New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

He don’t look any better than some of our own boys

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From the blog at

The following paragraphs were written by William T. Baird, and are from his book Seventy Years of New Brunswick Life; Autobiographical Sketches, Saint John, N.B., 1890.

In this excerpt, Baird remembers visits to Woodstock by a Duke and by the Lieutenant Governor, and a visit to Fredericton by a Prince of Wales. The Duke was 17-year-old Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, son of Victoria and future Duke of Edinburgh. The Prince of Wales was 19-year-old Albert Edward, future King Edward VII. The Lieutenant Governor was Arthur Hamilton Gordon. Baird’s remembrances are very influenced by his role as Captain of the Woodstock Rifle Company.

 Gordon Portrait

Lieut. Governor Arthur Hamilton Gordon


Stories of Pomp and Circumstance

“He don’t look any better than some of our own boys.”

The Prince of Wales’ Visit to Fredericton:

Having received in 1849 my commission as Captain of the Woodstock Rifle Company, I reorganized the same, and although the Militia Law of New Brunswick had been for some years in abeyance our efforts were not relaxed, and at the celebration of the Fall of Sebastopol, in 1855, it was found to be the only efficient company in the Province.

On the reorganization of the militia of the Province, about the year 1858, I received my quota of the new breach-loading rifles and a drill sergeant as instructor of the company. It was composed of the most active and intelligent young men of the place, and the opportunity was embraced to obtain the same degree of thoroughness in foundation drill and training as in the regular service.

An invitation,—General Orders in those times were rare, as we had to pay all our own bills for clothing rations, transport, etc.,—received in the summer of 1860, from the then A.G., Lieutenant-Colonel Hayne, to visit Fredericton as part of a Guard of Honor at the reception of the Prince of Wales, was accepted by the company and gave renewed zest to our efforts.

In bayonet exercise, or light infantry or bugle drill, I considered the company as near perfect as possible; also, in company movements and the manual platoon exercises. Our uniform was a tunic and pants of Oxford grey cloth, with bead facing of scarlet (officers, silver), caps of same material and neat pattern. All were fresh and new. Thus equipped, and with the confidence that thorough preparation imparts, two officers and fifty men embarked in a tow-boat for headquarters.

The day previous I had left Woodstock for Fredericton in my own wagon, and arranged for a camping ground within the barrack enclosure. Arriving at the Capital, I found that Major Carter, in command of the regiment, whom I had previously met, had gone to St. John to return with the Prince and party. The camp was formed just within the barrack gate and near the shore, which gave us easy access to the boat, and rations therein prepared. The men had slept but little during the night of the journey, and the morning until noon was occupied in pitching the tents.

The Fredericton volunteers, under the new regime, having been organized a little earlier than the Woodstock, were clamoring for the right of the line, a position seniority would assign to me.

The officers of the corps presented the matter, asking my opinion. I replied that if they could produce a company of better drilled men from among the volunteers, I would waive my right to the position. Shortly after Captain (Judge) Wilmot, then in command of a troop of Fredericton Volunteer Cavalry, accompanied by an old rifleman acquaintance, Duncan McPherson, entered our camp and invited us to an afternoon parade on the Flats. He urged this strongly as the easiest solution of the point above mooted, and after consultation with my officers, Evans and Strickland, I consented.

We marched from the barrack yard about 4 p.m., with fife and drum, and halted at the lower end of the Flat, at the first bridge—the old-time ground for target practice.

With a few encouraging words I left them, retiring with my bugler, Holland Snow, about a quarter of a mile up the Flat.

The cavalry were maneuvering near, and the rise of land verging the road was, for the whole distance along the Flat, covered with spectators. My pivot-men were cornet blowers who knew every note and sound of the bugle, and the movements were performed with promptness and precision. No movement in light infantry drill was omitted, and finally, as the company marched up the Flat in company line, it was greeted with cheers from red-coats and civilians alike.

When within a few yards, I spoke the words: “Halt!” “Stand at Ease!” and at this distant period, I can find no words to express my feelings on that occasion. I have not lost sight, of one of the fifty men then before me, and have stood at the bedside of some; in sickness, and others as they bade adieu to all that is earthly.

We were soon surrounded by officers of the army and other friends receiving their congratulations, among them my old friend Captain Marsh of the Fredericton volunteers, who added, “Your men will take the right tomorrow.”

The following morning at 9 o’clock, the volunteers assembled in the Barrack Square, viz.:—

Fredericton Rifles—2 Com., Capts. Brannen and Marsh.

St. Mary’s Rifles —1 Company, Capt. McGibbon.

Queen’s County Rifles —1 Company, Capt. Gilbert.

Portland Battery, St. John—Capt. Rankine.

And the Woodstock Rifle Company.

Our fellows astonished them with their precision in the bayonet exercise, which was new to the country corps.

Re-assembled at 2 p.m., it being as yet unknown who should be in command, an officer of the regulars approached me on the parade, and, touching his hat, read from a telegram in his hand, received from Major Carte; that I was to take command of the “Guard of Honor” on that day for the reception of the Prince of Wales. At my request he made the announcement to the other officers in command of corps, after which I proceeded to form a line and practice the movements we would be required to execute.

At 3 p.m., headed by the Woodstock band, we marched to our position on the wharf at the old Gaynor Landing. The crowd assembled was immense. After waiting for some time the steamer was sighted, and shortly after the music of the Fredericton band reached our ears. The beautiful “Forest Queen,” in her new dress of white, gay with colors, and a gayer throng of living beings, glided gracefully to our front.

Major Carter was the first to land; came quietly forward, and, in a few kind words sotto voce, complimented our line. This was also done by the correspondent of the Illustrated London News, who was one of the suite. (See issue of August, 1860.)

The Prince and party now landed under a salvo of artillery and salute from our line, and passing slowly along our front, the colors sweeping the ground at a royal salute, they proceeded to the carriage, which, having entered, moved off under an escort of cavalry to Government House.

The following day a levee at Government House gave the officers a nearer view of the Prince. There was also a military display, at the opening of a fountain, on grounds fronting Government House, a pleasing feature of which was the singing of the National Anthem by the Sabbath School children of the city.

By special request of the Adjutant General, Colonel Hayne, the Woodstock Rifles formed the Guard of Honor at a ball given by the citizens of Fredericton in honor of His Royal Highness, in the halls of the Legislative Assembly, where were present a good representation of the elite of New Brunswick.

The Visit of the Duke of Edinburgh to Woodstock:

[There is a problem with this account, in that Alfred did not become Duke of Edinburgh until 1866. My guess is that the visit was in 1861 but that Baird, writing down the story later, mistakenly referenced him as the Duke of Edinburgh. Alternately, the visit may have been in 1866 or later.]

The announcement, in 1861, that the second son of our beloved Queen, Prince Alfred, would pass through Woodstock, en route for the Upper Provinces, was received with great satisfaction by our people. Accompanied by Lieutenant-Governor Manners-Sutton, and the commander-in-chief, General Trollope, he arrived by steamer at 4 p.m., and was received by my rifle company and the Woodstock band at the wharf with a royal salute—His Royal Highness was supposed to be travelling incog. The Prince, being the first member of the Royal Family that had visited Woodstock, there was much curiosity to see him, particularly among the ladies, and a large number of people from town and country, far and near, were assembled and occupied every available point near English’s landing. As he walked along an old lady, scrutinizing him closely, remarked: “He don’t look any better than some of our own boys.”

After being driven around the principal streets, the Prince and party returned to the steamer, which was at once moved to the Northampton side of the river, when I was summoned to visit His Royal Highness on board. Before leaving the steamer, the Governor informed me that he would telegraph the date of his return from the Grand Falls, as he wished the General to see my company.

Woodstock, during the evening of the Prince’s visit, was brilliantly illuminated, and the effect heightened by transparencies, torch-light processions, etc., etc. The Prince was discovered, during the evening, moving quietly through the crowd. The steamer, with party on board, remained at the Northampton shore during the night, and sailed for the Grand Falls at an early hour on the following morning.

 Late one evening, a few days after, I received a message from His Excellency, who had just arrived in Woodstock (the telegraph line not working), that they would see the company at eight o’clock the following morning.

At 7.30 a.m., every man was in his place. Shortly after the Governor and General approached; were saluted, and the drill commenced. Every movement was executed with rapidity and precision; there was no failure. The General could scarcely be convinced that they were not discharged soldiers from the regular army, and said they were far in advance of any of the Nova Scotia volunteers.

After a friendly good-bye, they at once embarked on the steamer for Fredericton, and the company was marched to a position, where it was formed in line, and a photograph, standing at the “Present,” taken by one of its members, Ed. Estabrook. Some copies of which, enlarged and framed, I still have, and in which the features of officers and men are easily distinguished.

The Governor’s Visit:

(From the Woodstock Journal, Sept. 4th, 1862.)

On Tuesday, at 7 p.m., His Excellency Lieutenant-Governor Gordon arrived in this place in his own carriage, and took rooms at the Blanchard House. His Excellency was accompanied by Lieutenant-Colonel Crowder, inspecting officer of militia for the western district, and by Captain Moody, aide-de-camp.

A review of Captain Baird’s rifle company took place at eleven o’clock, and occupied more than an hour. On His Excellency’s arrival on the ground, accompanied by Colonel Crowder and Captain Moody, the company presented arms. This was followed by an inspection of the men, the company marched past in slow and quick time to music from the drums and fifes of the juvenile musicians. attached to the corps, after which they were put through the manual and platoon exercises, and a number of maneuvers of which civilians scarcely knew the names. All the officers of the company took command by turns. Then followed skirmishing to the sound of the bugle, and after that an inspection of the arms.

His Excellency then addressed the company, observing that—“He had witnessed their performances of the various exercises and evolutions through which they had been put with the greatest pleasure and great surprise for he had been altogether unprepared to find such proficiency in drill. It was particularly creditable to the officers, who must have been at great pains, and devoted much time and attention to the matter. He was glad to find, too, that all the officers of the company showed themselves capable of taking command and putting the men through the drill. That was a point of the first importance—every officer should understand not only his own part, and his own duty, but should understand thoroughly and be able to perform, with readiness and accuracy, the part of every other officer and of any private. Certainly, Captain Baird deserved high praise for the condition of the company. There was not in the Province an officer of militia more efficient than Captain Baird, and probably very few his equal. He wished to impress upon them that all this was not mere play or amusement. It was a preparation for duties of the most trying kind which might be required of them. He had recently inspected volunteer companies in other parts of the Province—some of them a long way from here on the Northern shore—but he had not regarded them with the same interest that he regarded volunteers in this district, for felt that their services might never he required. But with respect to the men before him, and others in this district, should any difficulty arise, as they might well fancy, they would have to hear the first brunt of the battle. And, should such an event unfortunately occur, each man would feel that upon his steadiness and knowledge might depend the fate of all that was dear to him. In such an event, he felt sure, from what he had seen today, that they would so acquit themselves as to recommend them to the warmest approbation of their Sovereign, and to the heartiest gratitude of the country which they loved.”

His Excellency’s manner, during the delivery of these remarks, was marked by much feeling and earnestness. The review was followed by a levee at the Court House, after which His Excellency lunched, in company with a number of gentlemen, at the residence of the Hon. Charles Connell.

After the lunch he visited the grammar school, also Miss Jacobs’ school, and at four o’clock proceeded to the iron foundry at Upper Woodstock, to observe the process of drawing off the molten iron. A considerable number of gentlemen, with a sprinkling of the other sex, were present. His Excellency appeared to regard the operation with great interest and pleasure. After its conclusion lie made a visit to the iron mines at Jacksontown.


Written by johnwood1946

April 9, 2014 at 10:03 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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