August 15, 2012

The Rogue’s March

During the War of 1812, both the British and American armies inflicted various punishments on their soldiers in order to instil discipline. Both sides used different types of punishments during the war.

Cat o' nine tails
For the British, punishments varied depending on the crime committed and the officer in charge. The typical punishment for serious crimes such as murder or mutiny was execution. In Britain during the war, 225 offences warranted the death penalty under the criminal code. For lesser crimes, a commanding officer could decide an appropriate punishment, which could have included flogging, extra duties, embarrassment of a solider, and the payment of fines. The punishment of flogging (usually no more than 300 lashes) could be used to punish soldiers. Flogging often involved the offender being stripped to expose their bare back as they were whipped in front of the regiment.  However, by 1814 most officers were tending to shy away from using the cat o’ nine tails. In fact, Gordon Drummond disliked flogging and urged his commanders to use milder forms of punishments.

In the U.S. army whipping as a form of punishment was abolished by May 1812 in order to entice recruits to join the U.S. army. The typical forms of punishment used in the U.S. army could include payment of fines, ‘running the gauntlet,’ picketing, branding, wearing a ball and chain, confinement to a black hole, and for serious crimes execution by hanging or firing squad. In 1812, only three soldiers were executed, but by 1814 there were 146 men executed. In total about 260 men were sentenced to death during the War of 1812 and 205 were actually executed.

For both armies musicians played a part in punishing regular soldiers. For the British, the musicians often performed the flogging of the men. As well, in both the British and American armies the musicians could play ‘The Rogue’s March’ as part of a soldier’s punishment. Generally, when this tune was played a soldier would be tied-up and led out of the garrison in front of everyone. As the offender reached the gates, the youngest musician could be called upon to complete the disgrace with a ritual kick in the butt.  

If you want to see some musicians in action make sure you stop by Fort George on Aug. 18 and 19th for the Fife and Drum Muster and Soldiers' Field Day. A competition will take place between fife and drum corps from Canada and the U.S., as well as a competition of 1812 drill teams from Fort George, Fort Erie, Fort Malden and Fort York. For more information, please click here.

The Rogue's March

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