The 104th (New Brunswick) Regiment of Foot

The 104th (New Brunswick) Regiment of Foot

On 6 July 1803, Brigadier-General Martin Hunter was granted a letter of service authorizing him to raise a corps to be known as His Majesty's New Brunswick Regiment of Fencible Infantry.  This regiment of fencibles was to be part of the regular establishment of the British Army, although its service was restricted to North America. The unit was trained in light infantry tactics with the intention of being formally converted to light infantry.  Like light infantry units, they used bugles instead of drums to pass commands on the battlefield.  There were many skilled axe-men and boatmen in the regiment.  Their pre-War of 1812 training also emphasized winter manoeuvres and amphibious operations.

In 1808, the regiment volunteered for general service. The offer was rejected; but when it was renewed in 1810, the British authorities accepted, and the fencibles were elevated to an infantry regiment of the line.  As the 104th (New Brunswick) Regiment of Foot, the unit could be moved to any British garrison or theatre of operations.

When war with the United States broke out in June 1812, detachments of the 104th were posted throughout New Brunswick.  The buildup of American troops in the Sackets Harbor area during the winter of 1812-13 implied that an invasion of Upper Canada would rake place in the spring.  To strengthen the defences of Upper Canada, Sir George Prevost instructed Sir John Sherbrooke, commanding in Nova Scotia, to send six companies of the 104th overland to Quebec, and then on to Kingston.

The headquarters and grenadier companies set out on snowshoes from Fredericton on 16 February 1813; one battalion company followed each succeeding day, with the light company bringing up the rear. In spite of temperatures of -310C (-250F) the detachments arrived in Quebec in mid-March, travelling 550km (350 mi.) in twenty-four days.  After two weeks in garrison at Quebec, the 104th set out for Kingston; they arrived on 12 April having covered a total distance of 1125km (700 mi.).

In the spring of 1813, the remaining companies sailed to Upper Canada, where the regiment remained for the duration of the war, participating in the battles of Sackets Harbor, Beaver Dam, and Lundy's Lane, the blockade of Fort George, and the assault on Fort Erie.

When the war ended, in December 1814, the 104th (New Brunswick) Regiment was named part of the force of regulars and fencibles assigned to garrison duty in Canada. The regiment was stationed first in Quebec, and later in Montreal. With Napoleon imprisoned on St. Helena and peace established in Europe, Britain wished to reduce the strength of her army, and the 104th (New Brunswick) Regiment of Foot was ordered to disband on 24 May 1817.

The letter of service authorizing the raising of the New Brunswick Regiment of Fencible Infantry specified that its pay, clothing, arms, and accoutrements were to be the same as those of the regular British infantry regiments of the line.  (Source: Jack L. Summers and Rene Chartrand)

The unit was disbanded in 1817.  The regiment is commemorated within the Canadian Army by the North Shore (New Brunswick) regiment which also carries the Niagara battle honour awarded to the regiment in the aftermath of the conflict for its contribution on the Niagara peninsula, particularly at the Battle of Lundy's Lane.

104th Regiment of Foot, route map, War of 1812.  (UNB Photo)

Another unit, also known as the New Brunswick Fencibles, was formed in 1813 to garrison various posts in the Maritime Provinces, and was disbanded in 1816.

(Author Photo)

104th Regiment of Foot marker, Officer's Square, Fredericton, New Brunswick.

Two markers commemorate the remarkable winter march of the 104th Regiment during the War of 1812.  The first is a Historic Sites and Monument Board of Canada plaque on the wall of the Soldiers’ Barracks facing Queen Street and the second is a monument funded by John Irving of the Commercial Properties Ltd and unveiled in December 2014 at the entrance to Officers’ Square off Queen Street.

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New Brunswick Military Units