Corps of Canadian Voyageurs

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Corps of Canadian Voyageurs
Provincial Commissariat Voyageurs
Shooting the Rapids 1879.jpg
Active 1812-1815
Country British Canada
Allegiance Flag of the United Kingdom.svg
United Kingdom
Branch British Army (1812-1813)
British Commissariat Department (1813-1815)
Type logistics
Role transportation
Size 400
Motto(s) Perseverance
Engagements War of 1812
William McGillivray
The Voyageurs most important contribution to the War of 1812 was the supply of the western posts; the strategic result was that the British Army retained control of Fort Mackinac, a central point for supplying the British Indian allies in the Northwest Territory.

The Corps of Canadian Voyageurs was raised in September 1812, by the British Army, as a military water transportation corps. Its mission was to maintain the supply lines, between Montreal and the western posts. The corps was disbanded in March 1813, and its mission was taken over, by the Canadian branch, of the British Commissariat Department, a department of HM Treasury, as the Provincial Commissariat Voyageurs. This corps was disbanded in March, 1815.[1]


The Corps of Voyageurs was organized on the initiative of the North West Company, and its bourgeois and engagés became the officers and men of the corps.[2] The Provincial Commissariat Voyageurs had one lieutenant-colonel, one major, one captain, ten lieutenants, ten conductors (sergeants acting as guides), and about 400 private men.[3]


The army wanted to put the corps into uniform, but that was impractical due to its duties. Instead of a uniform the men of the corps wore the dress of the ordinary civilian voyageurs.


The Army-issued, swords, pikes, and pistols, were impractical, and they were thrown away or sold, and the men used their own frontier weapons, rifles, axes, and knives.[2]


The Corps was known for its lack of discipline, at least, in comparison, with the iron discipline, required by the British Army. However, it fulfilled an absolutely essential function, in the "wilderness war".[2]


The Canadian Grenadier Guards perpetuates the honours of both corps.[4]