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The logo of the Royal West India Rangers as found on a discharge certificate printed at Halifax in 1819

Sixty-Two New Brunswick Soldier-settlers and their families

This eyewitness account of the Rangers' arrival in Saint John, New Brunswick was "a bit overblown":

"[June] 11th, 1819, I sailed with the exploring party from St. Andrew’s for St. John’s. On landing here, we were not a little surprised to see the whole city in an uproar, occasioned by a party of the West India Rangers, who, being disbanded here, were offered either so much land, or ten pounds in cash. A great part of them preferred the latter.

King St., Saint John, New Brunswick

St. John as it may have appeared near the time of the disbanding of the Royal West India Rangers.

Image from
Provincial Archives of New Brunswick.

"Some of them were preparing for home, and others for the United States. They threw off their regimentals, and were furnishing themselves with coloured clothes. They were not two hours ashore, when the most part of them were quite intoxicated. In this condition, they were disposed to quarrel and contend with every one that met them.

"Being present where one of them was purchasing a jacket and hat, he presented his purse to the merchant, ordering him to pay himself. When the overplus was returned to the owner, he said, “What shall I do with the bloody dollars, come give me a silk handkerchief, or something for them.” Another had a bundle of clothes by him, requested one of the spectators to help him on with his burden, and rewarded him with a dollar for his trouble….

"Towards evening, we could scarcely walk the streets with the crowds. One of them stood in the market place, almost naked, challenging to fight any person that came in his way. He threw away his vest on the street, which contained his money, and would have lost the whole contentedly, had not one of his companions he was a little more sober, picked up the dollars which poured from the vest. While he was performing this kind office, the drunken wretch beat him most cruelly; however, for the sake of the dollars, he endured a few blows; and when all were collected he withdrew.

"At night the inhabitants were obliged to secure their doors, sooner than usual, on account of the rioters. This regiment consisted wholly of deserters, and criminals of various characters, who were sent into it, instead of banishment."

From: John Mann, Travels in North America: Particularly in The Provinces of Upper & Lower Canada, and New Brunswick …., Glasgow, 1824 (reprint 1978), pp. 10-11, paragraphing altered from original. Historian W.A. Spray cautions this account is “a bit overblown” and fails to speak of the “many respectable officers and men, many of whom were to settle down very shortly on lands on the upper reaches of the St. John river ….” (WA Spray, “Introduction”, as found in John Mann, Travels in North America, p. viii).

John Mann himself recalls a couple of years later, on his southward journey from Quebec down the Saint John River, stopping at a

"small house, which I found occupied by an old soldier, one of the West India Rangers. He made me heartily welcome to a share of such as he had. A number of the neighbouring soldiers collected in his house, to drink a cag of rum. They had finished reaping the same day." (Mann, p.42)

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