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Cast-off 41st Coats - Detroit, 1812 - Myth?

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  • James Yaworsky
    Now that we re talking about it, I guess I wonder just how many cast-off coats could possibly have been available at Fort Malden - after all, the standard
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 5, 2002
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      Now that we're talking about it, I guess I wonder just how many "cast-off"
      coats could possibly have been available at Fort Malden - after all, the
      standard garrison at that post was only one company of men. The other
      members of the 41st present at the capture of Detroit had been shipped down
      in the month or so prior to the attack on Detroit, or had arrived with Brock
      - it seems unlikely any men of these 'reinforcing' companies "on loan" as it
      were from the Center Division, would have travelled to Malden with not only
      their regulation gear, but cast-off coats from the year before... coats that
      had been carefully stored away, presumably, in case they might be needed for
      just such a ruse as we are here discussing...

      Anyway, although my desk is piled high with 2002 "real" work, I took 10
      minutes to check Cruikshank's "Documents Relating to the Invasion of Canada"
      and also the relevant part of Stanley's "The War of 1812: Land Operations"
      where a quick skim failed to reveal any mention whatsoever of any militia
      being disguised as "regulars'.

      It was also, I believe I read somewhere, the opinion of the Duke of
      Wellington that in the conditions of a 19th century battle, the profile of
      the troops' headgear was more important in the ability to identify bodies of
      troops at a distance than the colours of their uniforms, and I don't
      recollect ever hearing that cast-off shakos were available for the
      militiamen in Brock's strike force, to go along with the coats... and
      surely these militiamen could not have stood up to any close examination by
      trained officers equipped with telescopes, of which there surely were a few
      in Detroit on the morning of August 16, 1812...

      So I'm wondering if the "coat" story is the 1812 equivalent of a modern
      "urban myth".

      It is a story oft told in Windsor that Brock marched his army in the back
      door of Francois Baby's mansion and out the front door, to a point where
      they were out of sight of Detroit, whereupon they quickly doubled round
      again to the back door; each soldier 'circulating', as it were, several
      times: again, with the intention of fooling "that idiot General Hull" that
      Brock had a larger force than he actually had. The ludicrous aspects of
      this story are too apparent to need further comment, and of course it is
      entirely unsupported in the contemporary documentation.

      Essentially the same story is told of the Indian force: they reputedly
      walked across a clearing in view of the Fort, shouting defiance: then ran
      quickly around through the woods silently to their starting point on the
      clearing, to make the transit again... this story strikes one as potentially
      more possible than the Baby mansion story, but just how probable it is is
      another question... given the loose nature of the coalition of which
      Tecumseh was the leading personality but certainly not the 'officer in

      Again, after a quick look (i.e., as opposed to a thorough, comprehensive
      look...), none of these ruses are mentioned in Brock's report, etc., etc.
      I'm wondering if the general delight felt in Upper Canada at Brock
      "outfoxing" "that idiot General Hull" has led to the creation over the years
      of a whole set of "examples" of Hull being fooled - and they are all just
      "tall tales..." Every battle probably has similar stories, though the
      spectacularly unforeseen outcome of the operation at Detroit seems to have
      inspired more than its share...

      Nope, the sight of 250 men of the 41st and 50 of the Royal Newfoundland
      Fencibles, (i.e. some *real* regulars) was evidently more than enough to
      induce General Hull to surrender... ;>)
      Sure, there was, of course, some riff-raff militia present, and a pack of
      savages running around somewhere in the background, too... but who'd be
      scared of *them?* ;>)

      Jim Yaworsky

      >From: Kevin Windsor <kevin.windsor@...>
      >The reason I am asking is that I heard a "re-enactorism" that coats that
      >went into cast off status had all regimentals removed. (lace, buttons) I
      >wondered if there was
      >any evidence to this being done for the 41st (or any other brit reg't).
      >If so what a weird looking lot they must have been to be wearing just red
      >Do you know when the 41st rec'd their 1811 clothing alotment?
      >These coats could have been in stores for 6 months or so, or were things
      >that bad for the 41st that it was a cast off once the arms fell off or it
      >fell off your back?

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