Forced March of the New Brunswick Fencibles (aka: 104th)

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Forced March of the New Brunswick Fencibles (aka: 104th)

Post by pud » Sun Jan 10, 2010 4:49 pm

Graves, Donald E. (Editor 1993). Merry Hearts Make Light Days : The War of 1812 Journal of Lieutenant John Le Couteur, 104th Foot. Carlton University Press, Ottawa, Canada.

On the 13th of January, 1813, the first 'hint' of the 'forced-march' for the 104th Regiment from New Brunswick through to Upper Canada, via Lower Canada, is conveyed: "The Light Company ordered to march through to St. Andrew's tomorrow morning. Packing up smartly. L[ieutenan]ts. Phair and Graves marched with part of the company, L[ieutenan]t. Jobling with Twenty more men the 15th. Captain Shore and I to march the next day. Countermanded after being in Suspense to the 18th when the General held a Levee and gave a General Ball in the evening when He told Shore we should not move, to our joy!" (Graves, p.78).

The march formally began on February 16th, 1813, when the first Battalion Company was sent off and the first stretch was generally continuous from Fredericton, New Brunswick to Quebec City, Lower Canada. 400 miles in 24 days in deep snow over steep terraine and ice. It averaged 27 degrees below zero Farenheit (F.)! That's 32 degrees below zero Celcius C.)! On one particular evening while camped next to the St. Lawrence one thermometre registered 50 degrees below zero while the other one registered 59 degrees below zero F. ! That's between 46 and 50 below zero C. !

Each day after February 16th another company was sent out until on February 21st, 1813, the Light Company was finally sent off to begin this epic and famous journey. They arrived in Quebec City, Lower Canada on March 15th, 1813.

After just 10 days rest, the Light and Grenadier Companys of the 104th were sent off to Chambly and then on April 2 they were sent off to Kingston, Upper Canada.

On the final day of their journey, April 12th, 1813, they set out from Ganonoque, Upper Canada at 5:00 a.m. and they arrived in Kingston by noon. This last stretch was 24 miles completed in 7 hours.

Total journey for the Light Company was 720 miles (1150 km) in 39 days (5.5 weeks) of marching. And it was done at the absolute coldest time of the year. It's speculated that only approximately 250 miles of it was done over any kind of 'groomed' pathways/roadways.

To put that in perspective when our re-enacted Glengarrys completed the "forced-march" from Chippawa to Fort Erie, Upper Canada 10 years ago we covered the first day (15.5 miles) in 8 hours. That included three breaks totaling 2 hours. It was a beautifully warm day of 25 degrees celcius and the pathway we followed was paved. The beer was very cold and refreshing at the 10 mile mark and that's likely what made the last 5.5 miles so darned difficult to the 80 percent that were able to complete it without the aid of modern ambulatory averaged 2.6 miles per hour in the best possible conditions. While they, averaging 7 hour days, managed to perform the near impossible at the exact same average speed: 2.6 mph

Bottom line is they were tough little buggers back then and it's an amazing feat they performed!

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