British Soldier from the 100th Regiment of Foot

in the War of 1812

Thomas Rath (Wrath)

Thomas Rath (also spelled Wrath) was born on 3 June 1787 in Kilmallock Parish about ten miles north of the town of Wexford, Ireland.  These were troubled times with England exercising harsh dominion over the poor Irish people.  Trouble had been brewing for many years but spurred on by the success of the American and French Revolutions, the Irish rose in rebellion in 1798 in what has often been termed, “The Wexford Rebellion.”  Young Thomas was only eleven years old when this war broke out with his hometown area being one of the hottest spots of the war.  Terrible atrocities were committed on both sides.  We do not know to what extent his own family was involved in this conflict but it seems highly likely he may have known some of the participants.  Eventually the English military prevailed and many Irishmen were publicly hanged in the streets of Wexford.

These events would certainly have made a strong and lasting impression on young Thomas.  While yet in his teens, he left home and made his way north to the large city of Dublin where the only work he was able to find was that of a “servant.”  When he was just barely seventeen years old, the British Army came to Dublin to enlist young men into their service.  Considering his experiences as a young lad it may seem strange that he considered this option, but work was difficult to find for an Irish boy and this offered a solution.  On 4 September 1804, he enlisted as a Private in the 100th Regiment of Foot as an infantry soldier for an unlimited period of time.  He was 5 feet, 8 inches tall with black hair, brown eyes, and a sallow complexion. 

As soon as the enlistment quota was reached the young recruits were shipped off to Quebec, Canada for their first assignment in 1805.  The regiment was so large that several vessels were required to transport all of them to North America.  As they approached the long awaited shore of Nova Scotia, a violent storm arose that dashed several of the ships onto the rocks near the coast and over 100 men in his regiment perished.  Those who survived found their way to small fishing villages along the coast and eventually carried, in other ships, to Quebec City, where they were stationed until the dead soldiers had been replaced with new recruits.  In 1807 the regiment was relocated to other forts in Quebec and Montreal. 

Family tradition seems to indicate that on trip to Canada, Thomas met a young Scottish girl, Mary McMillan, who was also onboard the same ship.  Although Thomas was a Catholic this couple soon married in a Presbyterian Church in Montreal.

By 1809 Thomas and Mary had been relocated to Fort George, Ont. at the mouth of the Niagara River on Lake Ontario.  Here their first two children’s baptisms were recorded: Amelia was christened in Niagara on 12 Nov. 1809 and her brother, James, on 18 Aug. 1811.  We don’t know any more about either of these children, except that we suppose the daughter died young as they subsequently had another girl to whom they gave the same name—Amelia (or Emily)—our ancestor, who was born about 1820.

At this time, relations with the United States had boiled over with the US declaring war on Britain in the “War of 1812.” Most of the action of this war was on, and around, Lake Ontario with the English being victorious in most battles.  The one bright spot for the Americans in this theater was in an eventual attack on Fort George where the Americans overtook the fort and pushed the British out.  Mary Rath would have had to leave this area with her babies and look after her own welfare before the fighting began as Thomas was engaged in the military and would not have been able to look after his personal family.  About six months later the British Army retook the fort, and from there they were successful in crossing the river and taking the American’s Fort Niagara.

After the secession of hostilities Britain was struggling with a terrible plunge in their economy.  To reduce government expenses they began a huge down-staffing of their army.   With significant military operations in Canada, India, and South Africa, England could hardly afford to send ships to bring all of these soldiers home.  Neither did they want a large influx of unemployed soldiers walking their streets with loaded guns who had been trained to use them.  To address both concerns England simply determined not to bring these men back home.  This decision was softened by offering early releases to the soldiers and a grant of 100 acres of land to any who would agree to remain in the country where they had last been stationed. 

In Canada, three new town-sites were laid out, one of these being Richmond, in Goulbourn County, Ontario, about 40 miles SW of Ottawa.  In part, this town was located strategically to be a first line of defense between any advancing American invasion and the more populace town of Ottawa.  Along with most of the other men in his unit, Thomas and Mary Rath accepted this offer and decided to become Canadian farmers in this new land.

In 1818, the 100th Regiment of Foot (which had recently been renamed to the 99th Reg.) was disbanded at Lachine, Quebec.  Thomas was 31 years old and still a Private in the military when he signed his discharge on 11 July 1818.  His commanding officer noted that Thomas’ general conduct had been “tolerably good.” 

By 1820 Thomas and Mary had relocated to the new town-site, even before this military settlement was officially ready to be occupied.  They eventually claimed their land and home in Richmond on 2 March 1824.  The land was hard, surrounded by swamps, and covered with scrub trees.  The growing season was short so the life of a farmer was challenging, especially for someone who had been a soldier all his life.  A description of this community, as late as 1827, stated that it consists of “30 to 40 log houses, a small tavern with no roof.  It is surrounded by swamps… strongly recommended as the paradise of Canada [it is actually the] Purgatory.” 

By this time Thomas and Mary would have had additional children but some of their names are unknown to us.  About 1820, probably in Richmond, Ontario, their second daughter to be named Amelia was born.  Although she received the same name as her older sister, she was normally known as “Emily” (or sometimes “Emma.”)  Along with her siblings she grew up in Richmond until 22 Jan. 1849 when she was married there to Andrew McDonald, a recent immigrant from Ireland.  She and Andy moved first to Ottawa for a year and then resettled on their own homestead on Stag’s Creek, in Gatineau County, Quebec, where they remained for the rest of their lives.  

In the meantime, back in Richmond, Thomas and Mary raised the remainder of their family of at least ten or more children.  All this time Thomas appears to have been an active member of the local Catholic Church, attending faithfully at St. Philip’s Parish.  He even signed his name on the registration of the Catholic “Total Abstinence Society,” although his name appears much further down the list than his eager daughters, which may indicate that he was slower to make that commitment than were they, but still he joined with them.  At the same time his dear wife, while allowing her children to be baptized and raised as Catholics, continued to attend the neighboring protestant Church rather than to unite with the Catholics. 

In the 1841 census Thomas and Mary Rath were still residing in Richmond but many of their children were grown and gone.  In the 1851 census for the same area Thomas indicated that he was now about 64 years old and was blind.  Farming was difficult and much of the burden now fell on the shoulders of his sweet wife Mary.

In 1858 Thomas’s lands were distributed to his heirs, indicating that he had died prior to that time.  He was probably buried in the cemetery near St. Philip’s Parish, but the records and tombstones for that graveyard are very poor and no record has been found. 

His wife subsequently moved north to live with her daughter Emily Rath McDonald and Andy in Stagsburn, Gatineau, Quebec, where she eventually passed away on 7 May 1882 at an advanced age, somewhere between 93-97.  That area had been settled by Irish Catholics and although a proud protestant, Mary was buried in the local Catholic parish—St. Camille—in Farrellton, Gatineau, Quebec. 

British Army Discharge papers for

Private Thomas Rath

Quebec, 11 July 1818