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THE WAR OF 1812   121

Clay remarked : "We have the Canadas as much under our command as Great Britain has the ocean." And Thomas Jefferson declared: "The acquisition of Canada as far as Quebec will be a mere matter of marching."

The preliminary preparations in Canada for war were insignificant in relation to the extent of the danger. They included the strengthening of the fortifications of Quebec, St. Johns, Isle-aux-Noix, and Kingston; the hiring or purchase of a few lake vessels to serve as cruisers or transports; and the raising of a few military corps, some by voluntary enlistment, some by ballot from the sedentary militia.' By May 28th, 1812, twenty-one days before the United States congress passed the Bill empowering the President to declare war against Great Britain, Sir George Prevost, Governor of Canada and Commander of the Forces in British North America, ordered the enrolment in Lower Canada of four Battalions of fencible light infantry, and a regiment of "voltigeurs,' corps d'elite," the latter to be placed under the command of Major de Salaberry.

The Canadian voltigeurs, who, like their French prototypes, were light infantry or riflemen, were raised without any delay; in fact the strength of the regiment was re-ported complete in forty-eight hours. This historical regiment was composed exclusively of French Canadians, and it was to de Salaberry and the voltigeurs that the French Canadians owe the proudest laurels of the chaplet of glory earned during the War of 1812.

The "Canadian Fencible Infantry Regiment" of ten companies, already serving in Lower Canada when the voltigeur regiment was formed, was carried on the establishment of the regular army, and although largely recruited among the French Canadians, its officers were taken from the regulars.

'Every able-bodied man in Canada between the ages of sixteen and sixty was enrolled in the sedentary militia.

2 Companies of "voltigeurs" were first enrolled for the French army in 1804, the idea being to secure the services of men of the smallest. stature in the army.


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