in Garrision in Upper Canada
"It was normally quite typical for soldiers' daughters to marry other
soldiers. At that time, soldiers were considered to be
at the very bottom of the social scale. Civilians normally avoided
them, you didn't want your son becoming a soldier and you didn't
want your daughter marrying one. There was a definite stigma attached to
the common enlisted man. A modern parallel might be "Hells Angels."
People generally avoid contact with them, most don't want there sons joining
or their daughters fraternizing. Not so for the officers who were
courted by the upper classes of Canada who would be pleased as punch to
have a daughter married to an officer. Soldiers could only
marry with their commanding officer's permission and officers normally
discouraged marriage. Regulations permitted six men per company to
have their wives and children live in barracks on rations. Women
were given half rations and children were on a sliding scale depending
on age. Children could be supported in this way until the age of 14 when
they were considered old enough "to shift for themselves." In most
regiments, a regimental school which taught the soldiers their three
"r's" was extended to their children. The idea was that the children
would become more employable if educated. Wives and families could
stay in barracks as long as their husbands were with the regiment.
If the husband died, the women and children had to apply to the Military
Secretary and Commander in Chief to stay on rations. They would be
shipped back to Montreal, to Quebec and ultimately back to the British
Isles on the first available government ship and be given passage money
to return to the parish in which their husband enlisted. Many chose
to marry another soldier before going through that hardship. Many of the
girls married before the age of 14 to stay on rations. The same deal, by
the way, went for a soldier whose wife died. The children would be
shipped back to his home parish. This could be a very unpleasant
surprise for the relatives eking out a questionable existence in Ireland
or Scotland when half a dozen of Private O'Whatever's children land on
their doorstep! Often the husband would remarry before his children
were shipped off. We also see cases of the children adopted by other
married couples in a soldier's company. Most officers were compassionate
enough to bend the regulations.
We know that many soldiers had their wives and children with them at
posts in Upper Canada--Kingston, York, George, Erie, Amherstburg and St.
Joseph. They do not seem to have gone with their husband on detached duty
for example, when the flankers of the 49th were posted to Queenston
prior to the American invasion which resulted in the Battle of Queenston
Heights, they seem to have arrived without their wives who were presumably
left back at Fort George. Same thing when Brock brought men from George
to Amherstburg for the capture of Detroit. HQ issued an ordnance
just after the war began to the effect that wives should be shipped from
posts in Upper Canada to Lower Canada unless they were serving as nurses.
They were to be shipped back by the first available transport. We
know that there were many wives
and children at Fort George when it was captured on May 27, 1813, so
the orders must have been ignored to a large extent. However, I think
that they were enforced for regiments being sent to Upper Canada after
the issuing of this ordnance. I suspect that the families of the 100th
and others would have stayed in Lower Canada while the men marched to Upper
Canada. I am
equally sure that there would have been exceptions. Women had
proven invaluable as laundresses and as nurses. Soldiers paid to
have their laundry done by other soldiers' wives. This kept them
in clean linen and the soldier and wife with enough income to clothe and
properly feed their children. Clothing in particular was very costly.
Consider that a few yards of simple cotton for a dress could cost as much
as 30 shillings--a soldier's take-home-pay for two months! Linen
was a little less expensive but still costly enough that soldiers' women
normally only had one dress protected by an apron. The dress would
actually be turned inside out and resewn when worn to present unfaded fabric.
Scrap cloth was kept for patching and making children's clothing.
At least in Upper Canada the women were supplied with shelter.
At the same time in the Pensinsular war. wives and children followed Wellington's
army.The men did not even have tents but slept in the rough under blankets
etc along with their families.
-Extracted from a message from Ron Dale, January 2004