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Crime and Punishment - 1812 War in Canada
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Author:  pud [ Sat Oct 21, 2006 12:16 pm ]
Post subject:  Crime and Punishment - 1812 War in Canada

**In the Quartermaster Forum I recently posted information relating to the soldiers daily rations and the weight of, and the list of, their accoutrements. The discussion has led me to the issue of Crime and Punishment in the British army at that time.

Source: An Introduction To The British Professional Infantryman In The Early 19th Century. David A. Owen. Stevensville, Ontario, 1979. pp. 52 through 55.

"Crime and Punishment in Garrison.
Crime, in the eyes of the Army, could usually with great veracity, be blamed upon the problem of boredom. This monotony was all too often relieved by excessive drinking, a feature of Georgian life in general. The service drew a very fine line between drinking and drunkenness, and many, either too drunk or too board, could not always discern the difference. ,... for Brock remarked in 1812 about the 49th Regiment of Foot, that though they had been in Canada since 1802 and drinking rum without bounds, they were still desirous of serving well. However, under inept officers who considered tyranny and discipline to be equal, men and even the whole units could be placed under great stress.

Crime could take many forms. Civilian crimes perpetrated against citizens were dealt with by the civil authorities. Drunkenness on duty, incompetence through neglect and willful and unwarranted insubordination were rightfully considered heinous offences. Desertion happened to higher degrees near the American border, but interestingly enough, appears statistically to have dropped off significantly when prospects of more active service improved. There was a rather serious mutiny and desertion plot in the Niagara area in the early 1800s which was nipped in the bud by prompt action. Usually, upon examination, it appeared that most crime could be avoided by attempting to assuage the all to present boredom.

The period sources tend to support the idea of a roughly universal scale of punishment for crime, but,... a great deal of latitude was practiced,... Memoirists are constant in recording acts of mercy in the cases of first offenders, or special circumstance.,... Often punishment consisted of grog or privilege stoppage, fines or the futile carrying of weights from place to place. An inebriate was often confined until sober, but the famous pillory was never used on military personnel. Extra drill could be arranged, as could the wearing of inside-out clothing for a period of time. Legally, recaptured deserters could be executed, but were usually transported, often to Australia, as felons. In severe cases, incorrigibles would be literally drummed out on the Army, to the accompaniment of the tune "The Rogue's March", and kicked through the gates by the youngest drummer in the Regiment.,...

To solve the desertion problem in Canada that existed before the War of 1812, the British applied several concepts. The owning of civilian clothes (or "coloured clothes" as they were named) was illegal for a soldier, for obvious reasons. After the near mutiny in Upper Canada, it was decreed that men could hunt and fish when off duty. The British began the policy of skimming older, experienced men off into units comprised entirely of more middle-aged, long serving men. At least one served in Canada, known as the 10th Royal Veterans Battalion.,...

In the Early Nineteenth Century, the British Army was retaining the system of flogging. In fact, this continued until well into the Victorian era. Although the number of lashes could very tremendously within the realm of actual practice, it was generally accepted that less severe offenses required less. Strangely, most men agreed with a judicial use of the cat-of-nine-tails, while many officers, notably Wellington, felt that it made a good man bad, and a bad man worse. Thus, it's use depended greatly upon the Commanding Officer's view of the nature of a particular crime.

The flogging operation was quite formal. The prisoner was stripped to his waist, and tied to a triangle-like support. The men of the Regiment were assembled; punishment parades being mandatory. Behind the recipient stood the youngest drummer; who administered the flogging. The cat, itself, as opposed to the woven rope Navy cat, was a wooden handle holding nine long leather thongs. Behind the drummer stood an N.C.O., often the Drum Major of the unit, who was to strike the drummer if he were too lenient. The Adjutant of the unit completed this team; as his responsibility was to strike the N.C.O. in turn, if he were to easy-going. Under such a system, efficient lashing was guaranteed. A surgeon was in attendance, and was legally entitled to stop the affair before full punishment was given, if, in his opinion the man's life was in danger. After 10 to 15 strokes, the skin was broken, and thus very large sentences would be delivered in installments. According to the memoirs available, some men, especially young officers often vomitted at the spectacle. Punishment parades were always silent, almost shocked in appearance. Incredibly, some men became very proud of the enormous number of floggings they had endured in the course of their service. Therefore, as the men were subject to being "sent to the halberds", as a flogging sentence was termed, it is small wonder that British troops were often labelled with the cognomen of "bloody backs.""

Author:  pud [ Mon Feb 26, 2007 9:14 pm ]
Post subject:  The Grenadier and The Cat-o-9-tails

Merry Hearts Make Light Days (The War of 1812 Journal of Lt. John LeCouteur, 104th Foot). Donald E. Graves. Carlton University Press, Ottawa, Canada, 1993. P.80.

"Once I saw a Grenadier receive nine hundred and some lashes, put on his shirt, shake himself like a Hero and walk away apparently unconcerned. What a pity to ruin such a bold Spirit and fine Constitution."

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