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104TH (NEW BRUNSWICK) REGIMENT OF FOOT

 

Honourable Senators, I rise today to speak about a very important bicentennial.

On February 16, 1813, the 104th (New Brunswick) Regiment of Foot set off from Fredericton on a grueling overland march to Kingston, Ontario.

I attended the provincial celebrations marking the bicentennial in Fredericton on this February 16. This month the march will be re-enacted at various points along the original route.

We watched as the re-enactors marched off the parade ground on their way to war. In the freezing rain and snow, I was able to experience a small part of the hardships that these men endured in this hour of need.

The story of the 104th Regiment is the story of New Brunswick. Men from all over the province were recruited into the regiment. Acadian militia mobilized to defend the posts that the 104th left behind on their march. First Nations guides led them through the winter wilderness and brought them to safety.

In keeping with this month's celebration of Black history, let me tell you the story of the 104th's "Black Pioneers."

The 104th fielded a full unit of Black Pioneers, and they really needed them. These Pioneers served as road makers, bridge builders, carpenters and repairmen. They did the hard work and the hard fighting. They were well respected and led the dress parades of the 104th.

These men of iron could wield an axe or a spade with the same skill they wielded a musket and bayonet.

 The winter in 1813 was among the worst in living memory. Men marched in temperatures below 30 degrees, and through snowdrifts that piled higher than the fence posts of the scattered settlements they passed.

The Pioneers cleared their way and hacked into the heart of the frontier wilderness. These men sat around small fires, cooking chunks of salted pork. They wore threadbare jackets and moccasins swapped from First Nations traders. They slept under open-roofed shelters made from pine branches and snow.

After reaching the front, the 104th went on to participate in many of the great battles of the war. They were present at Sackets Harbor, Lundy's Lane, Queenston Heights and Beaver Dams.

Their hardships were many, and they were ill from the march, but they still fought on and marched on.

The two-hundredth anniversary of this march, and of the War of 1812, is an unprecedented opportunity for Canadians to take pride in our history and the heroes who defended our country in its time of crisis.

Against all odds, it took the combined efforts of the British, Acadians, Blacks and First Nations to repel the American invasions and defend our country.

Just as we remember our servicemen and servicewomen today, we should not forget the brave men of the 104th.