the Toronto Military School, where he trained some men now very prominent in Canadian affairs. He also was a member of the Red River expedition, which helped very much to open up and develop that western empire whose golden tide of grain is now flowing into the wheat bins of the British Empire.
Scattered through the story are many interesting reminiscences and incidents. The actors in these dramas of a young nation's birth are falling by the wayside, and few have left a record of their adventures. It is from such that history is written.
In revising the manuscript, "by order" of my truest of Klondike friends, Colonel S. B. Steele, C.B., M.V.O. (the lion of the Yukon), I have endeavored to interfere as little as possible with Sergeant Rundle's pleasant and simple style of narrative, and it has been a pleasure to assist one whose record and character are without stain, and whose loyalty to sovereign and country is without blemish.
HENRY J. WOODSIDE.
Ottawa, Ont., August 9, 1909.
A SOLDIER'S LIFE.
I was born September 17th, 1838, in the town of Penryn, County of Cornwall, England, and was educated at the national and private schools. When my education was sufficiently advanced, I was apprenticed to learn the trade of carpenter and joiner. My father was a paper-maker, and lived all his lifetime in the town. He was a strict teetotaler, and brought up his family, four boys and one girl, on the principles of temperance, which he assured us would form the basis of our future prosperity and happiness.
There are but two of our family living—my eldest brother, now in his eightieth year, and the writer. My brother is able to attend to his business at the factory where he has worked all his lifetime, and we bless our father's memory.
It was at the age of fifteen that I began to learn my trade, my master's name being Samuel Rogers, builder and contractor. I entered upon my duties full of life and ambition, determined to become a good mechanic, and at the end of five years my progress toward that end was quite satisfactory.
However, a change was to take place. On a beautiful summer morning I bought a ticket for Plymouth, and took passage on a small steamer that plied between Falmouth and that port. My friends were not aware of my intention not to return again, but understood I was visiting. It did not take long for me to get in touch with the military stationed in the garrison. The parade marching past and the bands playing filled me with admiration, and finally I made up my mind to enlist in one of the regiments.
After the Crimean war the 17th Leicestershire Regiment was quartered in Quebec, and early in 1858 the Horse Guards ordered the raising of a second battalion. The nucleus was supplied by the first battalion, sent to England and quartered on Maker Heights, in the Plymouth district. Having heard of the formation of this battalion, I went to its headquarters and offered myself for enlistment to Sergeant-Major Monk. This was the beginning of a lasting friendship.
The sergeant-major acted in a kind and fatherly manner toward me, explaining the soldier's life, and gave me sound advice, and when we were satisfied with this part, the following question was asked: "Are you free, willing, able to serve in H.M. 2nd Battalion, 17th Regiment, for ten years, not exceeding twelve, if Her Majesty so long requires your services?"
I answered: "I am." Then the sergeant-major placed a shilling in my hand.
This took place on the 15th of July, 1858. The next day I was inspected by the surgeon and was declared medically fit. The following day a Justice of the Peace swore me in, and signed my attestation, and I was then posted to No. 2 Company, my regimental number being 404.
A new life was now before me, and I am glad to say my desires were not altered; that I wished to be loyal to my Queen, dutiful to my country, obedient and courteous to my superiors, which in after years I found to be an important factor in a soldier's life.
With other recruits, I was marched to the quartermaster's stores to receive my kit and clothing. These consisted of a knapsack, two shirts, two towels, two pairs of socks, one pair of boots, knife, fork and spoon, one razor, one shaving brush, two shoe brushes, box of blacking, one comb, one sponge, one button brush, one button holder, one tunic, one shell jacket, two pairs trousers. The above were issued with instructions that they be kept in repair, and replaced if lost or worn out.
I was placed in a squad with ten others for drill. The stock then used around the neck was made of thick heavy leather about two inches high, with large brass fasteners behind, and at times this was quite painful for want of ventilation, and it was difficult to lower the head without bending the body from the hips. We had to endure this four hours a day, but after a while we got accustomed to it and did not mind.
The worst part to contend with was the food; there was not sufficient for the hungry recruit, and had it not been for the $15.00 bounty placed to our credit, we should soon have become shadows of our former selves. The pay after deduction was eight cents, issued daily, so we could not have many extras but for the bounty. The following is a bill of fare for a day: One and one-half pounds of bread, three-quarter pound of meat, one pound of potatoes, pint of coffee, pint of tea and pint of soup. After being dismissed from drill we had to visit the canteen and buy bread and cheese, or whatever else we could get, at our own expense, for I can assure the reader we were a hungry crowd.
I became fond of the drill and exercises and soon passed into a higher squad, and I also made good progress towards an inspection that was about to be made as to fitness for the first squad. We had an excellent, good-natured instructor, Color-Sergeant Summers, who had served in the Crimea. He used to say to the squad, while at bayonet drill, when our thrusts did not please him, "You could not make a hole in a lump of butter, much less in a man."
He would also insist that our heads be held up as high as was practicable without breaking our necks. On one occasion a recruit thought it was impossible for him to look down again, and therefore bid the sergeant good-bye, which brought a hearty laugh from the veteran.
In the fall of that year we moved over to Plymouth and occupied the Citadel and Millbay barracks. During the Crimean war the Russian prisoners were sent to several parts of England. Some four hundred, with several officers, were confined in the Millbay barracks, and it was a considerable time after the war ended when they were sent back to Russia. While in England they were well cared for, the rations were excellent, and visitors were allowed to see them once a week.
The prisoners would make fancy articles, such as rings, pins, slippers, etc., and sell them to the visitors. Of course, the officers were paroled; the men were allowed out twice a week. They would enjoy the concert given by the military bands during the summer season, and when the time came for them to leave, if they had their choice they would rather remain than return to their native country. I was present and saw them embark.
In October, 1858, I was promoted to the rank of lance-corporal. Now my responsibilities began. Instead of doing sentry-go when on guard, I was second in command and posted the sentries. I was also relieved from fatigue duties and other work the private has to do. I drew the Company B rations and acted as orderly to the company officers. Here was a time for a young N.C.O. to show to all concerned his tact, consistency and all the business capabilities he possessed. Although my promotion carried no extra pay, I was proud of it, with my eyes keenly open for the next stripe.
Although I had received invitations to return home and continue my trade, I did not do so, but instead commenced to study and become acquainted with the several departments, in view of promotion and also of becoming an instructor.
The battalion on its formation was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Hugh D. Crofton, formerly of the 20th Regiment, who was with this regiment in the Crimea and commanded a wing at the battle of the Alma. The adjutant was Lieutenant A. A. Ross, who rose from the ranks and some years later became our paymaster. The sergeant-major was W. W. Monk (who subsequently became the quartermaster), and Faulkner was the quartermaster. The officers I have mentioned were those I had to do the most business with.
We had now settled down for the winter. I was very fond of outdoor sports, and when I contested anything it would be running, especially long distances, and I generally won prizes. I encouraged it among the men, as I thought good runners would be good marchers, which in after years proved true.
The winter was long and tedious, and those who enjoyed the game of cricket were deprived of any other sport to take its place. We had some very fine players from the Midland Counties. Our small library contained about two or three hundred books, and it was well patronized. We asked for more books and a reading room, to which I shall refer again. Our battalion had recruited to its full strength, viz., the full complement of officers and 800 rank and file. The average age in the regiment was twenty, physique all that could be desired, and with careful and progressive training, we hoped to be amongst the finest regiments in H.M. service. Having no gymnasium, the only means of training was the usual drill. The sport season opened with spring, and we commenced playing cricket on Good Friday on the Plymouth Hoe.
By good conduct and attention to duty I was again promoted. The following appeared in daily orders: "The commanding officer has been pleased to make the following promotion: No. 404, Lance-Corporal E. G. Rundle, No. 2. Company, to be corporal in No. 6 Company, vice Jones, promoted." I now became an effective N.C.O. with additional pay, the duties being the same as before explained. I was transferred to No. 6 Company. Lieutenant Moss was appointed musketry instructor, and J. Smith, from the school of musketry, sergeant-instructor. This was a change, but we all knew we must be taught to shoot and understand everything in connection with the rifle. A lecture-room was fitted up and furnished, and two companies were struck off duty in order to take the course.
We had a very funny, good-natured Irishman in my company. His name was John Deegan. The company was attending a lecture. Mr. Moss had just finished explaining the three kinds of sights that could be taken, when he asked the funny man, "What is a fine sight?" and Deegan answered, "It's a good roast of beef coming from the cookhouse, sir." The company was then dismissed amid roars of laughter.
In July one year of my service was completed, and we received orders to be held in readiness to proceed to Aldershot. The men were fond of moving from one station to another. I soon adapted myself to it, and in this way I saw what an opportunity I should have in being educated in all the departments of military service, not thinking that some day I would be one of the organizers of the splendid forces in our fair Dominion.
We received our route and entrained at the Plymouth station. It must be remembered that 75 per cent. of the regiment had only one year's service to their credit. On the morning we paraded in complete marching order. The three regiments in garrison sent their bands to help our send-off. A very striking feature of our departure was the presence of a large number of fair maidens. Handkerchiefs were very much in evidence, and by the appearance of things much weeping was going on. The bands were playing the familiar tunes of "Good-bye, sweetheart," and "The girl I left behind me." The train moved out amid much cheering and bands playing, and we were on our way to the great camp at Aldershot, where we were to take part with 40,000 men during the drill season, little dreaming after many roving years to return to Plymouth again. The conduct of the regiment during its stay in Plymouth was excellent, and we received many expressions of regret from the citizens on our departure.
Arriving at Aldershot the next morning, the regiment paraded at Farnboro station, Aldershot, some three miles from the camp, and marched to Cove Common and immediately went under canvas. We were attached to the reserve brigade commanded by Major-General Gordon, and consisting of the 12th and 21st regiments of infantry, 1st battalion of Coldstream Guards, a regiment of dragoons, a battery of artillery, together with transport and medical departments. Two days after our arrival we had a field day. We marched to the Long Valley, where we were drilled for several hours, and when we returned to camp it was difficult to tell who was who. It was an extremely hot day, and the dust stuck to our faces and made us look like negroes.
During the summer I was detailed to escort a deserter to Plymouth. The sergeant-major gave me an opportunity to see my relatives there. The prisoner was a deserter from H.M.S. Implacable, stationed in Plymouth Sound. He had been a few months in the regiment and it was not to his liking. He surrendered, and I handed him over to the commanding officer of his ship. If I failed to do this I would be tried by court-martial and sentenced to be reduced to the rank and pay of a private. The court is also empowered to add imprisonment with hard labor not exceeding 42 days. The charge would be neglect of duty in allowing a prisoner to escape from custody. So it was with much solicitude that I took over my prisoner. Private Peter Coady of my own company was my escort. When we paraded with the prisoner handcuffed, the sergeant-major handed me my instructions and money to defray expenses. The prisoner was allowed 12-1/2 cents per day. We then loaded our rifles, fixed bayonets, and marched off to Farnboro station en route to Southampton.
After we were comfortably seated in the coach, I did not like to see the prisoner handcuffed, so removed the shackles. He entered into conversation with a passenger, which for a while made me suspicious. However, that passed away, and in a few hours we arrived at Southampton. It was my duty to take the prisoner to the lock-up and provide him with refreshments, and take him over again when the steamer was ready to sail for Plymouth. Instead of that, I allowed him to go with us and have dinner at our hotel. After the meal we sat conversing, when, without warning, the prisoner left the room and tried to make his escape. Coady was too smart for him, and pulled him down off the wall and secured him. We found out the passenger he met on the train had something to do with it. After that the prisoner was kept handcuffed.
We arrived at Millbay the next morning, took the prisoner to his ship, handed him over and got a receipt and expenses incurred during the trip, for which the naval authorities were responsible, and then reported at military headquarters, Mount Wise. We were attached to the 10th Regiment, just returned from China. We remained in Plymouth three days, which gave me an opportunity to visit my friends.
On embarking at Millbay wharf, it being a very dark night, my escort, Private Coady, missed his footing on the gang plank and fell overboard between the steamer and the wharf. With much difficulty he was rescued, having had a narrow escape from drowning. We missed the train at Southampton, but the chief of police billeted us at the Queen's Hotel. The following day we reported at Aldershot.
We had very few sham fights during the summer, but field days were frequent. A divisional order would issue that "H.R.H. Duke of Cambridge, commander-in-chief, would visit the camp, and all brigades would parade and form in the Long Valley to-morrow at 9 a.m." We knew that meant a hard field day. The Duke was a great soldier and would have things done right, and always gave credit where it was due. On one occasion he was heard to say: "What regiment is that?" One of the field officers replied: "It's the 17th, your Highness." "It's steady, and their marching is excellent." When the commander-in-chief or any of the Royal family visited the camp the Royal Standard was hoisted at headquarters.
Orders were issued on one occasion that we leave camp for seven days and become a flying column. Then the whole brigade struck tents at daybreak, and marched the first day to Walmer forest and remained there two days. This is a distance of 16 miles, and to do this in heavy marching order was a good test of the marching powers of our young battalion; but the men were equal to the occasion and did the march in excellent form.
When the reveille sounded the next morning we were leaving camp. A severe thunderstorm came up and we were obliged to strike and pack tents during the storm. A young private did not fall in when his company was parading, and one of the officers asked him the reason he was not doing so. He replied that he did not have his breakfast and would not fall in till he had. He was at once made a prisoner and marched as such to Walmer forest, when the commanding officer applied for a drumhead court-martial. In consequence of the prisoner's previous good character, the general directed the colonel to deal with the case, and he was sentenced to seven days' cells.
When we arrived we found our arms, accoutrements and kit in a bad state, so the troops were kept busy for some time spreading their clothing in the sun to dry and cleaning their belongings in general; but soon the camp began to look cheerful, the flags were hoisted on headquarters and other tents, the bands were playing, and everything forgotten except sore feet. Having enjoyed a day's rest, we marched to Caesar's Hill, about the same distance as the previous march.
The mimic warfare commenced. We threw out an outlying picket with supports and reserve, and the whole camp was placed in a state of defence against a supposed enemy in the distance.
Parties were sent out, skirmishing extended and trenches dug. This was quite exciting and gave us an idea of what we should have to confront during our later service. The commissariat department supplied all rations on the spot. They killed and baked on the camp grounds, and issued groceries and vegetables every morning.
We remained two days in this camp. Our next march was to Sandhurst. We were to be near the great military college whose cadet corps would take part in the brigade drill. A regiment of hussars attached to our brigade formed the advance guard, preceded us several miles, and on their arrival accidentally set the heather on fire, so when the troops arrived they were put to work. After some hard fighting and exciting incidents we extinguished it. We remained here two days, continuing camp life and field work, finally returning to our camp grounds, Cove Common.
As the fall set in camp was broken up, and my regiment was to occupy the west block of the permanent barracks, and my reward for the part I had taken during the drill season was promotion to the rank of lance-sergeant, and to my great delight I was occasionally called upon to instruct a squad of recruits.
A very important factor in our training, one of the finest gymnasiums in the world, was near completion and would be ready to receive squads for instruction in a short time. Eventually we were ordered to prepare squads for gymnastic work, and those who had the privilege of attending it liked it very much. I was very fond of fencing, single stick and sword drill. This gymnasium was built and equipped, and the exercises, systematized and progressive, were the same as those at Oxford University. They were under the supervision of Professor McLaren, and in after years were introduced and used in the French and German armies.
At Christmas I obtained a furlough to visit my people at Penryn. The next day after arrival, in my sergeant's uniform with silk sash and gold stripes, I visited my friends and my former companions. I was the only soldier in the town.
During Christmas day two regiments—2nd battalion 25th, and Tower Hamlets Militia—quartered in the east block, were disputing as to which had the best dinner. The dispute became so hot that the men ran to their barrack rooms and opened fire on each other. The space between the barracks was covered with glass. Every man had possession of ten rounds of ball cartridge, which he kept in his pouch. Every reasonable means was used to stop the firing, but they still kept it up. At last it was found necessary to bring up a battery of artillery, and the rioters were warned that if they did not cease firing the battery would open fire upon them. In a short time they ceased and the rioters were made prisoners, later tried by court-martial and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. Fortunately no one was killed, and the only casualty was a drummer slightly wounded. The next day both regiments returned their ammunition into the magazine. The Tower Hamlets were ordered to their headquarters, London, and disbanded. The 25th were sent to Spike Island, a convict settlement near Queenstown, Ireland.
We had now a very nice reading-room, also a library. A regimental school was opened and the children attended. Any man who could not read or write must attend school until he obtained a fourth-class certificate, but that did not prevent him from advancing. If he wished promotion he must obtain a third-class for corporal, second-class for sergeant, and a first-class certificate would be an important factor if he were looking toward a commission.
Being musical, I took a great interest in our band, which by this time had become a fairly good one. Our bandmaster, Mr. John Holt, was transferred from the Stafford Militia and was a most genial and courteous gentleman. Our band-sergeant was Charles Fitzpatrick, son of the sergeant-major of the South Devon Militia, and, like the master, he was a fine fellow. In 1868 he was appointed bandmaster of the 18th Royal Irish. There were some good voices in the band, and in rendering programmes there would generally be a chorus which we enjoyed. The only drill during the winter was route marching; we also had gymnastics and an occasional lecture from adjutant, sergeant-major or musketry instructor.
The spring drill of 1860 commenced, and every man must have a month's setting up. This means lots of work for the instructors; every regimental parade ground for three hours daily is covered with squads, commencing with section one, doing squad drill till they reach battalion drill, when the companies amalgamate and drill together.
During the summer Her Majesty the Queen, the Prince Consort and members of the Royal family visited the camp. The Queen and her escort came into our block, and entered one of our barrack rooms to see a soldier's cot. We used to make up the bed, drawing the paillasse to the front, but by keeping it against the back it gave a space in the front, then the man, folding his rug neatly and placing it in the space, made a comfortable seat for himself, his back resting against the paillasse. There are no chairs in a barrack room. Her Majesty sat on one of the cots and expressed her satisfaction at the new arrangement. Another incident occurred while the Queen and party were approaching the centre block, occupied by the 21st Regiment. The sentry would not allow the carriages to pass through the block; those were the orders. Although an A.D.C. drew the soldier's attention to the fact that it was the Queen, it did not matter. He said he would not be doing his duty by allowing it. The adjutant was sent for and took the responsibility. The sentry was commended for doing his duty and was promoted for it.
About this time I had some trouble with a man in my company. His general conduct was such as required watching; he was constantly being punished. He would desert and be brought back, tried by district court-martial, sentenced to be flogged and imprisoned for perhaps 112 days. One night I called the roll at tattoo and found him wanting. I reported that night Private James Watson absent, took an inventory of his effects and hoped he would not return. Some few days after I was called to the guard room to identify a man of my company, whom I found to be Watson; but such a sight I never looked upon. It appears he wandered into the country and saw in the middle of a field a scarecrow. The clothes were all in rags, but that did not matter to Watson. He exchanged with the scarecrow, and placing his uniform in its stead, dressed himself in the tattered suit and continued his journey, only to be arrested and brought back to the barracks. The end of poor Watson will be learned later.
Colonel Crofton, not wishing, for private reasons, to go on foreign service at present, made an exchange with Colonel Franklin, who commanded a depot battalion quartered at Colchester, and previous to his departure he was pleased to promote me to the rank of sergeant. I was now on the effective list. Personally I was extremely sorry to lose Colonel Crofton. He had always taken an interest in my welfare and never refused me any reasonable privilege. Colonel Franklin, who took command, was an old soldier and an old man. He was not the disciplinarian his predecessor was—very quiet, and more like a father to the boys than the fiery warrior before him. We knew that Colonel Franklin's command would be short, as he would not take the battalion on foreign service, and that Major McKinstry would succeed him. Our sergeant-major was promoted to the rank of quartermaster, vice Faulkner, retired, and Color-Sergeant George Jackson promoted to sergeant-major, vice Monk, promoted.
We received orders to proceed to Shorncliffe Camp in the county of Kent, a few miles from Folkstone. Major-General Carey having inspected the battalion, we entrained at Farnboro Station. The bands of several regiments in camp came to play us off, and we bid good-bye to Aldershot. That afternoon we arrived at our new station, where we met the 16th Bedfordshires and 18th Royal Irish. We were royally entertained by our new comrades and soon became great friends. Shorncliffe is situated on a high hill just over the town of Sandgate and about two miles from the school of musketry at Hythe. We were quartered in huts, which were very comfortable but not to be compared with our last quarters.
We have our reading room and school, and they are well attended, but we miss the gymnasium, for as yet none has been built outside Aldershot, nor will there be until qualified instructors are forthcoming to take charge of them.
We have four prisoners confined in the headquarters guard room awaiting sentence. One of the prisoners is Private Watson, mentioned before in connection with the scarecrow. These four men had been tried by general court-martial on serious charges—two for striking officers, the other two for desertion and making away with their kits. As a matter of fact they were incorrigible. The evening orders announced that the brigade would parade at 9 a.m. the following day, when the proceedings of the court-martial would be read to the troops and the prisoners. There had been a slight snow-fall during the night and the morning was quite cold. The brigade was formed in the square, the general and his staff in the centre. The prisoners were marched from the guard room under a strong escort, and when everything was in readiness the brigade-major, who had charge of the proceedings, commenced to read. Calling one of the prisoners by name, he stepped to the front, took off his cap and listened to the reading of the proceedings of the court that tried him and which found him guilty. Then followed the sentence in this form: "The court, having found the prisoner guilty of all the charges preferred against him, and in consequence of his previous very bad character, do now sentence the prisoner to be shot to death by musketry." Here the officer paused; the prisoner was very pale and trembling. Continuing, the brigade-major read: "But in consideration of the prisoner's youth Her Majesty has been pleased to commute the sentence to penal servitude for life." The other prisoner for the same offences received the same sentence and commutation. The other two prisoners were sentenced to fifty lashes, which they received that cold morning on the spot, and to be imprisoned with hard labor for ten years.
Our social intercourse with our comrades in the camp was all that could be desired. Entertainments of various kinds were given and a pleasant winter spent. During our stay at Shorncliffe I was sent to musketry school.
In the spring we received orders to hold ourselves in readiness to embark for Dublin. This pleased us very much, for we were anxious to see old Ireland. We were conveyed to Bristol by train and then embarked for Dublin. Arriving without incident, we disembarked. Eight companies marched to and took up quarters at Richmond barracks. The other two companies, which included my own, occupied Linen Hall barracks.
We found quite a difference in the general routine of a soldier's life in Dublin. There were 5,000 troops in garrison, including a battalion of Grenadier Guards, and ceremonial parades were in evidence. The trooping of the colors at guard mounting on the esplanade was one of the most spectacular. The marching past in slow time to the music of massed bands, together with the other beautiful movements attached to this grand old practice, drew thousands of citizens to witness it. Those grand displays were no doubt the means of establishing a friendship between soldiers and citizens. This was a very proud garrison, and the men vied with each other in dress and general appearance on the streets and public thoroughfares of the city. It was commanded by General Sir George Brown.
We said good-bye to Colonel Franklin, and Major McKinstry was gazetted lieutenant-colonel and to command the battalion. The colonel was well liked by all ranks. He was with the 1st Battalion during the Crimean war, and was an officer who studied the individual soldier and attended to his welfare. He had a keen memory. We had a transfer from the 1st Battalion who had also been in the Crimea. He was brought up for being drunk. I do not know whether the colonel intended to bring his previous conduct against him, but in his admonition and advice reminded him that one night in the trenches before Sebastopol he was drunk.
Next we marched to the Curragh camp to be quartered there during the balance of the drill season. The distance is about 25 miles. We left Richmond barracks about 9 a.m. It was a very hard hot day's work that we had before us. We carried a lunch in our haversacks, and when we got into the country we received humorous and good-natured replies to questions we asked those we met. For instance, I was in charge of a section of the advance guard, and I asked a native how far we were from Naas. He answered: "Three miles and a wee bit, sur." We would about cover that distance and ask another native, receiving the same answer. So we trudged on looking anxiously for church spires and chimney tops. At last we saw the long-looked-for halting place, and Naas with all the Irish beauties it contained was near. The band, that had been silent a considerable distance, struck up "Garry own to glory."
After supper the men cleaned up, went into the village, and were most cordially greeted, especially by the fair sex, who indeed were Irish beauties. We marched out of the village amidst cheering and the playing of Irish airs by the band. In two hours the camp was in sight, and when about a mile from it we were met by two bands, belonging to 11th and 86th regiments, with whom we were to brigade, and also an invitation from the sergeants of the 11th regiment to lunch at their mess after our immediate duties had been performed. We took up our quarters in "F" square and were again in huts, but everything for the comfort of the regiment was at hand. The commanding officer was pleased to appoint me battalion drill instructor, and about this time Ensign Mogg Rolph, a Canadian, was gazetted and posted to the regiment, and I had the honor and pleasure of being his instructor for some time. The present Lieutenant-Colonel Rolph will always have a place amongst my best and happiest thoughts. H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall, was in camp and attached to the 39th Regiment for the drill season. He was doing captain's duty and attended battalion, brigade and divisional drills; we saw H.R.H. quite frequently. Her Majesty the Queen visited the camp that summer. It rained the day of review, but that did not matter; thousands were present to greet the Queen and shouted themselves hoarse.
General Sir George Brown was in command. The Curragh is a beautiful spot, there being such a large area for sham fights, field days and drills in general. The rifle ranges are adjacent to the camp, each regiment having its own range. The routine of camp life is the same as in the other camps we have been quartered in. There is a small theatre in the camp where the troops give performances weekly. Each corps has its own amateurs and takes turns to furnish programmes, theatrical, literary, vocal and musical. There was good talent to be found in the camp. The Prince would occasionally attend a performance, and no doubt enjoyed it.
We were shown a monument erected to the memory of a captain who was accidentally shot. It appears his company, which he was in charge of at the time, had completed their firing and were returning to camp by a circuitous route. Other corps were firing at the time, when a ricochet bullet struck the captain and killed him.
About this time we received extremely sad news to the effect that Lieutenant-Colonel Crofton, who so recently left us, had been assassinated on the barrack-square in Colchester. It appears that a private had neglected his duty when on picket sentry, and the adjutant brought him before the colonel and reported his neglect, and he was sentenced to an extra duty. It being Saturday, the men of his company were all assembled in an upper room for medical inspection. He took advantage of this and went to a room on the ground floor, and procuring a rifle, loaded it. During this time the two officers had left the orderly room and were walking arm in arm up the barrack square, the adjutant being nearest. The assassin fired, the bullet going through the body of the adjutant and entering the colonel's, and both were killed. The man was tried and hanged. The sergeants of my regiment made an application to wear mourning for four successive Sundays, as a mark of respect toward our late commanding officer. The commander-in-chief granted it.
The furlough season was near and I was to leave for six weeks, commencing at Christmas, but there was something not very pleasant going on between the United States and England over the Trent affair. It looked so serious that some 25,000 troops were placed under orders to proceed to North America, and the "Tigers," our battalion, was among them. We had received orders to the effect that as soon as the hired transport steamships Cleopatra and Mauritius were ready, we would embark for Halifax, Nova Scotia. The commanding officer informed me that I could not have my leave, and those already on leave would be recalled immediately. In this case the company owning these ships was responsible only for the conveyance; the military authorities were to make all other arrangements.
The commanding officer selected me to superintend the shipping and stowing away of provisions and clothing, which was to be done at Haul Bowlin, where the regiment was to embark, and I left at once to perform this duty. Arriving in Cork, I reported at the quartermaster-general's department and was attached to the 12th Regiment. Christmas was near and the steamer had not arrived. On Christmas the regiment arrived at Cork station. I went down to meet them and returned to the barracks, where the right wing remained till they embarked. Not a drum was heard, in consequence of the death of H.R.H. the Prince Consort. The battalion marched to barracks in death-like silence, with colors draped and other signs of mourning visible. The sergeants of my regiment were invited to dine with their old comrades of the 12th on Christmas Day. We were enjoying our dinner when an orderly summoned me to the orderly room. When I reported I found the Q.M.G., colonel, quartermaster, adjutant and others assembled. I was ordered to at once prepare to accompany them to Haul Bowlin. That stopped my Christmas festivities, but the 12th boys filled my haversack with good things.
On arrival my duties were at once explained to me. I was to make notes of the disposition of all packages, barrels, bales, etc., of provision and clothing, so they could be found without difficulty during the voyage. A winter campaign was expected, and we had considerable furs and clothing to meet it. Not far from Haul Bowlin is Spike Island, a convict settlement, and the convicts were brought over to put the goods on board. It was difficult to have them do as I desired, but the guards with loaded carbines soon brought them to time, and in a few days my work was completed, and on the 1st of January, 1862, the wing embarked and sailed for Halifax.
When the battalion paraded in Cork barracks the morning they were leaving, General Blood addressed them, giving some good advice to this young regiment, warning them against drinking rum, but instead to drink milk.
The first thing we had to face was seasickness, and very few escaped it. The voyage was a tempestuous one. We met a heavy gale when out several days, but no damage was done; the ship was intact at the end of the passage and the men in the best of health and spirits. Arriving at Newfoundland we took on a pilot. The colonel asked him how the trouble between the two countries was progressing. He assured us that it had been amicably settled. That meant no fighting. The men were disappointed.
We arrived in Halifax, N.S., on January 11th, and quartered in Wellington barracks. We were now waiting the arrival of the left wing, which sailed a few days later but did not reach Halifax till the 10th of February. The gale we encountered spent itself on the Mauritius. She came into port with masts and bulwarks carried away. No one was drowned or injured in the storm. They immediately disembarked and took up their quarters in Wellington barracks.
The left wing of the 2nd Battalion (17th) sailed from Cork on the 9th of January, 1862, having Major Colthurst in command, and, together with some batteries of the Royal Artillery, embarked on the troopship Mauritius. Every possible arrangement had been made by the War Office for the care of these soldiers, and, having regard to the time, they were well provided for. Almost the first thing furnished after the men got on board was a plentiful supply of tobacco; this was followed by kit-bags and warm underclothing, calculated to meet the then severity of the Canadian climate. The men were allotted each a hammock, and the color-sergeants were given a comfortable cabin with six sleeping berths in it and three blankets each; but mattresses and pillows were the result of artistic kit supply arrangements.
The officers had fairly good staterooms, but necessarily were a good deal crowded together. The men's food was hard tack, salt pork (with salt beef on two days of each week), good tea and sugar (no milk, bread or butter), and potatoes and cabbage. A lot of good rum was served out to all twice a day. As both the artillery and infantry had been over six months together in three-piece shelters or bivouacs at Aldershot, with only one blanket each, this ship-board treatment was thought a great luxury. It was at the period just after the Opposition to the English Government had said that the British navy could not sail and the British soldier could not march.
General Pennefather undertook to qualify the army in marching by keeping about fifty thousand of them on their legs to the extent of at least twenty miles per day, often thirty, and as there was no end piece to the shelter tents, most of us were seldom dry, and rarely took off our boots. This resulted in about one-fourth of the command being weeded out, but those left were men such as the Duke of Wellington praised when he said, "He could take his Peninsular Army anywhere and do anything with it." It is true that when Wellington's veterans did get back to barracks their bodies had to have insect lotion and their clothing had to be burnt, but they were all men the Empire could be proud of.
The voyage lasted thirty-one days and was a very rough one. The beautiful horses of the artillery suffered greatly, although they were all strung up in slings. After the first few days five or six were found to be dead each morning, and it was pitiful to see their carcases being thrown overboard. Owing to the length of the voyage, the nice food provided for the officers ran out, and they cheerfully put up with the hard tack and salted meats served to the men. We seldom got on deck, but were a most happy family, excepting those who were seasick, and with few exceptions these were all out of their hammocks after the second week. One poor chap, Sergeant Regan, never got over his sea-sickness, and swore he would never go to sea again. Strange to say, he was the very first man to be ordered home to England again as drill instructor for the Depot, so that he was scarcely on land three months before he had to take his medicine again.
Owing to the very bad weather, the waves got into the habit of breaking over the funnel of the steamer and thereby causing a steam explosion down below. This so worked on the nerves of the stokers that they got up a mutiny, in which the other sailors joined, the object being to force the captain to return the steamer to England. They thought that if this was not done they would share the fate of the horses, and the daily sight of the dead animals was certainly not very encouraging. However, the mutiny was the most absurd undertaking ever attempted by sailors, as we soldiers were nearly all qualified and willing to take their places, which was quite unnecessary, as one or two quick military court-martials took all thoughts of mutiny out of their minds.
When we got to St. John's, Nfld., where we put in for coal, we were all astounded at the amount of snow and ice, and what struck us as funny were the shingled roofs on the houses. But a very short time in Canada taught us that the Canadians knew more about how to live and do in their country than we did.
What we wondered at most when we reached Halifax was, who were those swell-looking soldiers on the wharf with white facings on their overcoats and long swagger leather boots with queer-looking spurs on them. To our surprise and delight, on nearing the dock, we found they were the right wing of our own regiment, newly clothed, and the supposed spurs were only military ice-creepers.
We settled down and anticipated a long stay in this garrison. The 62nd and 63rd were in quarters here when we arrived, but left for St. John, N.B., thus making room for the 16th Bedfordshire. We were quite pleased to meet with our old friends and comrades again, and our social intercourse was extremely pleasant. The city was crowded with all arms of the service which happened to be on the water when the United States yielded to Britain's demands. They were waiting orders to proceed to their destination, which they received, and moved to points in Quebec and Ontario, leaving a sufficient force necessary to garrison and defend Halifax.
We were glad to find a splendid gymnasium, with library, reading and refreshment rooms, which were thoroughly appreciated and patronized. The weather was extremely cold, or we thought so. The "Bluenoses" would only smile when we complained of it, so we thought it advisable to become acclimatized as soon as possible. We formed skating clubs, and on the little lakes and any frozen space outside the city could be seen soldiers trying their best to keep their equilibrium, but they became fairly good acrobats before this was accomplished. Later we took to the North West Arm, where cricket and other games were played. We found this most invigorating and splendid pastime. During the winter we formed a society for the purpose of improving ourselves in literature. We had in the regiment John Smith, musketry instructor, and Sergeant George Smith. These were two educated and capable men, and offered to do all in their power for the advancement of this class. These brothers were also good actors, and trained us in theatricals, which became part of our lives.
The married women and children were now on passage to join the battalion. In view of the reception for them the writer was appointed chairman of a committee to make arrangements and provide refreshments for their reception. Those who are interested are watching the signal station at the Citadel. The ship will be signaled at least two hours before she comes up the harbor. At last we are notified that the steamer with her precious cargo is in sight, the banqueting room is prepared and everything they could wish for is ready. All the cabs, hacks, etc., have been hired to convey the loved ones to their new home. They arrive in good health and spirits. The reception, which was a great success, was soon over, and the families repaired to their respective quarters. I received the thanks and best wishes of the ladies, who hoped I would have one of the best wives when I married.
In the spring we prepared for our course of musketry, when the following paragraph appeared in regimental orders: "The commanding officer has been pleased to make the following promotions and appointments: Color-Sergeant Robert Gilbert to be quarter-master-sergeant, vice Draycott, discharged. Sergeant E. G. Rundle to be color-sergeant, vice Gilbert, promoted." I did not expect this promotion, for there were several sergeants my senior, and I would rather one of them were promoted, but I had no say in the matter. The commanding officer had made his choice and that ended it. The ordeal of meeting my comrades in the mess-room that night put me to the blush, and I will with all modesty repeat what was said on my meeting them: "Hurrah for Teddy! Here is our new color-sergeant. We are glad you got it, Teddy; you deserve it. For he's a jolly good fellow," etc.
The rifle ranges are fourteen miles east of Dartmouth, a town opposite Halifax. We marched to Chobham camp, where the ranges are located, and spent two weeks to complete our course. We found the eastern passage a very pleasant part of Nova Scotia. After our duties were ended each day, we went boating, fishing, lobster catching and swimming.
Our course was a decided success, and we returned to Halifax and resumed our usual duties. The American civil war was still in progress, and the city was generally in a state of excitement. There was much anxiety as to the battles being fought and the news that would be received for the next bulletin. Of course, both sides had their friends, and there were a great many Americans sojourning in the city.
For many years outposts were established at points easily reached and accessible to the United States, to prevent deserters entering that country. The troops in garrison furnished the men to occupy these posts, and many a would-be deserter had been captured and returned to their respective corps. Our band, now among the best in H. M. service, gave concerts in the Horticultural Gardens, which were highly appreciated. We had an occasional field day, our strength being augmented by the addition of the two militia battalions and the naval brigade from the warships in the harbor. These parades were always enjoyed by the citizens.
With extreme regret I had to part with my captain; he had received an appointment as staff officer of pensioners in Australia. I must inform the reader that the captain and color-sergeant are closely allied. The sergeant is the captain's secretary, and they confer when necessary on matters pertaining to the company's standing, etc. Captain John Hunter was succeeded by Captain William Robinson, who came to us from the 1st Battalion; he was a very young captain and also a handsome soldier. He served with his battalion in the Crimea. At the age of seventeen he was gazetted ensign and went to the front almost immediately. I said good-bye to Captain Hunter, and Lieutenant Gamble (who, I believe, was born and educated in the city of Toronto) took command of the company until the arrival of the new captain.
As the winter approaches, drill ceases and we become active in the theatrical line. There has been added to the gymnasium a small theatre, where we shall hold our entertainments. The garrison is commanded by Major-General Sir Charles Hastings Doyle. He is a great friend of the soldier, and is always ready to do anything in his power for the enjoyment and pleasure of the troops. Captain Robinson arrives, and I meet one of the handsomest soldiers I have yet seen. He is young and fair, tall and commanding, and his unassumed dignity is in keeping with his handsome physique. He extends his hand and gives me a cordial greeting, saying he is pleased to meet me, and from what he has heard of me is glad that I am his color-sergeant.
There were many entertainments given during the winter, which were often patronized by the general and his staff. Quadrille parties were held weekly by the regiments and corps in garrison. Invitations for these parties were general. These were delightful gatherings. We always had the best music, and the ladies of the city who attended were pleased at all times to be in the whirl with the gay young warriors. Our drills outside the gymnasium were bayonet, sword and route marching. The bandmaster during the winter organized an orchestra which was a great help to our entertainments.
The summer of 1863 arrived and the usual set up drill, musketry course and other exercises were engaged in. George Island is situated in Halifax Harbor, and the fortifications were not in good shape if it were attacked. In order to place them in an absolute state of defence, the Royal Engineers were repairing and rebuilding the forts. To expedite the work, two companies of "G" and "H" were detailed to move to the island, the men to be employed on its work with extra pay. Being the senior sergeant, I acted as sergeant-major.
The Fenians, it was said, were raising a fleet to bombard Halifax. The other ports received the same attention and were ready to receive these men and their fleet, but they did not come. In the summer of 1864 the two regiments exchanged quarters, the 16th moving from the Citadel to Wellington Barracks, and the 17th from Wellington to the Citadel. The anniversary of the tercentenary of Shakespeare was to be celebrated in this city on St. George's day. The St. George's Society prepared a public meeting in the afternoon, when an oration was given in honor of the great writer. A committee prepared a programme to be rendered by our society on the evening of the 23rd. We obtained permission from the general, and we did our best to head the list of the military contributions towards the monumental fund in London, England. The theatre being too small for this undertaking, we leased the Temperance Hall, largest in the city, and built our own stage. The programme was soon ready and contained the following, which was purely Shakespearean. An orchestra of thirty pieces played the overture and accompanied the several numbers. The Rialto, Bargain, and Trial scenes from the Merchant of Venice, four glees, a reading, and Locke's music to Macbeth's witches in character. Sergeant-Instructor Smith and his brother conducted the programme. No ladies took part. The characters were all male, John Smith taking the part of Portia, and his brother that of Shylock. Schoolmaster Ward made a good Antonio, Color-Sergeant Pix made a splendid Duke, while the writer took the part of Salarino. All the parts were well taken, being thoroughly rehearsed. A dancing master in the city loaned us all the costumes necessary. The oration of the St. George's Society was given at noon. Our entertainment was under the patronage of the lieutenant-governor and the general, who, with their respective staffs, were all present the night of the performance. The hall, which was a very large one, was filled to the doors. The performance commenced and continued to the end without a hitch. So well did it turn out we were obliged, by special request, to repeat it the following night, which was again a decided success. It was most gratifying to us that we headed the list of the military subscriptions. We found, after all expenses had been paid, five hundred dollars ($500) was available for the fund, which was immediately remitted to the secretary, and acknowledged by him through the London Times.
It goes without saying that after our grand success in playing before the public such a programme that required the talent of old actors, we felt that we were a regiment of intelligence and culture, and we also considered that we had acquired a high state of proficiency in every department, that we were an important unit in H.M. vast army.
I cannot proceed further without telling the reader that Colonel McKinstry and officers appreciated all we did and helped us in every possible way. The general was so much interested that he presented the sergeants with his likeness, with the inscription, "From your friend and general," and it was hung in a conspicuous place in the mess-room. I hope it is still to be seen in the sergeants' mess of the dear old regiment. It now fell to the lot of Sergeant-Instructor Smith to be honored. He was clever and took great pains, and was always delighted to have our social gatherings of the highest standard, and no doubt he took notice of the beauties of nature in this, to us, new country, and watched the coming forth and maturing of Nova Scotia's idol, the mayflower. He wrote a poem on this pretty little flower, and it was set to music by Drum-Major Gurney, and a quartette sang it before a large audience, who expressed themselves delighted with it. I can only remember two verses, which are as follows:
"Ere rude winter's crust of rime Milder spring can soften; Ere to greet the blither time Robins warble often; O'er the undulating wild, Rising like a hardy child, There the Mayflower sweet, unseen, Spreads its leaves of glossy green.
"'Neath the lee of rubbly rocks Snowy fragments linger, Shedding tears that Phoebus mocks With his fiery finger. Tears that act as cheering showers, Tears that cherish sweet mayflowers, Till each little lilac bell Breaks in beauty o'er the dell."
This was another triumph for us. The Premier, Hon. Jos. Howe, complimented the writer, and added some graceful remarks. The general, too, and all friends of the regiment complimented Sergeant Smith on his beautiful poem.
One of our best and most genial color-sergeants deserted. It was a great surprise to us to learn of Sergeant Josh. Topham's departure. It was said that he was disappointed in not having to fight the Yankees, for which purpose he was sent out, and thought he would step over and help the Confederates. He left the barracks, went into the city, changed his clothing, wearing a clergyman's suit and carrying a suitcase. He had to exercise great care to hide his identity. If detected, it would have been ten years' penal servitude. He took passage in a schooner which carried him to Boston, and when he wrote and told us all about it, he said his anxiety was relieved when the harbor was cleared. We often heard from our old comrade; he got along splendidly and was soon promoted to the rank of quartermaster.
The battalion at this time was in a state of much anxiety; Captain Robinson was dangerously ill, and suffering from internal troubles. His death, which soon followed, was a great blow to me, as our relations were of the most pleasant character. His remains were interred in Point Pleasant Cemetery with full military honors, and the regiment mourned the loss of a good officer and soldier's friend. I was appointed assistant clerk in the brigade office. Sergeant-Major Forbes, late of the 62nd Regiment, was the senior clerk, but before I entered upon my duties I acted as secretary to a committee of officers who had charge of the late Captain Robinson's effects. Some of these were sent to his friends in England, the balance were sold.
I found my work brought me in touch with the Horse Guards and War Office, which proved to be of much service to me in after years.
A negro rebellion had broken out in Jamaica; many had been killed and much property destroyed. The 6th Regiment was quartered at Newcastle, and one of the West India regiments at Port Royal, but these were unable to restore order. General Doyle received a telegram asking for a regiment to be dispatched at once to assist in quelling the rebellion. The 17th was immediately placed under orders to proceed to Port Royal. It was arranged that we go in two ships, the right to embark on H.M.S. Duncan, under the command of Colonel McKinstry; the left wing in H.M.S. Sphinx, a gun-boat.
The morning for the embarking of the right wing had arrived and the scene on the wharf at the dockyard was painful. The wives and children of the departing troops were present, as was the general and staff. The brigade-major (Captain Stokes, 16th Bedfordshires) read aloud the latest dispatches from Jamaica, which caused much anxiety as to whether all would return again. The embarking of the troops completed and good-byes exchanged, the Duncan left for her destination. The left wing of the regiment, under command of Major Colthurst, embarked on the Sphinx.
A fatal accident occurred as our ship was clearing the harbor. Peter Jackson, "B" Company, venturing too far out on the bulkhead, was washed overboard. There was a heavy sea running at the time, and poor Jackson was soon lost sight of; there was no chance of saving him.
Lieutenant Rolph was appointed adjutant, and the writer orderly room clerk. It was October and the weather was beautiful. We found we were handicapped regarding quarters. The ship was so small we could not find sufficient room in which to swing our hammocks. When we arrived in a warmer climate we took our blankets on deck and slept there, but the men were not allowed on the quarter-deck.
Captain Hamilton was commanding the ship, and I asked his permission for the men to occupy the quarter-deck. He referred me to Major Colthurst. I saw him and promised that for the privilege we would sing glees, part songs, etc., while the officers were at mess each evening. We had the use of the deck during the remainder of the voyage. We had a very pleasant run for three days, when we reached Bermuda.
The steamer went to her dock at Boaz Island for the purpose of coaling, and remained three days. We enjoyed the opportunity of visiting the several islands and places of interest. On resuming our voyage we arrived at Port Royal about midnight—four days later. It was a magnificent night as we steamed in under the lofty Blue Mountains. We anchored, and were soon visited by a lieutenant and boat's crew from the guard ship, who reported that quiet had been restored and in all probability our fighting services would not be required. Our men were quite disappointed in not having an opportunity of chastising the negroes for their insolence.
There was no barrack accommodation at Port Royal and we were transferred to the receiving ship Aboukir, and awaited a transport to take us back to Halifax. The weather was very hot, but we had plenty of room under the great awning that covered the upper deck. We were taken to the bathing grounds twice a week at 5 a.m. They supplied us with coffee and light lunch. We enjoyed the gentle breeze that came up generally in the afternoon. When the ripple on the water was observed the men shouted, "The doctor is coming!" and the boatswain's whistle was heard calling the hands to the capstan to swing the ship broadside to get the zephyr as much as possible to enter the port-holes of the monster. Commodore Smyth read the prayers on Sunday. The services were held on the quarter-deck with good singing.
The crew of H.M.S. Bulldog had been added to the already large family of the Aboukir, but there was plenty of accommodation for them.
I must inform the reader of the experience of this crew. It appears that while a mail steamer carrying the British flag was passing a Haytian fort she was fired upon. On arriving at Port Royal the captain reported the circumstance to Commodore Smyth, who immediately ordered the Bulldog to go down and investigate. The captain informed the authorities of his business, but they would not confer with him or any of his officers, and instead fired on the ship. The Bulldog at once opened fire on the forts, but it was soon discovered that the navigating lieutenant had run the ship on a sand bar, at once becoming a target for the Haytians. Captain Wake took in the situation and concluded that his charge was lost, and in order to save his crew summoned them to the quarter-deck, where he proposed that they abandon the ship and blow her up. This was agreed to. Boats were lowered and supplied with provisions, etc., and a train laid and connected with the magazine. When all was ready the train was ignited; the boats moved away and were out of danger when the explosion took place. The men saw their ship sink, and all they had to remind them of the circumstances was a bulldog's head, the same being the figurehead of the ship. The boatswain and several seamen were killed by the Haytian fire. The lost vessel was a gunboat, and her crew would not be more than 150. These were not long in their boats, but were rescued by passing ships and brought to Port Royal and placed on board the Aboukir. The captain, navigating lieutenant and paymaster were placed under arrest.
The frigate Galatea, Captain McGuire, arrived at the port. This was the ship that H.R.H. Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh went around the world in. She was to take us back to Halifax. Previous to that she went to Hayti to see what could be done with these people for insulting the British flag. She soon destroyed the batteries, returning to Port Royal, and after coaling embarked us for Halifax.
After the arrival of the crew of the Bulldog, Major Colthurst permitted me to assist the paymaster in preparing the evidence, statements, and other documents in connection with the loss of the Bulldog for transmission to England.
After this we were transferred to the Galatea and sailed for Halifax. The right wing left a few days before us on H.M.S. Aurora.
We had on board as prisoners the captain and two officers of the Bulldog en route for England, where they were to be tried by court-martial for the loss of their ship. After a seven days' voyage we arrived in Halifax a few days before Christmas and found the temperature below zero, after leaving one 95 degrees above. However, we had smiling faces to meet us, and the band was down to welcome us back to our old quarters again. No casualties occurred while we were absent except poor Jackson's drowning.
After handing over the books and papers in connection with the orderly room, I resumed my duties at the brigade office. We intended to present Dickens' Christmas Carol, Scrooge and Marley, but in consequence of our trip to the West Indies it was postponed until the coming Easter. The play was dramatized by Sergeant Smith; the characters had been cast and rehearsed before we left. The general inspected the regiment and found it in the very best condition; the drill was excellent, and the interior economy all that could be desired. Sir Charles complimented the battalion on their conduct and the manner in which the expedition was carried out.
About this time Sergeant Roe, of "K" Company, a most intelligent N.C.O., was calling the roll at tattoo. Pte. E. Welsh had answered his name, and being under the influence of liquor, was creating a disturbance. The sergeant ordered him to bed, but he did not obey. Again he was ordered to do so. Instead he drew his bayonet and made a dash for the sergeant, who escaped to the corridor, followed by Welsh. He overtook the sergeant at the end of the passage and thrust the bayonet into his side. Welsh was immediately overpowered and taken to the cells. Sergeant Roe was taken to his room, and a surgeon was soon on the spot, dressed the wound and had the patient removed to hospital. The wound was not a serious one. The next day the prisoner Welsh was arraigned before the commanding officer for wounding with intent to kill. The colonel could not deal with the case, only to make application for a general court-martial, which was immediately done.
I will describe in detail the court that tried this case. The application, which was sent direct to the general, contained the charge, evidence, and the prisoner's previous character, with any remarks the commanding officer thought fit to make. A general court-martial is the highest tribunal. The president and members of the court are drawn from the several corps in garrison. The adjutant of the prisoner's corps was the prosecuting officer, but for this, the highest court, a judge advocate was appointed, who conducted the case for the Crown. This was Colonel Ansell, of the general's staff. When the general approved of the application the following orders issued from the brigade office:
"A general court-martial will assemble for the trial of Pte. E. Welsh, 2nd Battalion, 17th Regiment, and such other prisoners as may be brought before it.
President, Colonel Gordon, R.A.
Royal Artillery 1 Captain, 2 Subalterns. Royal Engineers 1 Captain, 2 Subalterns. 2-16 Regiment 2 Capt'ns, 2 Subalterns. 2-17 Regiment 2 Capt'ns, 2 Subalterns.
The prisoner to be warned and all evidence ordered to attend."
Pte. Welsh was tried before this court for stabbing Sergeant Roe, was found guilty and sentenced to penal servitude for life. It was a long time before Sergeant Roe recovered from the effects of the wound.
At Easter we presented to the public Dickens' Christmas Carol, Scrooge and Marley, which had been postponed. Sergeant Smith had written a musical libretto, of which I remember the following:
"When we were for this preparing Late last fall, Neither time nor trouble sparing To please you all, Zounds! these niggers raised the shindies, Cracking crowns and court-house windies, Sent us sharp to the West Indies, Late last fall."
It was a decided success, and several hundreds of dollars were handed over to the charitable institutions of the city.
The memorable year, 1866, dawned over Canada, and much trouble and excitement was predicted. The Fenians were preparing for an invasion of St. Andrews, N.B., and the general, for the better protection of the citizens, had issued orders that a battery of artillery, a company of engineers, with the 2nd Battalion, 17th Regiment, be held in readiness to proceed to St. Andrews as soon as transport was available. We did not expect anything but a fizzle. However, it was a change, and, I may say, a picnic.
We embarked on H.M.S. Duncan. On reaching St. Andrews we disembarked and marched to a large warehouse, where we made our home for a few weeks. The general and staff accompanied the expedition. I was a brigade clerk, and Sergeant Woffenden clerk in the quartermaster-general's department.
The troops' duties were light. The Charlotte militia were embodied and did outpost duty. I was kept busy making out orders and instructions for the establishing of new posts to watch the movements of the Fenians, who assembled in large numbers on the opposite side of the River St. Croix. There was a strong military police force established to prevent strangers coming to town. Rooms in the Hackett Hotel were leased for headquarters officers, and so things sailed along quietly until Sergeant Cashin, in charge of the police force, caught a Fenian in the act of enticing one of our men to desert and join his army. The general could not deal with this case, it being a civil one. He was brought before the police magistrate, who fined him $100 and costs. But with all the watching we lost several men.
The last excitement and the expectancy of fighting arrived. The 17th had posted a line of sentries along the river's bank for a considerable distance. In the middle of the night the sentries on the extreme flank of the outpost saw lights of varied colors which they thought were ships signaling to each other and approaching the shore. They came to the conclusion it was a Fenian fleet, and sent the alarm along to the reserve of the picket. The officer in command ordered the bugler to sound the alarm, which was repeated by the bugler on guard at the regimental headquarters.
This was the first time since the battalion was formed such excitement occurred. The men certainly put into practice what they had been taught for the supposed battle that awaited them, for in fifteen minutes the regiment was on parade, equipped, and having forty rounds of ammunition, were ready for the fray. The other corps in garrison were on parade and ready to move. The whole town was aroused. The Charlotte militia was under arms and anxious to give battle to the Fenians. The general and his staff were on parade (mounted). Brigade-Major Stokes and Captain Clarke, A.D.C., made good use of their horses. They galloped hither and thither, giving orders to the commanding officers as to positions they were to occupy. The general addressed the troops and bid them be steady and courageous. Daylight was near and the fog on the river was lifting, when the artillery was ordered to move and take up their position. The 17th extended a line of skirmishers to cover their advance as they moved to the points of defence. There was now sufficient light for us to see the ships, which to our great disappointment proved to be fishing craft. We were dismissed, and felt sorry not to win a battle to add to the many on our regimental colors.
After five weeks on the frontier and the Fenians giving no trouble, orders were issued to furnish a guard of honor to General Meade, of Gettysburg fame, who commanded in Maine and was making a visit to Sir Charles Doyle at the headquarters of the garrison. It was a gala day in St. Andrews. General Meade and staff arrived and were met at the wharf by General Doyle. The guard of honor presented arms, the band playing the salute. General Meade inspected the guard and then repaired to headquarters. They held a conference and came to a decision as to the movements of the Fenians. A general parade was ordered for the next day. The troops paraded in the morning, all the citizens that could possibly be present being there.
The general addressed the soldiers and also the citizens, and assured them that the conference was satisfactory; the United States Government would prevent any unlawful conduct or annoyance to the town of St. Andrews by the Fenians, and General Doyle could withdraw his troops at any time he desired. The people were pleased that the United States had taken such a stand, and would look to General Meade for the fulfilment of this promise.
Orders had been dispatched to Major Heigham, commanding a detachment of two companies at St. Stephens, and of which Lieutenant Dywer was acting adjutant, to return to headquarters and embark for Halifax. The troopship had arrived and we were to embark on the morrow. Two men of the 17th had arranged to desert that night. They answered their names at tattoo, afterwards breaking out of barracks and getting into a rowboat at the wharf for the purpose of crossing the river. They must have forgotten that H.M.S. Wolverine was anchored in the river. The boatman, however, rowed out and all looked safe. Presently the sentry—for they were near the ship—called, "Who goes there?" The officer in command of the guard ordered a boat lowered and captured the would-be deserters. Their names were Lavin and Cass. They were immediately returned to the regiment and placed in the guard room. The conduct of the regiment had been excellent during its stay in St. Andrews, and we regretted this incident on our departure. The general was determined to have these two men tried and sentenced before we embarked at 10 a.m. the following day. This meant a busy time for me. I had to prepare all the documents, issue orders as to the convening of the court, etc. The court assembled, the prisoners were tried, found guilty, and the proceedings made known to them and the garrison when the troops paraded for embarkation. The sentence was five years' penal servitude.
We now sailed for Halifax, arriving the next day. We disembarked from the Tamer, and took up our quarters in Wellington barracks, the time being near June. Sergeant-Major Jackson retired on a well-earned pension, and my youth was the only objection to my being his successor. Color-Sergeant Green, who was transferred to the battalion on its formation from the 36th Regiment, a very smart soldier, was promoted sergeant-major.
We received orders to be in readiness to proceed to Toronto, relieving the 47th Regiment, and were to have another trip on the Duncan. We embarked for Quebec, and on arriving there were transferred to the lake steamers which conveyed us to Toronto, where we took up quarters in the old fort vacated by the 47th. The latter proceeded to Halifax, taking the place of the 17th in that garrison. We had been quartered in Halifax for nearly five years. Quite a number of our men married there, and it was with profound regret that we had to move. Our social intercourse and friendly feelings toward the citizens and garrison at large were all that could be desired.
On arriving in Toronto the battalion was divided. Headquarters and four companies were quartered in the old Parliament buildings, four companies in King Street barracks. The Fenian prisoners were confined in the old jail, and the regiment mounted a guard there every day, and when the trial commenced furnished an escort to conduct the prisoners to and from the jail to the court-house until the trial was over. We received the medal and land grant.
With the two corps forming the Toronto garrison, viz., the Royal Artillery, stationed in the new fort, and the 13th Hussars in the Exhibition buildings, we soon became acquainted, and fraternized with our new comrades.
Lieutenant Rolph was appointed adjutant, vice Ross, appointed paymaster; Color-Sergeant Coe was appointed sergeant-major, vice Green, reverted to sergeant. The commanding officer was pleased to appoint me instructor and lecturer in the Military School, which position I held during the two years the battalion was quartered in the city. About two hundred cadets were under instruction when I entered upon my duties. A good many were Toronto gentlemen who had just returned from the front, and it was quite interesting to hear them relate their experiences while fighting the Fenians.
I soon found I had some good material to work with; they were full of military enthusiasm and were anxious to graduate and get away in order to educate the recruit and fit him to defend his home and country.
Generally the cadets gave a good account of their training. I was always interested in reading the despatches from South Africa, or reports from the Militia Department, when the names of any would appear relating to their duties, etc.; for instance, Colonel S. B. Steele, who obtained a first-class certificate. How proud we are of his valuable services to his country and empire. Mr. J. L. Hughes, Chief Inspector of Public Schools, Toronto, has made good use of his military education in having the very best drilled school cadets on the continent. His brothers, Colonel John and Colonel Sam Hughes, also qualified at the school.
Senator Kirchhoffer while qualifying took great interest in the school field sports, being a splendid cricketer; the Senator's football team would often meet the law students and any of the city teams that would put up a game. The writer was also fond of cricket.
Through the kindness of Colonel Steele, who applied to the department at Ottawa for a list of the names of the cadets who graduated during my two years' instruction, Major Winters, D.A.G., ordered a list to be prepared, and subsequently I received a roll containing 850 names. I was extremely pleased to look over the names of these gentlemen, whom, with few exceptions, I had not seen or heard of for forty years. I saw an account of the death of Professor Cherriman, who died in London, England; he was a cadet and was captain of the University company at the time. I also met Mr. F. Yokome, editor of the Peterboro' Examiner, and it was a pleasant meeting. I remember the present Judge Ermatinger and Chief Justice Strong, recently deceased, who were among the boys; also Colonel Ward, Port Hope; Colonel Farewell, Whitby, and Colonel Walker, who was Colonel Steele's school chum, and now commands the 15th Light Horse, with headquarters at Calgary, and others now very prominent in Canadian affairs.
In May, 1868, we received orders to embark for the Old Country, and on the 15th we sailed from the Queen's Wharf, touching at Kingston to take on two companies which were on detachment, and continued our passage to Quebec, where we were transferred to the Allan liner Moravian. This was the best trip we had yet made. We had plenty of room, good food, and the men were allowed to smoke any time they wished.
We disembarked at Kingston, Ireland, and left at once for Dublin to occupy the Royal barracks. I again resumed my duties as drill instructor. We were considerably under the strength, having left a large number of men in Ontario. The recruiting sergeants were at their respective stations, busy sending us all the men they could enlist, and we got some fine big fellows. A general election was about to take place and the regiment was under orders to move to any town or district where polling was to take place, to assist the constabulary in keeping order and such duties.
We received reports of rioting and bloodshed. As voters were going to and from the polling places the troops lined the streets all day long. In one case a civilian threw a brick at a 6th Lancer, who made a thrust with his lance at the thrower and killed him. The soldier was arrested but subsequently released. The election over, the regiment returned to quarters none the worse for its experience, especially when they had to tackle the wild Irishmen. It was deemed expedient that four companies, including the recruits, be sent to Mullingar. It was a day's journey from Dublin, and we enjoyed the lovely country we passed through en route. We found the barracks beautifully situated, lots of room, a well-kept drill ground which always interested the writer, and a garrison church within the precincts.
We had quite a number of the members of our literary society with us, and we were able during the winter to give our usual entertainments, to which we invited the citizens whenever they felt disposed. A friendship between the soldiers and citizens was soon established, which made our stay in Mullingar extremely pleasant and not easily forgotten. In May we were placed under orders to move, but the section was not mentioned. We embarked at Kingston and proceeded to Jersey Island. It was a beautiful morning when we embarked on H.M.S. Crocodile. We arrived after a pleasant run across the channel at St. Heliers, which was to be our headquarters. Four companies were to stay here, two at Guernsey, two at Alderney, and two at St. Peter's, which was ten miles from St. Heliers.
In consequence of the hard and constant work on the drill ground, the commanding officer, noticing that I had failed and was not looking as well as he would like to see me, ordered me to proceed with two companies to St. Peter's to recuperate, and also appointed me schoolmaster of the detachment and my wife schoolmistress. I was not to do any other duties till further orders. I soon had my school organized and in working order. The schoolroom was large and well ventilated. It stood on five acres of playground. My pupils consisted of about seventy children of various ages belonging to our own men. There were some thirty men who could not read or write. We had volunteer classes. I had an assistant, while my wife attended to the industrial department. School hours were from nine to twelve, and from one-thirty to four. This was quite a change for the better. I remained in this office till the regiment moved.
One death occurred at our detachment. Our bathing grounds were about one and a half miles from the barracks and we always bathed in the early morning. Four strong and good swimmers were detailed as a picket, remaining on the beach ready to rescue anyone in danger. When the tide is receding the current is very strong. We therefore knew it was dangerous to swim too far out. The officer in charge always directed the bugler to sound the retire when he considered there was danger for the swimmer to proceed farther. One morning Drum-Major Fielding, in company with Private Charles Dunkley, started to swim out. They kept together for some time. The bugler sounded the retire and Fielding obeyed the call, but Dunkley continued. When the drum-major arrived at the beach he was almost exhausted, and said he did not think that Dunkley, who was now trying to get back, would ever reach the beach unless there was help sent to him. The picket was at once sent to his assistance. While the men were reaching him he was drifting farther out. When they got to him he was helpless and sinking, and at last poor Dunkley sank to rise no more, and it was with difficulty the men returned to the beach.
Near by stands Elizabeth Castle, on a little island which can be reached on dry land when the tide is out. The body drifted on the rocks around the castle and was discovered by the men within half an hour after he sank. In the meantime I had gone to barracks and informed the doctor of the sad affair, who immediately went to the beach and did all in his power to resuscitate the lifeless form, but to no avail. The body was taken to the morgue at the barracks and finally interred with military honors in the little churchyard at St. Peter's. We erected a beautiful stone over the grave in memory of our departed comrade.
There was a small barracks about three miles from St. Peter's and a rifle range where we went to do our musketry course. The companies at St. Heliers also used this place.
In 1870 we received the news that France had declared war against Germany and was fighting already. The people of the island were much concerned over the matter. They were mostly French, and were, of course, anxious that their countrymen be victorious in the battles they were about to fight.
We now received orders to prepare to embark on the troopship Euphrates for Portsmouth en route for Aldershot. At Portsmouth we entrained for Aldershot, and on arrival marched to the same grounds we occupied eleven years ago. We were again attached to the reserve brigade. After the season closed we removed to the barracks. About this time the purchase system was abolished, and officers could get a commission without paying for it, and those who had paid for it got their money back.
We were sorry to lose Colonel McKinstry, who had commanded us for the last ten years. He always took a deep interest in the regiment, and did all in his power to make us comfortable and happy, and kept the corps in a high state of excellence. Lieutenant-Colonel Brice assumed command. He served with the 1st Battalion in the Crimea, and was a strict disciplinarian but a popular officer. The first act of the colonel's disposition toward criminals was to recommend the pardon of Private Welsh, who was mentioned in this book as having stabbed Sergeant Roe in the barracks at Halifax, and as being sentenced to penal servitude for life.
The autumn manoeuvres lasted sixteen days. Forty thousand men were to engage in a sham fight. Our brigade consisted of 2nd Battalion of 17th Regiment, Tower Hamlets militia and a London volunteer battalion known as the "Devil's Own"—they were lawyers. This regiment came swinging up the road, the band, which was a splendid one, playing a familiar tune. They marched in quarter column, halted, piled arms, and immediately proceeded to pitch tents and prepare the camp for a two days' stay. The whole brigade looked on and were astonished at the smartness of the volunteers in this part of their drills and exercises, and indeed, afterwards we found nothing wanting in their field work.
Several sham battles were fought and many long and tedious marches endured. Her Majesty the Queen and members of the Royal family came down to witness the march past of the two armies who had been engaged in the sham fights. The strength was 45,000 all ranks.
We returned to barracks to spend the winter, which passed away without incident. The regiment moved to Salisbury Plains, took part in the autumn manoeuvres, and at their close proceeded to Plymouth to occupy the Citadel. We met the 100th Regiment in Aldershot. It occupied the centre block with the 94th, and, if I remember rightly, Colonel Grasett, chief of police, Toronto, was then adjutant of the corps.
And now, after many roving years, we were back again at the old spot where our kindergarten days were spent. Twelve years had passed since we left and many changes had occurred. True, we earned no honors for the colors, but we were always ready when the alarm sounded, and returned with an excellent record. We found Colonel Brice a splendid commanding officer, always ready to help the regiment in any way toward their comfort and happiness. The colonel was pleased to appoint me librarian. We had a splendid regimental library, also a garrison library, where we could draw and exchange books quarterly.
The next three years were spent in this garrison. We were doing duty with an occasional field day or route march.
In the fall of 1873, my wife, who was a trained nurse and a native of Halifax, was taken ill with phthisis, and the following summer I was informed that she could not live. It was her ardent wish to be taken to her home to die, and although there was promotion before me, I forfeited the balance of my service toward pension and took my discharge. In June, 1874, she finished her last earthly journey when we arrived at her home in Halifax. She died nine days after our arrival. In the presence of her mother and sister she passed away, loved by all, and in the hope of a blessed resurrection.
I was awarded one shilling twopence per day pension. Being a civilian again and relying on my military experience and knowledge of physical culture, I went to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, and spent the winter with ex-Sergeant Campbell, who was a dear old comrade and is now a merchant. The following summer I returned to Halifax, and during the early part of July General Laurie was enlisting recruits for the provisional battalion at Winnipeg, and deputed me to conduct them to that city.
Accordingly, on the 3rd of August, 1875, with forty men in charge, we left en route for Fredericton, N.B., where we added several men to our contingent and continued our journey. We stayed overnight at the Franklin House, Bangor, Me. We stopped four hours at Montreal, and next arrived at Sarnia. We camped a week at Point Edward waiting the lake steamer. One morning while at drill a stranger approached me, who turned out to be ex-Private Patrick Sharket, employed as a signal-man on the G.T.R. He heard my voice in the distance, and he knew it was "Teddy's," so he told me after. Sharket was a smart and good soldier. He served in the Crimea, and while the regiment was quartered in Toronto, 1867, obtained his discharge and took employment with the Grand Trunk Railway, but had not been working long when he met with an accident which caused the loss of his left hand. The company kept him in their service. It was eight years since we met.
We had a beautiful trip, reaching Thunder Bay on Friday afternoon. We had to stay there overnight, and occupied the emigrant sheds. That night I had to look up a doctor, as some of our men were sick, but by Sunday morning they were much better. We met a R.C. missionary who was on his way to the Height of Land to take charge of an Indian reserve. He was excellent company and kept the contingent alive by his funny stories. After breakfast the following morning we proceeded to Lake Shebandowan by wagons over the Dawson route, a road made by the troops under the command of Sir Garnet Wolseley on their way to the North-West, 1870. We halted about half way and had our dinner. It consisted of ham and beans, bread and tea; it was splendidly cooked and well served by half-breeds.
We arrived at the lake and found a woman and a man in charge of the post. It had been headquarters for the surveyors in that section and used also for emigrants who chose to go that way. We were on the banks of a charming little lake. The opposite shores are picturesque with their tall poplars and oaks frequented by thousands of wild pigeons. The lake abounded with fish. The men took out the Government boats and caught a quantity of pike sufficient for breakfast the following day. The R.C. priest had sufficient paraphernalia with him to erect an altar, and invited the contingent to mass Sunday morning. Nearly all the men attended, and there were also quite a number of outsiders at the pleasant service. In the morning, after another breakfast of pike, a small steamer conveyed us to the Height of Land. The mosquitoes now got in their work and deprived us of some of the fluid which gives us life. Although we got a lotion to rub on our hands and faces it did not prevent them from biting. The chief and many Indians were there to meet the reverend father.
After nearly a month's travel over lakes, rivers and portages we arrived at St. Boniface. On a Sunday morning we crossed the Red River on the ferry and at once paraded and marched to Fort Osborne. I reported to the officer on duty, and the men were quartered temporarily. Next day the contingent paraded and was inspected by Colonel Osborne Smith, D.A.G., and posted to their respective companies, and during the day received their kits and clothing. Shortly after our arrival I was appointed garrison sergeant-major, which position I held till the battalion was disbanded two years later. Lieutenant Hayter Reed was the adjutant. I now had to work with Mr. Reed in putting the battalion in the best possible order. Quite a change in the drill had taken place but had not been put into practice. This had to be done and other reforms were necessary, and with the permission of the commanding officer, I commenced to put the corps in a better state of discipline and drill. After a few months the regiment was a credit to the Dominion forces.
I found, however, they had never been instructed in musketry, and a soldier is useless if he can't shoot. I asked the colonel's permission to put them through a course of musketry, which he was pleased to grant, and selected a site for the ranges a few miles outside of St. Boniface. I put the battalion through up to 600 yards; the course was carried out according to the school of musketry regulations, and I rendered all the returns in manuscript, the report showing fair average shooting. There was a band of twenty under Bandmaster Harry Walker, late of the Imperial 7th Fusiliers. It was in good shape and kept busy, for bands were scarce in the city at that time. We gave entertainments at the fort occasionally. There was excellent talent among the men and it was always put to good use. The bandmaster was always ready to help us in every way possible. A most pleasing incident took place during the winter. Sergeant-Major Steele, N.W.M.P., returning from leave of absence, and passing through Winnipeg, called on his friend Adjutant Reed, and during their conversation asked Mr. Reed who his sergeant-major was. Mr. Reed replied that it was ex-Color-Sergeant Rundle.