On April 13, 1812 Lieutenant-Colonel Charles-Michel d'Irumberry de Salaberry suggested to Governor-General Sir George Prevost the creation of light infantry units for Lower Canada. The suggestion was approved and on 15 April 1812 Sir George Prevost authorised enlistment for the new corps of volunteers that were to be given the name of Voltigeurs Canadiens from the French word meaning "vaulter" or "leaper". This force was to organized like a regular regiment but were not part of the British regular army. The Voltigeurs Canadiens were being mobilized to fight in the war that most expected was imminent with the United States.
Prevost chose Lieutenant Colonel Charles-Michel de Salaberry to command the Voltigeurs Canadiens. De Salaberry came from a prominent French Canadian family in Lower Canada with strong ties to the British military. Three of his brothers had also joined the British military. The youngest, Édouard, had died seven days earlier, on April 6, 1812, in the storming of Badajoz in Spain. The other two brothers died earlier while serving abroad. Maurice-Roch died of fever in India in 1809. François-Louis died in 1811 serving with the Royal Scots. De Salaberry was the ideal person to lead the Voltigeurs Canadiens given his experience. He had served for nineteen years with the British 60th Regiment of Foot fighting in Europe and in the West Indies .