Rawdon Volunteer Infantry, 1870

I wrote “And the Boys are at the Barracks” (Military & Militia at Rawdon) for Part Two of Up To Rawdon, in 2013, when historical data was much less accessible and as a result the section about the militia from 1860 – 1890 on pages 1110 – 1111 was pretty sketchy. This essay and file, I hope will fill some of the gap.

The file names those who applied for a Fenian Raids Bounty for their service in the Rawdon Volunteer Infantry in 1870, under the terms of a 1912 Order-in Council. When accepted and approved each man would receive $100. The source for the information is Ancestry.com

Fenian Raids Bounty Application List (PDF or XLS format)

The applicants referred to their unit by the name it held in 1868 – 1870, the Rawdon Volunteer Infantry. The application form states: “I was awarded and am now in possession of the Canada Service Medal. I have not previously made any application for a grant under the said bounty act. This medal was only issued in 1899 and had been awarded “only if applied for and the recipient must have: been on active service in the field; or been detailed for some specific service or duty; or served as guard at any point where an attack from the enemy was expected.” Drilling at Rawdon was not active service. See link. Possession of the medal was a proof of their entitlement to the bounty. “The recipient’s name, service number, rank, and unit were indented, impressed or engraved on the rim.” William Jones of Rawdon stated “My medal is marked Sergt Wm Jones No 2 Co Rawdon Infantry.”; Hugh Green and Thomas Tinkler also referred to their medals on their bounty applications.

Although only a few noted “volunteer” on their application form all were, the militia was nonetheless mandatory at this time; all men aged 16 – 60 were trained in drilling and other military matters. Those named in the file had done “special” service but only particular dates and events were included for the bounty as pointed out above.

I have noted the name of the justice of the peace or commissioner who signed the application if he had a Rawdon connection.

Because it was necessary to apply, there could have been others on active duty who failed to do this. However, it must have been a well-publicized attempt to recognize these veterans because men living in distant parts applied and were supported by their comrades; there seems to have been a network of ‘old boys’ forty years later. The file obviously does not include those men deceased before 1912. For instance, I had mentioned on pages 1110-1111 of Up To Rawdon some who might have been active in 1870. Edward Mason, pictured in uniform on page 1110, had died in 1889. William Holtby may have been part of the regiment but died in 1898. Thomas Blair was also dead by that date and we learn that he was a lieutenant with Company 2 in 1870.

The majority of applicants alleged that they served with Number 2 Company at Montreal under Captain George Sharpe from 24 May to June 4, 1870, although some gave slightly different dates, perhaps due to faulty memory. Lt. Col J. W. Hanson was the Battalion commander. One applicant said he was in #10 Company as well as in # 2 company. I think this may be an error, I found no such company perhaps he meant # 10 Battalion. A third of applicants said they served with #1 Company under Captain Francis Quinn and Lt. Col. J. W. Hanson at Montreal or at Montreal and La Prairie, although two applicants said it was # 9 Company. Francis P. Quinn was Irish born and a Roman Catholic, a land surveyor (1852 Rawdon Census) and clearly did not sympathize with the Fenian movement. He was an ensign in the Rawdon Militia in 1855, promoted lieutenant in 1862 and made captain in 1865 (Racine, Denis, Répertoire des officiers de milice du Bas-Canada, la milice sédentaire ou non active, 1846-1868, Société généalogique du Québec, 2000).

Many of the claims from 1st Company were disallowed – for instance, a letter to James McGuire because his name was not on the active pay list for Company 1 but even if it was, he was disallowed. “The bounty was not granted for length of service but for special service at the time of the Fenian Raid.” He had written that they had not been paid for drilling “in our home village of Rawdon and was not to the general encampment until 1871” In other words he had not been at sites of conflict during the prescribed period.

On all forms Three Rivers [sic Trois-Rivières] was mentioned or “3 Rivers” was added in pencil, a reference to the battalion they were part of; probably Three Rivers Provisional Battalion No. 10. In a supporting document to his own application Captain George Sharpe named his regiment as 5th Brigade Division, 6th Military District and Rawdon Volunteer Company but without a number. He does not mention Three Rivers. Hugh Green wrote a letter with his application. “The number on my medal is #2 Company Infantry Rawdon and Capt George Sharpe was my commander when we left Rawdon at that time, in Montreal we were organized different and put into 3 Rivers Provisional Batt.”

For many years the militia at Rawdon had been known as the Loyal Rawdon Volunteers. In the period leading up to 1870 and the Fenian Raids, I had previously found there was some association with the Argenteuil Rangers but those internet sources can no longer be accessed and Rawdon is not mentioned in this article about the Argenteuil regiment by Sandra Stock. See link

After 1870, the Rawdon Volunteer Infantry was associated with Three Rivers and certainly by the military bureaucracy in 1912. “The 86th Battalion made its first appearance on Canada’s Militia List in 1871. Like many other units, it began as a provisional battalion, linking a local militia company from Trois-Rivières with others from Berthier, St-Gabriel de Brandon, and as far away as Rivière du Loup. Soon a company of Irish settlers from Rawdon was added. Like other rural battalions, the 86th took shape chiefly during the annual training camp. (Source: The early problems of a famous militia regiment: why the 86th regiment was disbanded. by Doctor Desmond Morton in Canadian Military Journal. See link

Contradicting this, we read: “A reserve force (militia) regiment originated in Joliette, Quebec on 13 January 1871, when ‘The Joliette Provisional Battalion of Infantry’ was authorized to be formed. It was re-designated: ’83rd Joliette Battalion of Infantry’ on 27 December 1878. It was later known as Le Régiment de Joliette.” See link

In 1886, Rawdon was company 5 of the 83rd Joliette Battalion (source: 1886 Canada Gazette) which reported promotions of rank. Perhaps, Dr. Morton was not correct when he named it the 86th.

page last updated May 28, 2018