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Below are letters from the William Bell Papers relating to an 1814-15 court martial trial in Kingston where Captains Jacob W. Meyers and Samuel B. Gilbert are charged "For disobedience of orders in not furnishing two men from each of their companies, for actual service at Kingston when required so to do, by their commanding officer". Another court martial referred to in the Bell Papers is that of Lt John Reid, charged with counterfeiting, which is presented on a separate web page. Thanks to Lorene Sinclair for transcribing the letters and Janice Nickerson for adding so much more beyond these local letters.
© Copyright – Randy Saylor, May 2012
The curiosity here is to better understand the court structure in Upper Canada at this time. There was a well developed civil court system in place. The Quarter Sessions heard cases against persons and the Assiszes heard property cases. What isn't clear is the degree to which the militia had its own court martial system. What records have survived?
The excellent reference book about the justice system and surviving records, Crime and Punishment in Upper Canada by Janice Nickerson, Dundurn & the Ontario Genealogical Society, 2010, does not comment on a military or militia court system. I discussed this question with Janice and after some digging she found three different sets of militia court martial records at the Library and Archives Canada. She also suggested there may be records in the National Archives, London, England. Regardless, these letters below are presented to demonstrate that officers were held responsible to obey orders or risk being charged.
Janice also suggests, Plunder, Profit, and Paroles, A Social History of the War of 1812 in Upper Canada, George Sheppard, McGill, Queen's Univ. Press, 1994 for its full account of desrtions, absentees and general lack of support for enlistment in the militia during the 1812-15 period. Sheppard writes that "It was not until 1813 that British authorities resorted to court martials, and only a handful of offenders were ever brought up on charges." 
Court Martial Records at LAC
Jacob W Meyers (1777 - 1851) is a son of the very well known Capt John W Meyers. Samuel B Gilbert (1767 - 1814) is the son of Stephen Gilbert. Both are named as officers in various returns.
Samuel B Gilbert died shortly after these charges were laid. He is alive in a return dated 5 Jun 1814. However, written beside the names Capt Samuel Birdsey Gilbert and Lieut Joseph Le Moine is the word "Dead" on the 24 Sept 1814 return. Click here to see an image of this page These returns are transcribed here on this site.
Source: War 1812, Returns, Nominal Rolls and Pay Lists, R1022-11-6-E, former RG 9, IB7, V15A, page16, LAC, T-10383, film at Canadiana Room, Toronto Public Library
[this letter probably addressed to Lt Col William Bell]
31 March 1814
You will immediately order Captains Jacob Walden Meyers and Samuel Birdsey Gilbert to be under arrest; delivering to you their swords, and you will order them to repair to Kingston to attend a general Court Martial on Monday the fourth [day] of April Next, together with such witnesses as they may think proper and of service to them. You are ordered to repair to this place as the Prosecutor on the Part? of the Crown and you will cause such witnesses as are necessary to support the Prosecution to repair to this place on the fourth day of April next. I perceive that Lieut Vandervoort was examined as a Witness; you having been on the board of Inquiry will be the best judge of what witnesses are necessary.
I am Sir your obedt hble Servnt
John Ferguson Col
Commanding 1st Regt
Charges against Captain Meyers and Gilbert
For disobedience of orders in not furnishing two men from each of their companies, for actual service at Kingston when required so to do, by their commanding officer
Lists of the men ordered to be here at the town? must be sent down
Lieu Col Bell H. M.
[undated - presumably before 4 April 1814]
To Captains Gilbert and Meyers, Sydney
You will be at my House on Monday morning at 7 o'clock and we will proceed together to Kingston.
I am Gentlemen your obedt Humble Servant
William Bell Lt Colonel
[Note: an on line "day of the week" calculator confirms that 4 Apr 1814 was a Monday.]
[this letter is mouse eaten along both sides and text is missing]
1814 Thurlow 16th June 1814
Sir you are hereby requester and ....
... the Summons the following...
....of militia of the County of H...
...on the Day appointed in the...
...to answer for....
...in not attending to their...
....so to Do by their proper officer- you...
... at the same time, order an officer comm.g...
...companie to attend at the House of Marg...
Simpson on Saturday the 18th Instant?.
Receive such orders as may be necessary
be given in Respect to their Duty and
Received the Last? miitia acts which I have...
..t Captain Mackintosh for them, a
...th? and ??? receved from Colonel...
...n will Sir on the 18th J?
...and I have
I am Sir...
obed, Humble V...
William Bell Lt Col
1st Regt H Militi...
...ou, You will
..ab... to have
..John Thompson Sydney
Militia Sydney ...
? Sergt Gilbert
one oclock 15th June 1814
Thurlow 6th January 1815
At the request of Captain Chisholm, I enclose you the proceedings ..? last Court Martial for your approval and further disciplines thereon, there is some [words?] left blank which I will fill up on hearing [from] any of the members of the Court. I believe they are not materially in the way of your giving the proceedings your sanction.
As I am unacquainted with the etiquet of Courts Martial, it is probable the proceedings may not be referred to you in due form, which I trust your candor? [wi]ll overlook. I think the president must sign his name at the mark I have made below the lines when submitted to you For approval Sir?
I am Servan? Sir
Your Most Obed Servt
Lieut Colonel Bell
On the M........
Lieutenant Colonel Bell
First Regt Hastings Militia
Proceedings of a Regt Court Martial
Capt Chisholm Pried?
19 Nov 1814 & 6th Jan 1815
|Source: These letters are held in the William Bell Fonds at the Lennox and Addington Museum and Archives and are usually found under Lennox and Addington Historical Society holdings. They were microfilmed in 1959 and copies are available at the Library and Archives of Canada, (RG9-D8-18, films M-210 and 211) and at the Archives of Ontario on films M-210 and 211. These court martial letters are in M-210 and the page numbers are indicated witheach transcription.|
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