Militia Papers of Nova Scotia: 1778-1850; (predominant 1807-1834)

Call Number: HIL-MICL FC LMR .N6C6M5
Category: Military
Creator: Nova Scotia. Commissioner of Public Records
Description: 1 microfilm reel textual records (1 volume) ; 35 mm.

Halifax, Nova Scotia became one of the official naval and military stations of the British Empire.  At its first General Assembly, to deal more formally with provincial security and defence, the first Militia Act for establishing and regulating a militia was passed (1758); consequently, militia units were raised across the province on a county basis.  The Act dealt with the following:  all males between 16 and 60 shall bear arms and attend all musters, each company to have defined precincts and the clerk of each company to make a quarterly roll to the captain; duty continuous until discharged; each person must provide a musket, gun or fuzil; musters once every 6 months or as often as ordered; drill once every 3 months; guards or watches to be ordered from time to time, and all fines to be expended on regimental necessaries.  The Act was amended many times into the nineteenth century to encompass; for example, penalties and court martials, pay, and drafting of men by ballot.  The Act of 1812 reduced the list of exemptions from liability of service, provided for the treatment of black recruits, imposed heavy fines for non-compliance, and further organised the militia in a time of emergency. 


In 1794, the force consisted of 2 regiments of foot and an artillery company in Halifax, one regiment each in Annapolis, Digby, Hants, Kings, and Colchester Counties; also contained 2 companies of Acadians in Annapolis, and the Nova Scotia Legion.  In 1813 the force consisted of 2 companies of artillery and 26 battalions of foot.  In 1830 the force was divided into 33 battalions of foot and 2 volunteer artillery companies in Halifax.  Lt. Gov. Peregrine Maitland was commander-in-chief and in control of training and disposition of militia, Lt. Col. T. N. Jeffrey and Sir Rupert George were his aides-de-camp.  Other staff officers included:  Quartermaster-General (Major Edward Wallace), Judge-Advocate General (S. B. Robie), Inspecting Field Officers (Lt. Cols. Cochran, Loring and Marshall), Adjutant-General (Lt. Col. McColla), and Brigade Major (Lt. Col. Forbes).  


The Papers (June 1778 to May 1850) relate to the administration of the Nova Scotia Militia (specifically the land forces) at the provincial and county levels. They contain memoranda, accounts, states of regiments, instructions, returns of casualties and arms, correspondence, courts of enquiries papers, general orders, minutes of meetings, and petitions, which document the period of three major conflicts:  the American Revolution, Britain’s war with France in the 1790s, and more fully, the War of 1812.  The documents are generated, in the main, by provincial military officers and departments, and the lieutenant governor and secretaries (military secretary and deputy secretary). Major contributors include the adjutant general (John Beckwith), commander of the 26th Battalion (Lt. Col. John McColla), Col. Beverley Robinson Beardsley of the 20th Battalion, commander of the 22nd Battalion, (Col. Jacob Buskirk), and quartermaster general (John George Pyke).  The Papers are useful for local history and for a variety of topics related to the militia, such as, military legislation, finance, logistics, personnel, organisation and management, policies, arms, crime and justice, and war and conflict.


 The original records are held by the Nova Scotia Archives, previously known as the Public Archives of Nova Scotia .

Archival Ref. No.:

 (NSA) PANS RG 1 volume 440.

Finding Aids:

Electronic: A list of documents with summaries of content is available; see Electronic Finding Aid section.  The briefer version of this list is available at the start of the microfilm.

Electronic Finding Aid Record: Document Listing, Volume 440.pdf

The following article was used in writing the background information for this record:  Edwards, Joseph Plimsoll. "The Militia of Nova Scotia, 1749-1867" IN Collections of the Nova Scotia Historical Society. 17 (1913): 63-110; found online via Internet Archive.

Part Of: Papers form part of the Commissioner of Public Records Collection (RG 1), consisting of records relating to the Nova Scotia Militia and military telegraphy, 1778-1866, volumes 440-442.
Other With: