March 1813: The 104th New Brunswick Regiment of FootFebruary 26th, 2013
In March 1813, during the War of 1812 between the United States and Great Britain, the 104th Regiment of Foot, based in New Brunswick (formerly the New Brunswick Regiment), marched on foot from Fredericton through the St.John River Valley, via Lake Temiscouata and the portage to Quebec city on their way to Kingston, Upper Canada (now Ontario).
This winter trek, which took 34 days of marching over almost two months (February-April), was necessitated by the threat of US invasion of Upper Canada. Indeed, in April 1813 the US invaded, pillaged and burned York (now Toronto), the capital of Upper Canada (this attack helped provoke the burning of Washington, D.C. in 1814), and had plans to conquer the British provinces and incorporate them into the USA.
British forces in its provinces to the north of the US were severely outnumbered and were reliant on militia, natives, and a few regular soldiers. Thus the decision was made to march the 104th Regiment, based in New Brunswick, overland from Fredericton to Kingston.
The use of New Brunswick forces to defend Upper Canada foreshadowed Canadian confederation, joining the separate provinces of British North America together against a common enemy to the south, and demonstrating the importance of uniting against the growing power of the US. In a way the war marked the birth of Canadian nationalism.
The war also showed the military strategic importance of the upper St.John River valley for the British provinces; the valley was the main route of communication between the maritime provinces and the Canadas, and in the winter, the only route open not only for military purposes but even for mail.
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