British Regiment


The Royal Regiment of Nova Scotia Volunteers was a Loyalist battalion of infantry raised in 1775 to defend British interests in the colony of Nova Scotia. The unit was commanded by Col. Francis Legge until replaced by Col. John Parr in 1782. The Royal NS Volunteers had an undistinguished history through most of its existence, and never saw combat, but did play an important role in the defense of the colony of Nova Scotia in the later years of the American Revolution.

== Formation ==

Francis Legge was appointed as the royal governor of Nova Scotia in 1773, just as troubles were brewing in the American colonies. Legge, “an earnest but highly prejudiced and therefore much disliked man” proposed to the Secretary of State on July 31, 1775 that he be permitted to raise a regiment of 1,000 men, to be recruited from the German, neutral and Irish settlers in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Legge had grave doubts about the loyalty of the New England Planters who made up the majority of Nova Scotia’s settlers at this point. (Legge’s distrust was not entirely misplaced, as the Eddy Rebellion was to prove.) He proposed the name “Royal Nova Scotia Volunteers”, but this was denied and changed to “Loyal”. Some time around 1780 the “Royal” designation was bestowed for the duration of the war.

Legge received a despatch from London, dated October 16, authorizing him to raise the regiment as a Fencible unit, for local defense only. The men were to be paid and equipped like regular soldiers; they would be, in effect, a full-time home guard.

The officers of the Regiment were mostly lawyers and other men of the Halifax establishment and Legge’s political hangers-on, with little or no military experience, along with a number of subalterns brought in from the Fleet. The most distinguished senior officer was George Henry Monk, who became major and served for the duration.

Recruiting proved to be extremely difficult, owing to Legge’s unpopularity. He was finally ordered back to Britain in May, 1776, although he remained colonel and governor in absentia until replaced by John Parr in 1782. Despite a recruiting bounty of two guineas, by April, 1776 only sixty men had been mustered, at very heavy expense. The officers were so discouraged that they sent a petition of grievances to the Secretary of State on June 14. Rather than being trained as soldiers, the men were sent to Spanish River, Cape Breton to dig coal for the army. The next summer, forty men went back to colliery while twenty served as marines on the Royal Navy sloop HMS Gage. The subalterns were returned to the Fleet.

== Service ==

As resentment of Legge died away, the fortunes of the Regiment changed. Returns show that by February, 1780, 568 men had enlisted, 92 deserted, for an overall strength of 476 rank and file. This was very close to the re-authorized strength of a half-battalion (500). Due to officer absences, the unit was under day-to-day command of the senior captain, John Solomon, at Fort Sackville. The Volunteers were taking a full share of garrison duties in Halifax and several outposts. Given the importance of Halifax to the overall British war effort, this was useful employment. In 1782 a detachment was sent to the Island of St. John.

Not only the size, but the reputation of the Regiment grew in these later years. A few months before disbandment, Brigadier-General Henry Edward Fox expressed: …the great satisfaction he has received in seeing the two provincial battalions of Royal N.S. Volunteers and the King’s Orange Rangers, and highly approves of their discipline and military appearance, more particularly of the soldierlike manoeuvres and quick-step of the Royal N. Sco. Volunteers which has so much the appearance of troops that have been employed in active service. The Royal Nova Scotia Volunteer Regiment was disbanded at noon on Mon., October 20, 1783. The officers went on half-pay, and those officers and men who wished received land grants in the area of Ship Harbour. Cpt. Thomas Green, two sergeants, five corporals, and 22 private soldiers, some with their families, took up grants ranging from 100 to 450 acres.

== Uniforms ==

In 1775-76, the men of the Volunteers mostly wore civilian clothing, essentially, whatever they were wearing when enlisted. Their first uniforms arrived in early 1777, green coats faced white, with white smallclothes, in common with most other Loyalist corps of the American command at that time. Officers wore silver lace. By 1779 the regiment was wearing red coats faced buff, and officers’ metal had changed to gold. There is a reference to red coats faced green in 1783.