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ROYAL SAPPERS AND MINERS.
Draft to Canada-Company recalled from thence-Its services and movements -Its character-Labours of colour-sergeant Lanyon-Increase to Gibraltar -Reduction in the corps-Irish survey completed; force employed in its prosecution-Reasons for conducting it under military rule-Economy of superintendence by sappers-Their employments-Sergeants West, Doull Spalding, Keville-Corporals George Newman, Andrew Duncan-Staff appointments to the survey companies-Dangers-Hardships-Average strength of sapper force employed-Casualties-Kindness of the Irish-Gradual transfer of sappers for the English survey-Distribution; Southampton.
THE Company in Canada which accompanied the troops to that province on the occasion of the unsettled state of affairs on the American frontier, was increased to a full company by the arrival of thirteen men on the 8th July, 1842.
Scarcely had the party landed before the company itself was recalled, and rejoined the corps at Woolwich on the 31st October, 1842. During its four years' service on the frontier the total of the company, with its reinforcement, counted ninetynine of all ranks, and its casualties only amounted to eight men invalided, three discharged, and five deserted. Not a death was reported. From time to time it was stationed at Quebec, Fort Mississaqua near the Falls of Niagara, St.
Helen's Island, St. John's, and Fort Lennox, Isle aux Noix. These were its several head-quarters, and as the company was removed from one to the other, parties were detached for service to each of the other stations, and also to Amherstburgh. In repairing and improving the defences at Mississaqua and Isle aux Noix they were found of great advantage. At the other stations they were no less usefully occupied in barrack repairs and other contingent services.
From Amherstburgh the detachment rejoined the company in 1840. Whilst the latter was at St. Helen's and afterwards at St. John's, the men were exercised during the summer months in pontooning with bridges of Colonel Blanshard's construction, which had been stored at Chambly until 1840. The pontoons were found to travel well on bad roads, but the breadth of the rivers in Canada did not permit of their being often used as bridges.
After the removal of the company Colonel Oldfield, the commanding royal engineer, thus wrote of it: "The discipline of the company was not relaxed by its four summers in Canada. It had suffered the inconvenience of several times changing its captain, but it was nevertheless maintained in good order and regular conduct. Lieutenant W. C. Roberts, R.E., however, was constantly with it, to whom and colour-sergeant Lanyon' and the non-commissioned officers, much credit is due. The desertions only amounted to six although the company was on the frontier in daily communication with the United States. Of these six, one returned the following morning; a second
1 Ante, p. 289, vol. i. At the new barracks built for the dragoons at Niagara, sergeant Lanyon successfully constructed a circular well, about thirty feet deep, after two or three contractors had attempted it and failed. He laboured himself in laying the stones up to his hips in water, and afforded ample work for a strong party above in preparing the stones for placement, and pumping up the water. The service was effected under many difficulties and hazards and while the weather was intensely cold. As an instance of his great strength it may be remarked, that six men complained to him of the heavy task they were subjected to in removing timbers about 15 feet long and 12 inches square for constructing a stockade at Fort Mississaqua. Lanyon made no observation, but shouldered one of the unwieldy logs, and, to the amazement of the grumblers, carried it to the spot unassisted.
would have done so but he feared the jeers of his comrades; and the other four found when too late the falsity of the inducements which had attracted them to the States, and would gladly have come back, could they have done so." And the Colonel then concludes, "The advantages enjoyed by wellbehaved men, and the esprit de corps which has always existed in the sappers, have been found to render desertion rare, even when exposed to greater temptation than usually falls to the lot of other soldiers."
In the meantime a second company had been removed to Gibraltar in the Alban' steamer under Lieutenant Theodosius Webb, R.E., and landed on the 6th July, 1842. This augmentation to the corps at that fortress was occasioned by the difficulty felt in procuring a sufficient number of mechanics for the works; and to meet the emergency the company in Canada was recalled, as in that province works of considerable magnitude had been carried on by civil workmen, who could at all times be more easily engaged in a country receiving continual influxes by immigration than in a confined fortress like Gibraltar with a limited population.
On the return of the Niger expedition in November, to which eight rank and file had been attached, the establishment of the corps was reduced from 1,298 to 1,290 of all ranks.
The survey of Ireland upon the 6-inch scale was virtually completed in the December of this year, terminating with Bantry and the neighbourhood of Skibbereen. The directing force in that great national work was divided into three districts in charge of three captains of royal engineers in the country, and a head-quarter office for the combination and examination of the work, correspondence, engraving, printing, &c. in charge of a fourth captain. To each of these districts the survey companies were attached in relative proportion to the varied requirements and contingencies of the service, and adapted to the many modifications which particular local circumstances frequently rendered imperative. A staff of non-commissioned officers and men was also stationed at the head-quarters' office, and discharged duties of trust and importance.
In framing his instructions for the execution of the Irish survey Colonel Colby had to reject his old opinions formed from circumscribed examples of small surveys, and to encounter all the prejudices which had been fixed in the minds of practical men. The experience of these parties did not extend beyond the surveys of estates of limited space, performed without hurry and with few assistants. Colonel Colby, on the other hand, was to survey rapidly a large country, with much more accuracy. The two modes were therefore so entirely different that it took less time to train for its performance those who had no prejudice, and who had been brought up by military discipline to obey, than to endeavour to combine a heterogeneous mass of local surveyors fettered by preconceived notions and conceits, deficient in habits of accuracy and subordination, and who could not be obtained in sufficient numbers to form any material proportion of the force. Hence the survey of Ireland became essentially military in its organization and control, the officers of engineers being the directors of large parties, and the non-commissioned officers the subordinate directors of small
In the later years of the Irish survey, however, the superintendence by the sappers became of much consequence and its advantages very appreciable in the reduction of expence. For the year 1827, the outlay for the survey was above 37,000l., at which period the sum paid to the officers was more than onethird of the whole amount; but in 1841, when the expenditure was more than doubled, the amount for superintendence had been reduced to a twelfth part of the total expenditure."
The general employment of the sappers and miners in this great national work embraced the whole range of the scheme for its accomplishment, and many non-commissioned officers
'Second Report Army and Ordnance Expenditure,' 1849, p. 500. To such an extent was the diminution in the number of the officers subsequently carried, that in 1849 the amount of expense incurred by the superintendence of officers was reduced to one twenty-second part of the total expenditure; therefore by the more general employment of sappers in the direction of the work, the amount of superintendence was reduced from one-third and one-fourth, to one twenty-second part.