Army and Empire: British Soldiers on the American Frontier, 1758-1775

By Michael N. McConnell | Go to book overview

5
The World of Work

At the end of May 1762, Maj. William Walters of the Royal American Regiment sat down to prepare his monthly report on the garrison at Fort Niagara. Though the report was a matter of administrative routine, the major’s circumstances, and those of his troops, were anything but ordinary. Almost since the day in July 1760 he had arrived at the fort with four companies of his regiment, Walters and his redcoats had had to confront the unfamiliar and complicated work associated with maintaining an important military post while operating the crucial Niagara portage in order to keep troops farther west supplied with food, clothing, and munitions. The demands of those western garrisons had steadily depleted Walters’s own force: he commanded a mere 237 officers and men—little more than half the number he had taken to Niagara—along with another dozen men of the Royal Artillery. The cold winter and overwork had once again diminished his stock of draft animals. His soldiers would now be forced to carry barrels of supplies up the steep escarpment that marked the beginning of the portage, then along the nine-mile road to the small post of Fort Schlosser above Niagara Falls. This portaging work, more than any other labor, “hurts the men much,” in the words of one officer, and “some of them suffered by it.”

Added to these burdens was the fort engineer’s recent bill of particulars: another attempt to re-sod and picket earthen ramparts damaged by winter snow and ice; a new bakehouse and provisions magazine, both to be built of stone; repairs to artillery carriages, the fort’s main gate; and yet another effort to build a breakwater along the Lake Ontario shore to keep the water from undermining the fort’s defenses. Then there was gardening, tailoring, routine repairs to barracks and outbuildings, sweeping chimneys to prevent fires, not to mention the endless round of guards for the fort and its outposts. Indeed, Walters may have felt overwhelmed and all the more anxious to transfer to a regiment bound for home.1

Walters’s monthly report contains more than the routine list of men fit, sick, or absent. Perhaps as a way of reminding his superiors that the shrinking garrison was overextended, the major also sent in a return of

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Army and Empire: British Soldiers on the American Frontier, 1758-1775
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction xv
  • 1 - The British Occupation of the West 1
  • 2 - Frontier Fortresses 32
  • 3 - Military Society on the Frontier 53
  • 4 - The Material Lives of Frontier Soldiers 73
  • 5 - The World of Work 82
  • 6 - Diet and Foodways 100
  • 7 - Physical and Mental Health 114
  • Conclusion 145
  • Notes 153
  • Bibliography 189
  • Index 207
  • In the Studies in War, Society, and the Military Series 212
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