Monday, 8 September 2014



    About sixty-five years ago, the Hamilton Field battery was first organized. About the same time, there were three rifle companies and one cavalry company, which comprised the military establishment of the town. Hamilton had part of a regiment of regulars stationed here, the barracks being the old stone building on the bluff at the foot of Macnab street. That old barracks was afterwards used as a glass factory, and it stands today like a castle deserted. Later the old hospital at the foot of John street, originally built for a hotel, was used as a barracks before it was converted into a hospital. When the regulars moved away in the early ‘50s, the only military organizations in Hamilton were the volunteers, of which the artillery company was the leading one. Its armament was one field piece owned by the company and one gun loaned to the company by a private citizen who was interested in, though not actively connected with, the organization. Alfred Booker was the first captain of the company. W. H. Glassco, J. Harris, J. P. Gibbs, W. J. Copp, lieutenants. Dr. J. H. Ridley, surgeon. The battery was the pride of Hamilton, especially on the Queen’s birthday, when it always led in the annual parade and fired the national salute at midday. Beside the battery of two guns, Hamilton could boast of a rifle brigade composed of three companies. The officers of No. 1 company were Thomas Grey, captain, Thomas Bain, lieutenant, George James, ensign. No. 2 company, W. H. Macdonald, captain, T. Samuel, lieutenant. No. 3 company was composed of Highlanders, and was officered by J. F. McCuaig, captain, J. Munro, lieutenant, J. A. Skinner, ensign. There was also a cavalry company, mainly made up of young farmers living in the vicinity of Hamilton. G. M. Ryckman was captain, Harcourt B. Bull, lieutenant, H. J. Lawry, cornet, W. Applegarth, cornet, H. S. Strathy, cornet and adjutant, A. Alloway, veterinary surgeon. How war-like appeared these young soldiers with their glittering swords by their sides. Not one of these old defenders of Hamilton is present now to answer the roll-call.


          In the year 1855, there was a reorganization of the militia of Canada when the government organized the First Field battery in Quebec; the Second in Ottawa, the Third in Montreal, the Fourth in Hamilton. Where practical, the officers of the old organizations were commissioned. Captain Booker and his company enlisted as a unit, and the organization remained as it was. In the older days, the men generally paid for their own uniforms, but when the company enlisted in the regular volunteer service, the government for a complete new outfit and an equipment for the battery. The old Methodist Episcopal church building on Nelson street, near King, was bought by the government and the brick building now occupied as a machine shop, was erected for the gun sheds. Sergeant Brown, an artillery sergeant from the regular army was sent out from the old country as drillmaster for the company, and under his tutelage the battery became one of the best drilled in Canada. Sergeant Brown remained as instructor of the company for a number of years and then resigned to enter into business for himself. He is yet living in Toronto, and makes Hamilton a visit at rare intervals. After the reorganization had been perfected, Captain Booker was promoted to major, and Lieutenant Glassco became captain, the lieutenants going up in rotation. The old Fourth battery has always been the pride of Hamilton from the date of its organization down to the present, and when the call from over the seas to go to the help of the mother country came, officers and men responded promptly and are now in Camp awaiting orders to go to the front. That the battery will give a good account of itself no one questions. In Wednesday’s issue of the Spectator was published the provisional list of officers of the three brigades of field artillery that will represent Canada on foreign battlefields. Commanding the First brigade is Lieutenant-Colonel E. W. B. Morrison, D. S. O., an old Spectator boy who went to the front and commanded a battery in South Africa, winning laurels for himself and for his command. The Eighth battery is a part of the Third brigade, and is composed of our Hamilton boys. The officers assigned are : H. G. Carscallen, major; H. G. D. Crerar, captain; J. D. Hoodless, W. I. S. Hendrie and C. S. Craig, lieutenants. The company is recruiting up to its full strength, and dozens of brave boys are disappointed because they were not accepted.


          During the hundred years of peace that Canada has enjoyed there has been little use for soldiers, if we may except the rebellion of ’37 and the Fenians raid. It is true we furnished thirty or forty young fellows to the Hundredth regiment and about the same number to South Africa; but Canada has never had real occasion to learn the art of war. The present call came as a surprise, but it found the Canadian boys prompt to respond. The Fourth battery never had the pleasure of pointing a hostile gun at an enemy, but all the same they were ready should the trumpet sound the call to duty. Not one of the original members of the battery is now connected with it even in an honorary way, and it is doubtful if many of them are living. In 1856, the city band, with Peter Grossman as its leader, was the first military band in Hamilton, when it became the Fourth Artillery band. Bandmaster Grossman had served for fifteen years as bandmaster of an artillery band in the German army, and I his day was one of the finest musicians in Canada. But one member of the band is living, so far as the writer knows, and he is Julius Grossman, the youngest son of the old bandmaster. On the 12th of November, 1866, the artillery band was merged into the Royal Thirteenth band with Mr. Grossman as bandmaster. Three years later Lieutenant George Robinson became the bandmaster of the Thirteenth and is still at the head of that organization.


          In 1866, when General O’Neil, the commander of the French army, made his celebrated raid to capture Canada, and the Thirteenth was at the front learning the art of war and driving back the invaders, one night a mysterious craft was sighted creeping along the north shore. The alarm was given and the men of Hamilton rallied to protect their homes and firesides from the invaders. Here was the first opportunity the Fourth battery had to show what it could do. The company rushed to the armory, and in their haste to get at the enemy did not wait for horses, but dragged its two guns down to the bay front. For hours the mysterious craft creeping along was watched, and a man was sent around the bay on horseback as a scout to report what he could learn. There were no boy scouts then, for if there had been the little fellows would have been on to the movements of the mysterious craft before it had got out of the canal. After long and anxious waiting, the scout returned, and his report was that the mysterious vessel was laden with lumber and was making for Cook’s wharf.


          The disgruntled artillerymen returned to the armory with their formidable battery, and thus ended the only opportunity that ever presented itself for the boys to show off of what stuff they were made. But it will be different with the present company in camp in the Jockey club grounds. The chances are that they will see active service and a good deal of it, and that they will give a good account of themselves on the field of battle. ‘War is hell,’ and they will know the truism of General Sherman’s saying before they return to the peaceful pursuits of the workshop and factory. Hamilton is proud of its brave boys who have answered their mother country’s call, and this old Muser hopes that the men who are at the head of the city affairs will see that the dependent mothers and the wives and children of the men who have volunteered will be generously provided for, not in charity, but as a debt the people at home owe to the men who are going to the front. The raising of funds should not be left to the haphazard of collecting by private subscription, but should be made a tax levy by the authorities on the wealth of the city, so that every man and woman who own or control property should pay their just share for the defense of the homeland. To leave the collection of a war fund to private individuals means the giving by the generous ones, and the tightwads escape altogether. A war tax for the support of the families of the soldiers should be levied by the city, and a generous sum paid weekly or monthly by the city treasurer to every woman and child.



          “Ubique’ means that warning grunt

             The perished linesman knows.

           When o’er is strung an’ sufferin’ front

             The shrapnel sprays his foes;

           An’ as their firin’ dies away,

             The ‘usky whisper runs

           From lips that ‘aven’t drunk all day:

             “The Guns ! Thank Gawd, the Guns !”

-        Kipling.      



The battery has been well-connected with the history of Hamilton from its organization sixty years ago. Its first commander, Captain Booker, was one of the leading business men in the city in his day, and was the son of the Rev. Alfred Booker, the pastor of the First Baptist church organized in Hamilton. He was succeeded by Captain W. H. Glassco, and others who were identified with the early history of the battery. Coming on down to a later day, Colonel John S. Hendrie and Colonel Tidswell were commanders of the battery and Lieut.-Col. Morrison, now commander of the first brigade, and Dr. Osbourne, who won their spurs on the field at South Africa, and Lieut.-Col. Rennie, commanding the Army Medical corps, learned their first lessons in the gunnery in the old battery. The present officers of the old Fourth are: Major Carscallen, Captain Field, Lieut. Taylor, Major E. E. O’Reilly, surgeon, and Sergt.-Major Peace. Three ex-majors, Wholton, McDonald and Horner are residents of this city.


Major R. H. Labatt, of the Thirteenth, went into camp at Quebec with the contingent from his regiment. He is a grandson of a brave soldier, who won his promotion from a sub-altern in the Twenty-Fourth regiment of infantry to become the commanding officer. Colonel Hodgetts began his military career early in the last century when British soldiers were in the thickest of the fight on every battlefield. The Twenty-Fourth was an Irish regiment; in 1833 or 1834, it came to Canada, and for a time a detachment of the regiment was stationed in an underground fort at Coteau du Lac, where the writer of these musings was born, my father being a soldier in that regiment. Captain Roberts, who will be remembered as the pay master of the pensioners in Hamilton was a member of the same company, so was John Nickerson, the old theatrical manager, who owned the theatre on the corner of John and Merrick streets, sixty years ago. Major Labatt must have been born with the warlust as an inheritance from his grandfather, Col. Hodgetts, for when Great Britain decided to enter the war, the major was one of the first of the Thirteenth officers to tender his services. He was active in raising the first contingent, giving up his large business to the care of his office manager. When he arrived in camp at Valcartier, he was appointed commanding officer of the Seventh battalion of 1500 men, of which the Thirteenth contingent was a part. Major Labatt has the reputation of being one of the best tactically in the old Thirteenth, and the Seventh battalion under his command will give a good account of itself on the battlefield. Hamilton seems to be getting recognition from the government for two more of its young officers have been detailed for duty. Lieut. H. G. Storme and Lieut. J. V. Young have been commissioned in the heavy battery of artillery in the overseas force.

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