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"Provincial Labour Companies in Upper Canada, 1813 1815" Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP11 Aug 2017 11:09 a.m. PST

"In the years preceding the War of 1812 the shortage of skilled labour in Upper Canada was a perennial problem for British military authorities. During the 1790s, amid efforts to secure the border with the United States following the ratification of Jay's Treaty, requests were made for a company of the newly created Royal Military Artificers to be dispatched from Britain, to no avail. Instead, regiments such as the Queen's Rangers were employed as military pioneers, with mixed results; despite initial success, the heavy workload incurred by these troops led to poor morale and frequent desertions, while they were increasingly utilized for garrison duties during periods of border tension.[1] Skilled artisans drafted from line regiments could be employed upon military works, yet where garrisons were of limited strength, or stricken by illness (as during the construction of Fort George), progress could be slow or halted altogether.[2] In turn, authorities often utilised local civilian craftsmen, whose services were usually scarce and exorbitantly expensive, resulting in construction estimates being exceeded regularly. Yet conservative Government officials routinely (and paradoxically) admonished Royal Engineers and officers commanding garrisons to avoid employing civilians whenever possible, as labour was "calculated to be performed by Military Artificers at the rates they are paid."[3]

Amid Britain's continuing struggle against Napoleonic France few ancillary resources were allocated to the Canadian colonies, and thus conditions in Upper Canada had changed little by the outbreak of war with the United States. In June 1812 only two companies of the Royal Military Artificers were garrisoned in British North America, at Halifax and Newfoundland respectively, neither being immediately available for service inland.[4] In desperation Royal Engineers employed drafts of skilled militiamen; notwithstanding high wages these duties proved unpopular, and such men particularly towards the latter stages of the war "always deserted in such large numbers that they could not supply the ordinary duties" of the Engineer Department.[5] Furthermore, it was not until June 1813 that the first company of the restyled Royal Sappers and Miners arrived from England; these were soon dispersed in small detachments throughout the province between Prescott and York, greatly limiting their capabilities.[6] In the interim, authorities sought to overcome the deficiency of skilled military craftsmen in Upper Canada by organizing dedicated provincial labour companies to assist the Engineer Department…"
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