The History of Royal Newfoundland Regiment of Fencible Infantry
A PDF Version is available here RNR Regimental History
Grenadier private of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment of Fencible Infantry,1803-1816
In June, 1803 Brigadier-General John Skerrett, still in command of His Majesty’s troops in the Colony of Newfoundland, was ordered to raise a fencible regiment. This call to arms was consistent with similar arrangements throughout the British Empire in response to aggression by Napoleonic France. Fencible regiments were raised for service in specific colonies.
Skerrett was ordered to raise ten companies many of whom were recruited from the Royal Newfoundland Regiment that had been only recently disbanded. The new Regiment was to be the Newfoundland Regiment of Fencible Infantry
By 1806, the regiment numbered nearly seven hundred men and were renamed The Royal Newfoundland Regiment when the title “Royal” was conferred by King George III. The next year they were loaded aboard transport ships and sent to Halifax, Nova Scotia where they remained in garrison for one year before being sent to Quebec in 1807.
That same year the British Government began the practice of stopping all ships on the high seas, fearing that some might be providing supplies to France. Many Americans were outraged and by 1812 the United States declared war on Great Britain.
Because of their extensive experience as both soldiers and sailors, over half of the regiment consisting of five companies, were posted to Kingston, Upper Canada. They served aboard ships. The remaining companies were assigned to detachments at Quebec, Prescott, Fort George and Fort York.
RNR Regimental and King’s Colours
In May 1812, weeks before outbreak of the war with the United States, Major-General Sir Isaac Brock, Commander of his Majesty’s Forces in Upper Canada, divided up the regiment into smaller companies and placed them in defensive positions from Prescott to Amherstburg (at the mouth of the Detroit River). Some were even employed as Marines onboard naval vessels on the Great Lakes, and these troops were identified as His Majesty’s Provincial Marine.
Battles in which elements of the regiment took part included:
- Skirmish at River Canard (River Canard, Ontario) – July 16th, 1812
- Battle of Detroit (Detroit, Michigan)- August 16th, 1812
- Battle of the River Raisinor Frenchtown, (Michigan) – January 22nd, 1813
- British raid on Ogdensburg, New York – February 22nd, 1813
- Battle of York(Toronto, Ontario) – April 27th, 1813
- Operations in northwest Ohio, including the Battle of Maumee in the spring of 1813
- Battle of Fort George (Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario) – May 25th to 27th, 1813
- Raid on Sacket’s Harbour, New York – May 29th, 1813
- Provided soldiers who served as marines in theBattle of Lake Erie – September 10th, 1813
- Battle of the Thamesor Moraviantown (Moraviantown, Ontario) – October 5th, 1813
- Battle of Michilimackinac or Mackinac Island (Michigan) -August 4th, 1814 and
- As part of the capture of American naval vesselsTigress – September 3rd, 1814 and Scorpion on Upper Lake Huron on September 6th, 1814.
The regiment was distributed throughout the war zone as attached sub-units and not as a formed single unit battalion. It was disbanded in 1816.
For more history of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment of Fencibles, visit www.rnfldr.ca
Muster sheets of officers, non-commissioned officers and of all ranks of first to fifth companies, who served during the War of 1812, are posted on this website.
Modern day re-enactment units depicting War of 1812 companies of the regiment include:
Bulger’s Company (www.battleofgeorgianbay.huronia.com/rnrsite/)
Skinner’s Company – Greg Renault (Renault(at)covenanthouse.ca)
Whelan’s Company – Rick Peterson (petersonr(at)rogers.com)