The Forces of Lord Selkirk

The British Flag The British Flag

"The Forces of Lord Selkirk" aka The Red River Redcoats, portray several different units:

De Watteville,
De Meuron,
37th (North Hampshire) Regiment of Foot

Historical Background

In 1812, Thomas Douglas, Fifth Earl of Selkirk, had established an agricultural colony at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers (now the city of Winnipeg) in order to provide for some of the Highland crofters who had been displaced from their land to make way for sheep. The Northwest Fur Company had a post near the colony, Fort Gibraltar, and the partners of the company saw the establishment of the colony as an attempt by the rival Hudson's Bay Company to drive them out of business. Friction between the fur company and the settlers gradually escalated until Selkirk felt that only the presence of a military force in the colony would prevent bloodshed.

In 1815 he arrived in Montreal with the intention to petition the Governor General for soldiers to protect the fledgling colony. Unwilling to become involved in what many saw as a war between two rival companies, Selkirk was only given a small bodyguard of a sergeant and six privates drawn from the 37th (North Hampshire) Regiment for his own personal protection on the journey to the Red River. Selkirk realized that this would be insufficient for his purposes, but was fortunate that two foreign regiments in British service were near the completion of their contracts and would be available for hire. He was able to procure 5 officers and 80 men from De Meuron's Swiss Regiment and a further 20 men from De Watteville's Swiss Regiment, as well as a few men from the Glengarry Light Infantry Fencibles.

He proceeded west with these men in 1816, but en route received information about the incident at Seven Oaks, the death of 22 settlers, including the colony's governor, Robert Semple, at the hands of Metis buffalo hunters under Cuthbert Grant. He detoured to Fort William, the inland headquarters of the Northwest Company, eventually arresting most of the senior partners and taking control of the fort. A small contigent of soldiers carried on in the Fall of 1816 to eventually retake Fort Doulas in January 1817.

Selkirk followed with the remainder of his men in the Spring of that year. The soldiers were given land grants close to the Forks and called their settlement St. Boniface. During the flood of 1826 the settlement was abondoned and the soldiers and their families went south to Fort Snelling, near modern St. Paul, Minnesota.

De Meuron's Swiss Regiment

The regiment was formed in 1781 for service with the Dutch East India company. During its time with the Dutch, it was stationed in South Africa and Sri Lanka as well as serving as marines aboard the French fleet of Admiral Suffren. In 1795, it made a contract with the British and served in India until 1806. During the Third Mysore War of 1799, it served under Arthur Wellesley at the siege of Seringapatam.

On its return to Europe, it saw garrison duty in various posts in England and the Mediterranean until 1813, when it was shipped to North America for the War of 1812. Here it saw more garrison duty in Lower Canada with the only action being at Plattsburg in September 1814 where it was assigned the rearguard for the withdrawal of the British. In 1816, its contract expired and the regiment was disbanded. The soldiers were given either land grants in Canada or transportation back to Europe.

De Watteville's Swiss Regiment

The regiment was formed in 1801 from the remnants of four Swiss regiments that had been raised by the British for service in the Austrian army: Roverea's, Bachmann's, Salis's and de Courten's. It was employed primarily in the Mediterranean and saw action at the Battle of Maida in July 1806.

In October 1813 it was sent to North America along with de Meuron's Regiment. It was stationed in Upper Canada and saw action in the Niagara peninsula at the siege of Fort Erie in August 1814 where it was involved in the disastrous assault on Snake Hill. In 1816 it was also disbanded with the expiration of its contract.

37th (North Hampshire) Regiment

Originally formed as Meredith's Regiment in 1701, it had seen much action in the wars of the eighteenth century. Among its battle honours are Blemheim, Ramillies, Oudenarde, Malplaquet, Dettington and Minden. It had seen service in North America during the American Revolution and was stationed in the West Indies during much of the Napoleonic Wars.

It returned to Europe in 1810 and eventually saw some action in the Spanish peninsula under Wellington during the final battles. In 1814 it was sent to North America, but arrived too late to take part in any of the fighting in Upper Canada and also missed service at Waterloo. It remained on garrison duty in Canada until 1826. In 1881 it was amalgamated with the 67th (South Hampshire) Regiment to form the Hampshire Regiment and was awarded the title of "Royal" in 1946.

The Re-enacted Forces of Lord Selkirk

In 1990 the Forces of Lord Selkirk was formed by a group of historical re-enactors interested in the period of the War of 1812 and the early fur trade in Canada. Since then the group has expanded to approximately sixty members from Manitoba, Northwestern Ontario, Wisconsin and Minnesota who portray the soldiers that came with Selkirk as well as civilians of the Red River Settlement of the period 1812 to 1820.

Annual events include a "Spring Muster" in early June at Seven Oaks House, a Regency Dinner and Dance in September and participation in Historical Re-enactments at various sites in Canada and the United States. Members have participated in events as far away as Waterloo, Belgium. The group also produces a newsletter which comes out 5-6 times a year.

The Forces of Lord Selkirk is a member organization of the Manitoba Living History Society.

Click here to view their official website

or by e-mail to: Frederick W. Carsted

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This page was created by John Sek © 1996-2003.