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The Regimental Medical System:  A Study of the Surgeons of the 41st Regiment of Foot during the War of 1812
By Gareth Newfield


The Regimental Medical System

The British army of the early nineteenth century possessed two tiers of medical care for its soldiers; the Army Medical Department and the regimental medical system. The Army Medical Department was the staff branch of the medical services, responsible for the provision of care and medical standards throughout the army, and with particular responsibilities towards the administration of general hospitals and the medical services of large formations on campaign.  In addition, each unit possessed its own surgeons who were part of the regimental staff.

In 1812 the medical establishment of a British infantry battalion or cavalry regiment consisted of a surgeon who ranked nominally as a captain, and two assistant surgeons who had the status of lieutenants, although neither were allowed to exercise military command beyond their medical responsibilities.  Wartime service in Canada , punctuated by chronic shortages of Medical Department staff officers, often resulted in the secondment of regimental surgeons for staff duty, or to supervise detachments of sick and wounded as units moved from location to location.  

Regimental surgeons provided immediate medical care to the unit in which they served.  Whereas the structure of the Army Medical Department mirrored the civilian medical community and was strictly delineated between physicians, surgeons, apothecaries and supply officers, regimental surgeons’ duties encompassed each of these fields out of necessity.  They were responsible for the regimental hospital, as well as advising the commanding officer on matters concerning the health of the soldiers.  In combat, regimental surgeons tended the wounded, administering first aid and performing necessary surgical operations upon the casualties.  Though they were officially regimental personnel in matters of administration and pay, their medical and fiscal activities fell under the overall scrutiny of the Medical Department.  

Regimental surgeons were ideally drawn from graduates of the various medical institutions within Britain .  Following an examination of their competency by a medical board, they were admitted to the Army Medical Department as “hospital mates” to learn military procedure, and then posted to a regiment as assistant surgeons.  The demands of two decades of warfare during the Napoleonic period occasionally led to a relaxation of professional qualifications expected of medical personnel.  At times, men with only diplomas or certificates of attendance from medical schools were accepted as surgeons.  During the massive expansion of the British army in the 1790s, this led to rampant accusations of incompetence and quackery amongst regimental surgeons, which were sadly often true.  However, by 1810 several major reforms had significantly reduced issues within the army’s medical system.  By the War of 1812, though some surgeons, such as the illustrious George Guthrie – one of the most famous and skilled surgeons in the Peninsular War – lacked the formal qualification of a medical doctorate, most British army surgeons tended to the sick and wounded with the utmost zeal, skill and devotion to duty.  The regimental surgeons of the 41st Regiment were no exception, and did so under the arduous conditions of wartime service in Canada .  

The 41st Regiment

At the outbreak of war on 18 June 1812 , the 41st Regiment was one of the few units serving in British North America , part of the weak garrison of Upper Canada .  It was posted to Canada from Cork , Ireland in 1799, and served at various postings throughout Upper and Lower Canada for the next thirteen years.  The 41st gained early distinction in the war, with a detachment of the regiment serving under the command of Major-General Brock at the capture of Detroit on 16 August 1812 .  Later that fall, the 41st formed part of the British and Amerindian force that thwarted an American invasion at Queenston Heights on 13 October, though Brock was felled by an American sharpshooter early in the battle. 

The year 1813 was one of considerable hardship for the regiment.  At the Battle of Frenchtown on 22 January, a large detachment of the 41st suffered 50% casualties, and the regimental aid post was nearly overrun.  Afterwards, the 41st served in Brigadier-General Procter’s failed expeditions into Ohio .  Several detachments were embarked as marines on Commodore Barclay’s squadron on Lake Erie , only to be taken prisoner after the defeat of the squadron at the Battle of Lake Erie on 10 September 1813 .  The remainder of the regiment was engaged in the disastrous defeat at the Battle of the Thames on 5 October 1813 , following which the majority of the first battalion was taken prisoner and held captive under terrible conditions in the United States .  That fall, the 41st was reconstituted by the amalgamation of the survivors of the first battalion with the second battalion sent to Canada that spring as reinforcements.  Thus amalgamated, the 41st participated in the capture of Fort Niagara on 18 December 1813 . 

During 1814, the 41st served in the Niagara region.  The regiment gained particular fame at the bloody Battle of Lundy’s Lane on 25 July 1814 , as well as the siege of Fort Erie , where the flank companies of the 41st suffered massive casualties during Lt. Gen. Drummond’s failed night assault on 15 August.  Following the news of the end of hostilities in January 1815, the 41st performed garrison duty in Lower Canada , and was dispatched to Belgium that summer to participate in the Waterloo campaign.  The regiment arrived in Belgium too late for the battle, but subsequently joined the Allied army of occupation in Paris .  

Surgeons of the 41st

 Surgeon Alexander Thom
(1st Bttn., 18 May 1803 – 29 July 1813)

Alexander Thom received an M.A. from King’s College, Aberdeen in 1791.  He joined the army as a Surgeon’s Mate with the 88th Regiment on 25 September 1795 , and transferred to the 35th Regiment on 24 October 1796 .  Following reforms within the army medical administration, he was commissioned Assistant Surgeon in the 35th on 9 March 1797 .  On 30 August 1799 , Thom was promoted to Surgeon of the 35th, seeing action during the 1799 campaign in Holland .  On 25 April 1803 Thom was placed briefly on half pay.  On 17 May 1803 Thom returned to full pay as Surgeon of the 41st Regiment, and sailed to Canada .  By 1806, he was serving at Ft. George , and was recorded amongst the attendees at the funeral of a barrister killed in a duel in nearby Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake) on 10 October that year.[1]

Following the commencement of hostilities, Thom appears to have remained with the half of the regiment stationed at Fort George .  He was listed as a staff surgeon amongst the official mourners at Brock’s funeral at Ft. George on 16 October 1812 , suggesting he had been previously detached from the 41st for staff duty with the Medical Department.[2]  This point is confirmed by a letter written by Deputy Inspector of Hospitals James Macaulay in February 1813 addressing queries from Thom regarding the treatment of wounded American prisoners and forage rations for staff officers keeping horses.[3]  Within this correspondence, Thom is referred to as an “Acting Staff Surgeon”, indicating his appointment to the Medical Staff was provisional.  By his own account, Thom served as principle medical officer for Brigadier-General Vincent’s Right Division operating in the Niagara Peninsula during this period.[4]

Following the capture of Fort George on 27 May 1813 , Thom tended the wounded during the retreat to Burlington Heights .  Though Vincent’s retreat was praised by his superiors for its orderliness, Thom’s correspondence suggests the medical services were neglected during the march.  In the midst of the retreat Thom wrote dispatches concerning the condition of the casualties, addressing one in particular to, “Brigadier-General Vincent or Officer Com’g. British Troops.”[5]  Given Thom was the senior medical officer in the division (whose duties typically kept him near headquarters), his uncertainty over who was then in command of the Right Division is perhaps indicative of some degree of disarray.  Thom signed himself by his permanent rank of Surgeon, 41st Regiment in this dispatch, indicating that his appointment remained temporary.  Ultimately Thom’s staff appointment was ratified on 29 July 1813 , when he was officially promoted to Staff Surgeon, thereby ending his service with the 41st.  His earlier detachment to staff duties and promotion removed him from any involvement in the 41st Regiment’s misfortunes under Procter’s command that year.  

In August 1813, Thom was stationed in York as the senior medical officer there.  One of his chief concerns was the accommodation of the wounded and sick, for which he requested the use of the town church (known simply as “The Church”, and later to be dedicated to St. James in 1828).  The Rev. Dr. John Strachan, ever a champion of the Anglican faith, reluctantly assented on the condition that another place for religious worship was found immediately.  Though Strachan differed to Thom’s discretion and judgement in the matter, he was grudging enough to insist that the use of the Church “be no longer than the urgency of the case require.”[6] Evidently the facilities at York were temporarily adequate, as the Church was only emptied of its pews and converted into a hospital during the summer of 1814 to accommodate the casualties from the fighting in the Niagara region.[7]  

Thom remained at York into 1814.  His activities there were noted by Private George Ferguson of the 100th Regiment, who was wounded at the Battle of Chippawa and evacuated to York , and who vehemently disagreed with Thom’s insistence that his wounded arm be amputated:

Dr. Tom [sic], the head surgeon, said that my arm must come off immediately. I enquired if Dr. Ferguson was in the hospital. - ‘Do you want to see him?’ was the reply. ‘I do, sir,’ said I, and he was immediately sent for.[8]  

Thom remained on the Medical Department staff in Canada till the end of the war, and retired on half pay on 15 February 1817 , settling in Perth , Upper Canada .  In 1822 he appears on the civil lists as a Commissioner for the Peace and for taking affidavits.  Some time after 1830 he also served as Staff Surgeon and Medical Superintendent of the military settlements along the Rideau River .  On 11 January 1833 Thom fought a duel against Alexander McMillan, a local barrister.  The quarrel was apparently caused by Thom’s exclusion of McMillan’s wife from a party held by the doctor for the town’s social elite.  After an initial exchange of shots, in which Thom suffered a minor wound to the leg, the issue was resolved amicably.[9]  Alexander Thom died in Perth on 26 September 1845 .  

Surgeon John Garland Harford
(1st Bttn., 8 July 1813 18 January 1816 )

John Garland Harford was commissioned Hospital Mate on 24 March 1799 .  A year later, he was appointed as Assistant Surgeon in the 17th Regiment.  He continued to serve in that regiment till he was promoted to Surgeon in the 101st Regiment on 8 November 1810 .  On 8 August 1811 he exchanged into the Royal Newfoundland Fencible Regiment with which he served at the outbreak of the war.  

Harford exchanged again to the post of Surgeon in the 41st Regiment on 8 July 1813 . Which battalion Harford transferred into is uncertain.[10]   Technically, Thom was still on the regimental books as Surgeon of the 1/41st, and would not officially leave the regiment till his promotion on 29 July.  Furthermore, the second battalion had arrived at Quebec on 15 May 1813 without a surgeon having been appointed.[11]  Harford therefore ought to have been posted to the vacancy in the second battalion.  Regardless of seniority, it appears that he immediately did duty with the first battalion. A return for Procter’s detachment of the Right Division dated to August 1813 lists 5 staff officers (almost certainly including the three medical staff) present with the 41st Regiment; Harford must therefore have been amongst them.[12]  Presumably Harford was sent where the need was greatest, i.e. to the first battalion engaged on active service, and his appointment may have been in anticipation of Thom’s eventual promotion.  Ultimately he is listed on a roll of 1/41st officers compiled by Brig. Gen. Procter at Quebec in October 1814, confirming his assignment to the first battalion one means or another.[13]  

Harford appears to have escaped capture at the Battle of the Thames, as his name is not listed amongst those imprisoned officers of the 41st subsequently held in Kentucky .[14]  Thereafter, Harford’s services are unclear.  The amalgamated 41st would have had three supernumerary medical officers, and it is uncertain whether the additional personnel accompanied the regiment during the 1814 campaign, or were immediately detached to other duties.  Reports written by Assistant Surgeon Kennedy in Ancaster , Upper Canada in November 1814 indicate Harford was in garrison in Montreal with the rest of the 41st, but further information is elusive.[15]   Harford remained with the 41st until 18 January 1816, when he retired on half pay and returned to Britain .  He died on 21 March 1830 in Richmond-upon-Thames , England .[16]  

Assistant Surgeon Thomas Moore
(1st Bttn., 21 December 1809 – 26 January 1815)

Thomas Moore was commissioned as a Hospital Mate for General Service on 12 October 1809.  On 21 December 1809 he was appointed to the position of Assistant Surgeon, 41st Regiment, and embarked for Canada .  

Moore ’s early-war activities are unknown, though he presumably remained with the 41st in the Niagara region, as he is not listed amongst Brock’s forces at Detroit .  Along with Surgeon Harford and Assistant Surgeon Faulkner, Moore served in Procter’s offensive operations into Ohio during 1813, as suggested by the return from that expedition, and remained with Procter’s contingent until after the Battle of the Thames .  Moore also escaped capture at the battle, though not without some personal loss, as he submitted a claim from York on 14 June 1814 for the loss of his personal baggage in the ensuing rout.[17]  Like Harford, he was listed amongst the serving officers of the 1/41st on the roll drafted by Procter in October 1814.[18]  

Moore was promoted to Surgeon in the 58th Regiment on 26 January 1815.  On 3 August 1815 he exchanged into the Canadian Fencibles Regiment as Surgeon.  Moore retired on half pay on 14 June 1816, and settled in the Niagara region.  He died in St. Catharines , Upper Canada on 13 May 1818.

Assistant Surgeon William Faulkner
(1st Bttn., 14 June 1810 – 7 March 1816)


Miniature Portrait of Assistant Surgeon William Faulkner, c.1811 (private coll.)  

William Faulkner was commissioned into the army as a Hospital Mate for General Service with the Army Medical Department on 17 May 1810.  Shortly thereafter, he was appointed Assistant Surgeon in the 41st Regiment, and sailed to join the regiment in Canada .  Faulkner was noted as serving with detachments of his regiment at Fort Amherstburg by 1811.  

During the summer of 1812, Faulkner accompanied the detachment of the 41st that fought at the Battle of Monguagon, MI on 9 August 1812.  His presence there was noted by Thomas Verchères de Boucherville, an acquaintance and Indian agent who also participated under the command of Captain Muir of the 41st.[19]  Several days after the battle, Verchères consulted Faulkner regarding his slow recovery from a wound he sustained at Monguagon.  Faulkner agreed to allow a Shawnee healer personally recommended by Tecumseh to treat Verchères with compresses made of local herbs.  Verchères recalled the experience in his memoirs:  

I consulted with Dr. Faulkner of the regiment and with Dr. Richardson[20], my regular physician, and both agreed that there was no harm in the treatment.  My Indian doctor therefore returned the next day and started with his herbs.  Ten days later the wound was healed and I was able to resume my duties.[21]   

Faulkner’s actions in this case are a singular example of the willingness of British surgeons to adopt unfamiliar Native remedies, as well as an example of cross-cultural exchange of medical knowledge between Native and European doctors during the conflict.  One week later, Faulkner served with Brock’s forces at the siege and capture of Detroit , and was a recipient of prize money from the victory.[22]  Like Surgeon Harford, he likely participated in Procter’s foray in to the United States during 1813, his presence being accounted for in the return of the 41st in Ohio during August of that year.[23]  Following the defeat at the Battle of the Thames, Faulkner escaped to the Niagara peninsula with the remnants of the 41st.  

His active service apparently affected the state of his health, as he was transferred to Quebec , and took a leave of absence after the war.  In 1815 the 41st were dispatched to Belgium for the Waterloo campaign, with Faulkner rejoining the 41st at St. Denis , France in July.  He exchanged into the 1st Royal Veteran Battalion on 7 March 1816, and became the assistant surgeon at Pendennis Castle .  Upon the disbandment of the 1st Royal Veteran Battalion, he retired on half pay on 25 August 1816.   William Faulkner returned to his birthplace in Huntingdonshire and married Ann Bond Gray on 18 September 1816.[24]  Faulkner then moved to Polton, Bedfordshire where he established a private practice. He died on 2 December 1823 at the age of thirty-six, apparently from "an affectation of the lungs due to his service in Canada ."[25]  Mrs. Faulkner applied for and received an army pension on account of her late husband’s services.  

Surgeon William Robertson
(2nd Bttn., 29 July 1813 – 25 June 1815)

Portrait of Dr. William Robertson c. 1832 (Courtesy of Campbell House Museum , Toronto )

Born in Scotland into the landed gentry, William Robertson joined the British army at the age of 13.  In 1797 he was appointed to an ensigncy in the 73rd Regiment and saw action during the Irish Rebellion of 1798.  From 1802 and 1805 Robertson studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh , one of the foremost medical schools in Britain .  Though he attended three sessions, he did not graduate, choosing instead to re-enter the army as a surgeon.  At that time regulations issued in 1795 regarding the qualifications of medical officers were still quite lax, and evidently Robertson’s professional knowledge was judged sufficient for employment as a medical officer despite his lack of formal certification from Edinburgh .[26]  Accordingly, he was appointed Hospital Mate on 9 July 1805.  Robertson therefore is but one of a myriad of medical officers in the British forces who served without the formal qualification of an academic medical degree.  

While en route to Canada , Robertson was shipwrecked off Cape Breton Island in 1805.  He convalesced in the home of William Campbell, the island’s attorney-general (and later Chief Justice of Upper Canada), whose daughter, Amelia Elizabeth, he subsequently married.  Upon his recovery, Robertson was appointed Assistant Surgeon of the 49th Regiment, stationed in Lower Canada , on 23 October 1806.  Following the death of Surgeon Lennon on 6 July 1809, Robertson temporarily acted as regimental surgeon, though the vacancy was ultimately filled by Assistant Surgeon John W. Korb of the 41st.  Acting in a higher rank without benefit of increased pay caused Robertson financial strain, as he submitted a petition for the reimbursement of his expenses to Governor-General Sir James Henry Craig on 24 October 1809.[27]  

During the winter of 1812 / 1813 Robertson was stationed at various posts along the Richelieu River in Lower Canada .  Writing to relatives from Isle aux Noix, he complained about the lack of medical staff throughout the colonies:  

All winter I had charge of a General Hospital at St. Johns [ St. Jean , QC ] and for the last two months have been the only medical man at this post where there ought to be three.  However, we have a hard duty lately for the scarcity of Army Surgeons in this country, more are daily expected from England .[28]  

On 3 June 1813 Robertson accompanied a party of the 100th Regiment involved in the capture of American gunboats on Lake Champlain near Isle aux Noix:  

The commanding officer and I went in a Row Boat with Two flat Bottomed Boats full of men to act according to circumstances … There were ten wounded & one killed of the Americans only two of our men wounded being the only medical officer on the Island I had my hands full for half an hour on their arrival … it is to me unaccountable how we escaped so well for Round, Grape & Canister were falling like hail all around…[29]  

Robertson remained with the 49th until promoted to Surgeon of the 2/41st on 29 July 1813.  During the winter of 1813 / 1814 Robertson served with the amalgamated 41st Regiment, participating in the capture of Fort Niagara on 18 December 1813.  By the end of the war he was stationed at Fort Wellington in Prescott , Upper Canada .  Robertson’s relatively uneventful time there was punctuated by a bizarre and tragic incident in April 1815.  According to a letter written by Robertson’s wife, his colleague, Surgeon Joseph Morrice of the 16th Regiment (then stationed at the fort) died of uncontrolled haemorrhaging from the oesophagus on 19 April 1815.[30]  The cause of death was Morrice’s having swallowed a coin, a practice he was apparently prone to for an obscure reason.  In the midst of Morrice’s agonies Robertson was called to attend his colleague, but could not move due to being prostrated by an attack of malaria, and Morrice expired shortly thereafter.  

When the 2/41st was reduced at the conclusion of hostilities, Robertson was granted permission to remain in Canada , and retired to Montreal on half pay on 25 June 1815.  As officers’ half pay was usually drawn in England on a biannual basis, Robertson specifically requested to have his half pay paid from the Canadian establishment to avoid the inconvenience of delays in the transmission of funds.[31]  Nearly seven months later, Robertson’s atypical arrangements had yet to be approved, and he was forced for write again to the Military Secretary for a response.[32]  Presumably his request was later granted.

Following the war, Robertson embarked on a lengthy and varied career in public service.  He served in a number of public medical offices, and helped found both the Montreal General Hospital in 1819, as well as the medical faculty of McGill College (later McGill University ).  Somewhat belatedly, he received an honorary MD from the University of Vermont in 1832.  Robertson was also active politically, being appointed a magistrate in Montreal in 1818.  His chief notoriety stems from his involvement in the Montreal election riots in 1832, when British troops under his authority fired on civilian rioters.  His handling of the incident was severely criticised by Louis-Joseph Papineau, leader of the 1837 Rebellion in Lower Canada .  Papineau’s condemnation prompted Robertson to challenge him to a duel, which Papineau refused to accept, on the excuse that he was critiquing Robertson as a public official, not as a private individual.[33]  Robertson continued to hold public offices until his retirement from ill health in 1842, and he died in Montreal on 18 July 1844.  


Assistant Surgeon John Kennedy
(2nd Bttn., 4 March 1813 – 25 Aug. 1815)

 John Kennedy was commissioned as a Hospital Mate for General Service on 6 January 1813.  On 4 March 1813 he was appointed Assistant Surgeon of the newly formed 2/41st Regiment.  That spring he sailed to Canada along with reinforcements sent to replenish the regiment’s first battalion, and arrived at Quebec on 15 May 1813.

By June Kennedy was at Burlington Heights , from whence he was ordered with a draft of the 2/41st to reinforce the 1/41st then serving in the west under Procter. However, upon his arrival at Detroit he was temporarily diverted to serve with the Lake Erie squadron by Commodore Thomas Barclay, as was appointed as surgeon of the HMS Lady Prevost.  Along with the rest of the 41st serving as marines, Kennedy was taken prisoner at the Battle of Lake Erie that October and held at Erie , Pennsylvania .  Whilst treating the wounded there, Kennedy recalled having performed “several of the difficult operations in surgery with success (some of which had been deemed impracticable by both our own, and the American surgeons) … having seen every man who was wounded in the action cured of his wounds… [and] had the pleasure of leaving them with every mark of their gratitude and with every consciousness of having done his duty.[34]

 Commodore Barclay himself noted Kennedy’s professional merit, remarking that his “…most unremitting and scientific zeal and attention to his professional duty entitles him to His Majesty’s favour.”[35]  Nevertheless, his services and capture evidently caused Kennedy financial distress.  After his repatriation from the United States in May 1814, he submitted a request for additional pay as an acting naval surgeon due to his attachment to the Lake Erie squadron, and solicited the support of Commodore Barclay in that venture, though it is unknown whether he received recompensation.[36]   Furthermore, Kennedy was also included on a list of 41st officers petitioning in February 1815 for the reimbursement of personal losses incurred while being held as prisoners in the United States .[37]

On 7 October 1814, Kennedy met the first contingents of 41st prisoners returning from incarceration in the United States at Long Point , Upper Canada .  Kennedy was shocked by the frail condition of the men, and wrote an emotional letter to Lieutenant Colonel Evans of the 41st describing the disembarkation of the prisoners:

 At the first sight of our poor fellows, it was with difficulty I could suppress my feelings of pity at their miserable condition, and of indignation at their rascality [sic] treatment which was the cause of it … The further we advanced the scene of misery deepened … we arrived gradually to the very essence of everything miserable – nakedness, disease & death.[38]

Kennedy later noted that more than thirty prisoners of the initial contingent died from the effects if their maltreatment while en route to Upper Canada .[39]  Inundated with scores of sick and emaciated prisoners, Kennedy established a general hospital for them at Ancaster.  Accommodations for Kennedy’s patients were quickly found in houses appropriated from American sympathisers, as well as the Union Hotel, in which several of those individuals were tried at the “Bloody Assize” trials several months previously.[40]  By late November 1814, of the 107 enlisted men in his charge, Kennedy reported “they certainly will be of no use to His Majesty this winter & a considerable part of it will pass before they are equal to a long journey….”[41]  However, he also noted his patients were “well lodged, well clothed and well fed,” and were “very comfortable.”[42]  Kennedy’s attentiveness to the sick at Ancaster was corroborated by Physician Erly of the Medical Department, who inspected the hospital at a time when the number of sick repatriated soldiers under Kennedy’s care had increased to 150 men.[43]

After the war, Kennedy was placed on half pay on 25 August 1815, and returned to England .  Later that fall, he was returned to full pay as Assistant Surgeon in the 3rd Garrison Battalion.  Transferring once again, Kennedy became Assistant Surgeon of the 1st Ceylon Regiment on 25 January 1816, and proceeded to the Indian Ocean .  Kennedy then served with his regiment during the Ceylon Rebellion of 1817 – 1818, and was killed in action by the rebels in 1818.

Assistant Surgeon William Pardey
(2nd Bttn., 4 March 1813  - 12 May 1814)

William Pardey joined the 2/41st on 4 March 1813, having previously served as an assistant surgeon in Ireland with the North Mayo Militia.  On 12 May 1814 he transferred to the 19th Light Dragoons, also serving in Canada at that time.  He continued to serve until placed on half pay on 25 September 1817.  Pardey obtained his MD from the University of Vermont in 1818, suggesting he had remained in North America following the end of the war.  Like Surgeon Robertson, he is another example of a surgeon who served without holding a medical doctorate.  Pardey returned to full pay on the Medical Staff on 25 December 1822, although his exact rank is not recorded.[44]  On 26 April 1831 he transferred to the Rifle Brigade, and died at Montreal on 30 June 1832.

Assistant Surgeon William Forsyth
(2nd Bttn., 26 January 1815 – 25th Dec. 1818)


Forsyth was commissioned as a Hospital Assistant in the Army Medical Department on 21 June 1813.  On 26 January 1815 he was appointed Assistant Surgeon in the 41st Regiment, most likely to fill the vacancy caused by Pardey’s transfer to the 19th LD the previous May.  On 25 December 1818 he was placed on half pay.  According to Johnston ’s rolls, he died sometime before December 1820.[45]


 Despite the pervasive stereotype of incompetent military doctors during the period, the regimental surgeons of the 41st Regiment played an important and successful role in providing medical care to the British forces during the War of 1812.  In the face of many hardships, they were frequently called upon to tend to large numbers of sick and wounded, having to make do with the materials and facilities at hand in largely rural Canada.  The surgeons of the 41st showed a strong devotion to duty, as Surgeon Thom demonstrated by remaining with the wounded throughout the retreat to Burlington Heights in May 1813.  Far from being incompetent butchers, they were technically proficient in matters of surgery and professionally capable of providing for their patients’ comfort, as borne out by Assistant Surgeon Kennedy’s efforts after the Battle of Lake Erie and later in Ancaster.  They were innovative medical practitioners, willing to try unconventional treatments like Assistant Surgeon Faulkner did at Fort Amhertsburg .  Several remained in Canada after the war, and made significant contributions to their new communities, both medically and otherwise, as did Surgeon Robertson in Montreal .  The 41st Regiment was a mainstay of the defence of Canada during the War of 1812, and the services of the regimental surgeons of the 41st were every bit as difficult, challenging and no less creditable than those endured by their more famous colleagues serving in the Peninsular War.   

[1] W. Caniff, The Medical Profession in Upper Canada 1783 – 1850 ( Toronto , 1980), p. 649.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Macaulay to Freer, Quebec , 11 February 1813, LAC, RG 8 I, Vol. 689, p. 203.

[4] Caniff, p. 643.

[5] Thom to Vincent or Officer Commanding British Troops, On Service ( Niagara Peninsula ), 29 May 1813, LAC RG 8 I, Vol. 689, p. 70.

[6] Strachan to Thom, York , 9 August 1813, St. James Cathedral Archives, War of 1812 Fond.  Extract of original included in a letter written by Mr. G. Spragge of Toronto to a descendent of Thom, 30 September 1938.

[7] W. Dunlop,  “Recollections of the American War 1812 – 1814”, in Tiger Dunlop’s Upper Canada ( Toronto , 1967), p. 56.

[8] Memoirs of Pte. George Ferguson, 100th Regiment (Extracts kindly provided by Prof. R. Hobbs).  Ferguson mentions this namesake doctor twice, at Ft. Niagara and subsequently at York , but the author has not been able to trace his identity further.

[9] H. Haliday, Murder Among Gentlemen: A History of Duelling in Canada ( Toronto , 1999), p. 59.

[10] W. Johnston , Roll of Commissioned Officers in the Medical Service of the British Army ( Aberdeen , 1917) p. 128.  Johnston ’s roll does not indicate which battalion Harford exchanged into, nor does regimental correspondence provide any evidence at the time in question.

[11] Kennedy to Prevost, York , 18 May 1814, LAC, RG 8 I, Vol. 912, pp. 33 – 37.  In a memorial petition for extra pay on account of his services with the Lake Erie squadron, Kennedy describes himself as the senior medical officer in the 2/41st at the time of his attachment to the squadron during the summer of 1813, indicating no surgeon had been appointed at that time.

[12] “Disembarkation Return of a Detachment of the Right Division of the Army Commanded by Brigadier General Proctor, Sandusky State of Ohio US 1st August 1813,” British Military and Naval Records 1757 – 1899, LAC, RG 8 I, Vol. 679, p. 370.

[13] “Return of Officers of the 41st Regiment of Foot,” Correspondence of the 41st Regiment, LAC, RG 8 I, Vol. 912, p. 86A.  This list is not dated, but is included amongst regimental correspondence sent by Procter from Quebec dated to approximately fall 1814.  Interestingly, it only lists officers of the 1st battalion, even though both battalions were present in Canada by that time.

[14] “List of  British Prisoners of War at the Frankfort Penitentiary, 1813-1814,” Kentucky Historical Society (Transcript kindly provided by Mr. J. Yaworsky).

[15] Kennedy to Harford, Ancaster, 23 November 1814, LAC, RG 8 I, Vol. 912, p. 86B.

[16] I am indebted to Prof. R. Hobbs for the information on Harford’s place of death.

[17] Moore to Freer, York , 14 June 1814, LAC, RG 8 I, Vol. 912, p. 46.

[18]  “Return of Officers of the 41st Regiment of Foot”, ibid.

[19] M.M. Quaife ed. “The Chronicles of Thomas Verchères de Boucherville.” in War on the Detroit : the chronicles of Thomas Verchères de Boucherville, and The Capitulation by an Ohio Volunteer ( Chicago , 1940), p. 86.  Verchères refers to Muir as being a major, although he was only a captain at the time.  This may be indicative of Muir holding a brevet or local rank for the purposes of commanding the mixed force of regulars, militia and Indians of which Verchères was a part.

[20] Dr. Robert Richardson, civilian Garrison Surgeon at Fort Amherstburg prior to the war.  In February 1813 he was appointed to the Provincial Marine, was captured at the Battle of Lake Erie, and upon repatriation was appointed as surgeon to the Indian Department in the Western Districts in March 1814.

[21] Ibid., pp. 104 – 105.

[22] “Prize List ledger, Capture of Detroit,” LAC, MG 24, G 70.  Faulkner appears to have personally entered his name on this list.

[23]Disembarkation Return of a Detachment of the Right Division”, ibid.

[24] See R. Henderson,  Assistant Surgeon William Faulkner of the 41st Regiment during the War of 1812”, The War of 1812 Website, c. 1997

[25] Henderson , ibid.

[26]Instructions for the Conduct of the Medical Staff to be Employed on Foreign Service [etc.],” Commissary General’s Office Book, Quebec , LAC, RG 8 I,Vol. 1332, p. 120.   These instructions are transcribed from a War Office circular dated London , 28 April 1795.

[27] Robertson to Craig, Three Rivers , 24 October 1809, LAC, RG 8 I, Vol. 1334, p. 88.  This is a transcript of the memorial petition sent by Robertson to Governor General Sir James Craig, copied into the Commissary General’s Office Book, Quebec .

[28] W. Robertson to J. Robertson, Isle Aux Noix, 5 June 1813, Private Collection.  For this and the following letter I am indebted to Mrs. J Shaw of Toronto , ON , a descendent of Robertson.

[29] Ibid.

[30] A.E. Robertson to D. Robertson, Prescott , 24 April 1815, Private Collection.

[31] Robertson to Foster, Montreal , 22 November 1815, LAC, RG 8 I, Vol. 914, pp. 88-89.

[32] Robertson to Foster, Montreal , 16 May 1816, LAC, RG 8 I, Vol. 914, p. 90.

[33] E.H. Bensley, “Robertson, William.” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography (Vol. VII) ( Toronto , 1988), p. 751.

[34] Kennedy to Prevost, York , 18 May 1814.

[35] Barclay to Freer, Montreal , 30 May 1814, LAC, RG 8 I, Vol. 912, pp. 38-39.

[36] Kennedy to Barclay, York , 17 May 1814, LAC, RG 8 I, Vol. 912, pp. 40-42. 

[37] Evans to Freer, Three Rivers , 10 February 1815, LAC, RG 8 I, Vol. 913, pp. 22-23.

[38] Kennedy to Evans, Long Point, 8 October 1814, LAC, RG 8 I, Vol. 693, pp. 42 – 43.

[39] “Return of the Sick of the 41st Regimt. In Hospitals at Ancaster, November 25th 1814,” Correspondence of the 41st Regiment, LAC, RG 8 I, Vol. 912, pp. 99-100.  Compiled by Kennedy, this list indicates the names and illnesses of the 107 former POWs under his care at Ancaster on that date, the vast majority of whom were suffering from debilitating dysentery or intermittent fevers.  He also notes that 15 or 20 had died in captivity in Ohio , 5 had died crossing Lake Erie while being repatriated, 1 died upon landing at Long Point, and 7 died within two days of their return to Upper Canada .

[40] Thanks to Prof. Ray Hobbs for this information.

[41] Kennedy to Harford, Ancaster, 23 November 1814.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Erly to Foster, Fort George, 7 November 1814, LAC, RG 8 I, Vol. 693, p. 142.

[44] Johnston , p. 236.

[45] Johnston , p. 242.


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