Cast-off 41st Coats - Detroit, 1812 - Myth?
- 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
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?* ;>)
>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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