April 8 1812: Brock to Robert Nichol

On April 8 1812, Major-General Brock writes to Lieutenant-Colonel Nichol.  Nichol had been promoted in 1812 to lieutenant-colonel in the Upper Canadian militia and assumed command of the Second Regiment of Norfolk Militia. This was a controversial appointment but Brock found in Nichol a man of ability that he could use. Brock would encourage Nichol to run for the legislature of Upper Canada in June, 1812.  On 27 June 1812, Nichol became the quartermaster general which was crucial position in the war involving the logistics of maintaining the province's militia.  

On April 8, 1812, Brock is writing to Nichol with respect to organizing his regiment. Nicol did not have a high opinion of the men of his regiment, writing that his force was “little better than a legalised Mob – the Officers without respectability, without intelligence and without Authority – and the men without any idea of Subordination.” [1]  There were a high percentage of recent American settlers in his district and Nichol was concerned about their loyalty in case of war. The letter is reproduced below:

YORK, April 8, 1812.

The power which is vested in the person administering the  government, by the amended act of the militia, passed the last  session of the provincial parliament, of forming two flank companies, to be taken indiscriminately from the battalions, being limited to the end of the ensuing session, would almost deter me from incurring public expense upon a system which will cease to operate before its utility and efficacy can well be ascertained. 
But being anxious at this important crisis to organize an armed force with a view of meeting future exigencies, and to demonstrate by practical experience the degree of facility with which the militia may be trained for service, I have to request you to adopt immediate measures for forming and completing, from among such men as voluntarily offer to serve, two companies, not to exceed one captain, two subalterns, two  sergeants, one drummer, and thirty-five rank and file each, in the regiment under your command.
You will have the goodness to recommend two captains, whom you conceive the best qualified to undertake this important duty; the nominating of the subalterns is left to your discretion. Such other regiments as are conveniently situated to receive military instruction, shall have an opportunity afforded them of shewing their ardour in the public service, which cannot fail of creating a laudable emulation among the different corps.

Assisted by your zeal, prudence, and intelligence, I entertain the pleasing hope of meeting with very considerable success, and of being able to establish the sound policy of rendering permanent to the end of the present war, a mode of military  instruction little burdensome to individuals, and every way  calculated to secure a powerful internal defence against hostile aggression.

Printed rules and regulations, for your future guidance, are   herewith forwarded: the most simple, and at the same time the most useful, movements have been selected for the practice of the militia. 

Experience has shewn the absolute necessity of adopting every possible precaution to preserve in a proper state the arms issued to the militia, and of guarding against the heavy defalcations which have heretofore occurred.

You will make applications to the officers commanding at Fort Erie for the number of arms and accoutrements wanting to  complete the men actually engaged to serve in the flank companies; and that officer will be instructed to comply with your requisition, upon your transmitting to him duplicate receipts, one of which is to be forwarded to head quarters, that you may become responsible for the articles delivered to your order: at the same time, the most liberal construction will be given to any representation accounting for such contingencies as are incidental to the service.


1. The entry of "Rober Nichol", Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online by Robert Lochiel Fraser

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