Well may fair Canada be proud of such a bold array,
Her honor in their trust is safe, let come whatever may .
That they will do or die for her she owns with hearty cheersHurrah then, thrice hurrah for them ! Ontario’s Volunteers ! MACCOLL.
The part played by Port Hope in the several wars in which Canada has been involved has been by no means a minor one and the name of at least one of her officers will live in the history of the country along with the names of her bravest military leaders. For, from that far-away day in a bye-gone century when the forefathers of Port Hope shed their blood and gave up all their possessions for the sake of the British flag, until but yesterday, when her bravest sons went forth to a distant land to uphold the honor of that same royal standard, Port Hope has been ever ready to serve her country at its time of need.
At the time of the War of 1812 the settlement at Smith’s Creek was much too diminutive to provide a complete volunteer company. But in the various regiments of militia centred along the frontier there were to be found many soldiers, who owned Smith’s Creek as home, whilst Captain Thomas Ward was in charge of a company doing patrol duty between York and Presqu’ile, in which he had doubtless enrolled several fellow-townsmen. To show how these early volunteers served their country, one example should suffice in the person of James Sculthorpe. At the outbreak of hostilities he enlisted in a volunteer company stationed at Kingston. Here he spent six months on duty and then returned to Smith’s Creek with the rank of sergeant. Thereafter until the conclusion of the war he was entrusted by the military authorities with the conveyance of soldiers and ammunition to York and this was no light task, as it involved the impressing of farmers’ horses and vehicles in the transport service.
In connection with this War, there is extant in the the Toronto Public Library a most interesting document containing the minutes of a Regimental Court Martial held at York on August 27th, 1814. This Court Martial was held on John Montgomery, the Sergeant of a detachment of Militia, ordered to Kingston as a guard to nine convicted prisoners. Four of the nine had made their escape at Smith’s Creek and the Sergeant was charged with neglect of duty. The evidence elicited the facts that when the party reached Smith’s Creek on the evening of July 31st, by direction of J. D. Smith the prisoners were confined for the night in a shed overhanging the mill-dam and flume. During the night four of the prisoners, aided by the noise of the falling water, escaped through an opening made in the rear of the shed by the removal of some boards. The witnesses believed that some of the inhabitants of the place had assisted the escape but it seems more probable that this statement was only a device on the part of his comrades to secure the acquittal of the Sergeantin which effort they were highly successful.
The attitude of the inhabitants of the Newcastle District during the period of political turmoil which culminated in the rebellion of 1837, seems to have been distinctly in favor of the governing party. This was shown by the reception accorded Robert Gourlay when he visited this part of the country in 1818. Instead of endorsing his views the meeting, led by Charles Fothergill, passed resolutions of disapproval, which were largely signed and later were published in pamphlet form along with Fothergill’s speech on that occasion.
About this period the custom of holding annual musters of the yeomanry began. These gatherings were held on George IV’s birthday (June 4th) and all the men of the township capable of holding arms were required to be present at the drill-ground, to the east of the present Cemetery. Until the prospect of a rebellion became serious, this was the extent of the military training of the people. Then, in the summer of 1837, John Tucker Williams organized a Town company, which drilled regularly on the ” Flats ” and became somewhat proficient.
The first news of the actual outbreak of the rebellion arrived on December 4th, 1837. A special messenger dashed through the Town late at night, bearing orders to all Colonels of militia to muster their forces immediately and march to Toronto, as a body of rebels was rapidly advancing on that place. Two days later over one thousand men had assembled at Port Hope under Colonel J. T. Williams and had made a start for Toronto. But twenty-four men, fit to mount guard, were left behind and these were supplied with only four muskets, not in firing condition. Soon after a horde of about one thousand half-armed men passed through from Cavan and Peterboro’ and for many months after the Town was constantly filled with trcops coming and going. Of these the 93rd Highlanders were the only regulars and for one night they were quartered on the residents of the Town.
During the second week the majority of the Hope volunteers returned without having discharged their guns, their only feat being the capture of some prisoners whilst on the road up. On Jan. 7th, 1838 a second muster was held and 125 picked men were despatched to the seat of war. It is difficult to gather from these data just what share Port Hope took in these events but it is known that many of her sons served for some time both at Toronto and in the Niagara District.
Annual musters (now held on May 24th) continued until well on in the fifties and then they began to give place to the present system of volunteer companies. True there had been military districts and battalions for some time back but these were based on the annual drill plan. The first volunteer company in Port Hope was organized in 1857 by Captain Augustus Roche and was known as the Port Hope Rifle Company. Soon after Captain R. W. Smart started a cavalry corps, which figured in the Prince of Wales’ visit. On the disbanding of Roche’s Company the Victoria Rifles, a firemen’s organization, was formed. This in turn was superseded in February 1862 by the ” Company of Foot Artillery of Port Hope ” under Captain D. Bethune and Lieut. T. M. Benson. In August of the same year Captain A. T. H. Williams took command, and in December the company became the ” Volunteer Militia Company of Infantry,” better known as the Port Hope Infantry Company. A Rifle Company under Captain William Fraser was shortly after formed, as was also an Engineer Corps under Captain G. A. Stewart. This was Port Hope’s fighting strength when a Fenian Invasion was threatened in 1865. The first order came to the Infantry Company in the Fall to repair to Sandwich for garrison duty. There Captain Williams and his sixty-five men remained until April 1866. On their departure home the Town Council of Sandwich, through the Mayor, presented a most flattering address to them, which speaks volumes for the kind of men Port Hope then produced. Both the Infantry Company and the Rifle Company later served at Kingston, where equally valuable testimonials were presented on their departure. At home a Home Guard had been formed in June 1866 under Captain Kirchhoffer, with sixty Enfield Rifles. This Company patrolled the Town during the troubled times.
The result of this little war was the complete reorganization of the Militia of the country. In the Fall of 1866 the Canada Gazette announced the formation of the 46th East Durham Battalion and other similar regiments all over the Province. Lieutenant Colonel Williams was placed in command of the new local organization, which comprised two companies from Port Hope, and one each from Millbrook, Bethany, Springville and Janetville.
From 1862 until 1867 the town had rented a storehouse on Ontario street from Mr. P. Robertson for use as a Drill Shed. In the latter year the present Drill Shed was erected by Samuel Wilson at a cost of $3,000, and ever since it has been the headquarters for the troops for a large district around Port Hope.
The North West Rebellion of 1885 forms the next event in Military annals. As part of the general plan for quelling the revolt, Colonel Williams was entrusted with the task of forming a provisional battalion from the midland counties. In this famous Midland Battalion, the 46th had two companies, one from Millbrook under Captain Winslow and the other from Port Hope under Major Dingwall. The Battalion left Kingston for the front on April 7th, where a portion of it participated in the Battle of Batoche, May 9th, and all the men did good service. The return to Port Hope on July 19th was in many respects a sad one. Though all had escaped death in the field the gallant Colonel had been carried off by brain fever on the return journey. His lamentable death occurred at Battleford on July 4th, and when he breathed his last this Town experienced one of the direst losses it has yet been destined to sustain. The funeral obsequies which took place on Tuesday July 2 1st, were of the most impressive character, being conducted with the fullest military ceremonial and in presence of vast throngs of sorrowing people.
The 46th Regiment now came under the command of Lieut. Col. Benson, who held sway over its fortunes until 1896 when a change occurred. The 45th West Durham Regiment was transferred to Lindsay, becoming the Victoria Battalion, whilst the 46th Battalion, increased to seven companies became the Durham Battalion and the command of the latter devolved upon Colonel John Hughes. Captains W. J. Robertson and F. H. Coombs are now in charge of the Port Hope companies and H. A. Ward. M. P., is Major.
In connection with the history of the 46th Regiment, the career of the Band which has been associated with it ever since its formation, is deserving of some notice. At the time of the Fenian Invasion there was in Port Hope a Citizens’ Band under the leadership of Mr. Wm. Philp. It happened that several members of this Band enrolled with the Port Hope Light Infantry Company and went to Sandwich with them and while at that point organized a company band of eight pieces. It was from this small beginning that the 46th Band developed. The bandmasters since the formation of the band have been Mr. Wm. Philp, Mr. R. Warner, Mr. A. H. Rackett, Mr. D. Carson and lastly Mr. J. R. Smith, who was appointed August 1st, 1886. The 46th Band has had considerable opposition at various times from other non-military bands but has out-lived them all. At present it is in a disbanded state, except at the periods of regimental drill, when players are specially engaged by the Bandmaster.
In addition to being the headquarters for the 46th Regiment of Infantry, Port Hope is also the home of the 14th Field Battery, until recently known as the Durham Field Battery. This Battery originated in 1872 under Captain Charles Seymour. Its guns were of the smooth-bore type and were six in number, with six horses to each gun. Captain Graham succeeded Captain Seymour in command until in 1880 William McLean, who had been Lieutenant at the formation of the Battery, was given the Captain’s rank and placed in charge. Shortly before his appointment four rifle guns had superseded the old smooth-bores. In 1883 Captain McLean received the Major’s rank and in 1893 that of Lieutenant-Colonel. The Battery, which has been composed of six guns since 1898, was this year (1901) placed under the command of Major N. F. McNachtan, of Cobourg, owing to the retirement of Colonel McLean.
In its drills and target practices the Battery has always maintained a high standard of efficiency. In 1894 it won the first general proficiency prize over all the Dominion artillery companies and it also possesses the Gwoszki Challenge Cup, having won it for two years in succession (1890-1891.)
Last on the list of wars in which Port Hope has taken a share, stands the recent long and stubborn contest with the Boers in South Africa. Port Hope’s sons did not have an opportunity to enlist until a second Canadian contingent was in process of formation. Then on January 5th, 1900, a gallant little company left for Ottawa to join ” D ” Battery R.C.A. The party consisted of Hector Read, Ernest Evatt, Thomas Kerr, William Welsh, Thomas Taylor, Robert Gamble, Victor Hall, Thomas Sandercock, Frederick Davey, Frederick Outram and Charles Ough.
” D ” Battery sailed from Halifax on board the Laurentian on Jan 21st and arrived in Cape Town on the 17th of February. After a brief period of rest and training, active service began with a march through the Karoo Desert in pursuit of a party of rebels when the Battery formed a portion of a column of 2,000 Yeomanry and Australians. This march ended at De Aar on April 14th. The following six weeks were spent on guard duty at the Orange River Bridge. After a brief service at and near Bloemfontein under General Kelly-Kenny, ” D ” Battery reached Pretoria on July 14th and joined General Ian Hamilton’s force. This column was employed for the next three weeks in clearing the Delagoa Bay Railroad and during that time saw much active service. Garrison duty at various points ensued until Sept. 2nd, when the Battery took part in General Buller’s movement to the relief of Leidenburg. This point was reached on Sept. 7th and next day the men of ” D ” Battery participated in the Battle of Paardeplat. After this taste of severe fighting, garrison duty for two months at Krokodil Poort and Godwan Rivier again became the lot of the Port Hope contingent and their fellow-soldiers. On November loth, the Battery was once more at Pretoria and shortly after the journey home began. The capital of the Transvaal was left on December 3rd, a brief stop was made at Worcester for further garrison duty and on the 13th of December, the men embarked on the Rosslyn Castle at Capetown for the long voyage to Halifax. A royal reception at Port Hope concluded this campaign of one year, on January 13th, 1901. Of the brave little company but one was absent at the home-comingSergt. Evatt, who fell a victim to enteric fever.