Royal Engineers, Columbia Detachment

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The Columbia Detachment of the Royal Engineers was a contingent of the Royal Engineers of the British Army that was responsible for the foundation of British Columbia as the Colony of British Columbia (1858–66). It was commanded by Richard Clement Moody.

Selection[edit]

When news of the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush reached London, Moody was hand-picked by the Colonial Office, under Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, to establish British order and to transform the newly established Colony of British Columbia (1858–66) into the British Empire's "bulwark in the farthest west" [1] and “found a second England on the shores of the Pacific”.[2] Lytton desired to send to the colony 'representatives of the best of British culture, not just a police force’: he sought men who possessed ‘courtesy, high breeding and urbane knowledge of the world’[3] and he decided to send Moody, whom the Government considered to be the 'English gentleman and British Officer’[4] at the head of the Royal Engineers, Columbia Detachment, which was created by an Act of the British Parliament on 2 August 1858. The Engineers were believed to exemplify the qualities sought by the Government.[5]

Col. Richard Moody, commander of the Columbia detachment

Moody and his family arrived in British Columbia in December 1858, commanding the Royal Engineers, Columbia Detachment. He was sworn in as the first Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia and appointed Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works for British Columbia. On the advice of Lytton, Moody hired Robert Burnaby as his personal secretary, and the two became close friends. Moody's letter to his friend Arthur Blackwood Esq. at the Colonial Office, dated February 1, 1859, contains several passages of sublime poetical description that demonstrate the qualities for which he was preferred.[6][7]

The Detachment under Moody consisted of 150 sappers and officers. This was later and was later increased to 172. Moody had three Captains: Robert Mann Parsons, John Marshall Grant and Henry Reynolds Luard. The contingent included two subalterns, Lieutenant Arthur Lempriere (later a Major-General) and Lieutenant Henry Palmer, a surgeon, Dr John Vernon Seddall, Captain William Driscoll Gosset, a retired Royal Engineer, who served as civilian treasurer and commissary officer, Rev. John Sheepshanks served as the detachment’s chaplain, and Burnaby.

Ned McGowan's War[edit]

Moody had hoped to begin immediately the foundation of a capital city, but upon his arrival at Fort Langley he learned of an outbreak of violence at the settlement of Hill's Bar. This led to an incident popularly known as "Ned McGowan's War", where Moody led 22 Engineers and Judge Matthew Baillie Begbie to Yale to face down a group of rebellious American miners. Order was restored without further violence. Moody describes the incident thus:

"The notorious Ned McGowan, of Californian celebrity at the head of a band of Yankee Rowdies defying the law! Every peaceable citizen frightened out of his wits!—Summons & warrants laughed to scorn! A Magistrate seized while on the Bench, & brought to the Rebel’s camp, tried, condemned, & heavily fined! A man shot dead shortly before! Such a tale to welcome me at the close of a day of great enjoyment." ' '[8]

He enjoyed a warm reception for his success that he describes thus: "They gave me a Salute, firing off their loaded Revolvers over my head—Pleasant—Balls whistling over one’s head! as a compliment! Suppose a hand had dropped by accident! I stood up, & raised my cap & thanked them in the Queen’s name for their loyal reception of me".[9]

The Foundation of New Westminster[edit]

In British Columbia, Moody ‘wanted to build a city of beauty in the wilderness’ and planned his city as an iconic visual metaphor for British dominance, ‘styled and located with the objective of reinforcing the authority of the crown and of the robe’.[10] Subsequent to the enactment of the Pre-emption Act of 1860, Moody settled the Lower Mainland. He selected the site and founded the new capital, New Westminster. He selected the site due to the strategic excellence of its position and the quality of its port.[11] He also struck by the majestic beauty of the site, writing in his letter to Blackwood,

"The entrance to the Frazer is very striking--Extending miles to the right & left are low marsh lands (apparently of very rich qualities) & yet fr the Background of Superb Mountains-- Swiss in outline, dark in woods, grandly towering into the clouds there is a sublimity that deeply impresses you. Everything is large and magnificent, worthy of the entrance to the Queen of England’s dominions on the Pacific mainland. [...] My imagination converted the silent marshes into Cuyp-like pictures of horses and cattle lazily fattening in rich meadows in a glowing sunset. [...] The water of the deep clear Frazer was of a glassy stillness, not a ripple before us, except when a fish rose to the surface or broods of wild ducks fluttered away".[12][13]

Moody designed the first Coat of arms of British Columbia.[14][15]

However, Lord Lytton 'forgot the practicalities of paying for clearing and developing the site and the town’ and the efforts of Moody's Engineers were continuous hampered by insufficient funds, which, together with the continuous opposition of Douglas, 'made it impossible for [Moody’s] design to be fulfilled’.[16]

The Feud with Governor Douglas[edit]

Throughout his tenure in British Columbia, Moody was engaged in a bitter feud with Sir James Douglas, Governor of Vancouver Island, whose jurisdiction overlapped with his own. Moody’s position as Chief Commissioner and Lieutenant-Governor was one of ‘higher prestige [and] lesser authority' than that of Douglas, despite Moody's vastly superior social position in the eyes of the Engineers and the British Government: Moody had been selected by Lord Lytton due to his possession of the quality of the ‘archetypal English gentleman and British Officer’, his family was ‘eminently respectable’: he was the son of Colonel Thomas Moody (1779-1849), one of the wealthiest mercantilists in the West Indies, who owned much of the land in the islands where Douglas's father owned a small amount of land and from which Douglas's mother, 'a half-breed', originated. Governor Douglas's ethnicity and made him ‘an affront to Victorian society’.[17] Mary Moody, the descendant of the Hawks industrial dynasty and the Boyd merchant banking family,[18] wrote on 4 August 1859 "it is not pleasant to serve under a Hudson's Bay Factor" and that the "Governor and Richard can never get on".[19] In letter to the Colonial Office of 27 December 1858, Richard Clement Moody boasts that he has ‘entirely disarmed [Douglas] of all jealously'[20] Douglas repeatedly insulted the Engineers by attempting to assume their command[21] and refusing to acknowledge their value in the nascent colony[22]

Margaret A. Ormsby, author of the Dictionary of Canadian Biography entry for Moody (2002), condemns Moody for a contribution to the abortive development of the city. However, most other historians have exonerated Moody for the abortive development of the city and consider his achievement to be impressive, especially with regard to the perpetual insufficiency of funds and the personally motivated opposition of Douglas, whose opposition to the project continually retarded its development. Robert Edgar Cail,[23] Don W. Thomson,[24] Ishiguro, and Scott have praised Moody for his contribution, the latter accusing Ormsby of being ‘adamant in her dislike of Colonel Moody’ despite the evidence,[25] and almost all biographies of Moody, including those of the Institute of Civil Engineers, the Royal Engineers, and the British Columbia Historical Association, are flattering.

Other developments[edit]

Moody and the Royal Engineers also built an extensive road network, including what would become Kingsway, connecting New Westminster to False Creek, the North Road between Port Moody and New Westminster, and the Cariboo Road and Stanley Park. He named Burnaby Lake after his private secretary Robert Burnaby and named Port Coquitlam’s 400-foot "Mary Hill" after his wife. As part of the surveying effort, several tracts were designated "government reserves", which included Stanley Park as a military reserve (a strategic location in case of an American invasion). The Pre-emption act did not specify conditions for distributing the land, so large parcels were snapped up by speculators, including 3,750 acres (1,517 hectares) by Moody himself. For this he was criticized by local newspapermen for land grabbing. Port Moody is named after him. It was established at the end of a trail that connected New Westminster with Burrard Inlet to defend New Westminster from potential attack from the US.

Royal Engineers, Columbia Detachment was disbanded in July, 1863. The Moody family, only 22 men and 8 wives returned to England, while the rest, 130 sappers, elected to remain in BC.[26] Scott contends that the departure of the Engineers 'doomed' the development of the settlement and the fruition of Lord Lytton's dream.[27] Chartres Brew replaced Moody as land commissioner.

Sources[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Donald J. Hauka, McGowan's War, Vancouver: 2003, New Star Books, p.146
  2. ^ Jean Barman, The West Beyond the West: A History of British Columbia, (Toronto: University of Toronto), p.71
  3. ^ Scott, Laura Elaine (1983). The Imposition of British Culture as Portrayed in the New Westminster Capital Plan of 1859 to 1862. Simon Fraser University. p. 13. 
  4. ^ Scott, Laura Elaine (1983). The Imposition of British Culture as Portrayed in the New Westminster Capital Plan of 1859 to 1862. Simon Fraser University. p. 19. 
  5. ^ Scott, Laura Elaine (1983). The Imposition of British Culture as Portrayed in the New Westminster Capital Plan of 1859 to 1862. Simon Fraser University. pp. 7–27. 
  6. ^ Moody, Richard Clement. Letter of Colonel Richard Clement Moody, R.E., to Arthur Blackwood, February 1, 1859, preserved in the British Columbia Historical Quarterly (January – April 1951), ed. Willard E. Ireland, Archives of British Columbia. British Columbia Historical Association. pp. 85–107. 
  7. ^ Scott, Laura Elaine (1983). The Imposition of British Culture as Portrayed in the New Westminster Capital Plan of 1859 to 1862. Simon Fraser University. p. 19. 
  8. ^ Moody, Richard Clement. Letter of Colonel Richard Clement Moody, R.E., to Arthur Blackwood, February 1, 1859, preserved in the British Columbia Historical Quarterly (January – April 1951), ed. Willard E. Ireland, Archives of British Columbia. British Columbia Historical Association. p. 95. 
  9. ^ Moody, Richard Clement. Letter of Colonel Richard Clement Moody, R.E., to Arthur Blackwood, February 1, 1859, preserved in the British Columbia Historical Quarterly (January – April 1951), ed. Willard E. Ireland, Archives of British Columbia. British Columbia Historical Association. p. 97. 
  10. ^ Scott, Laura Elaine (1983). The Imposition of British Culture as Portrayed in the New Westminster Capital Plan of 1859 to 1862. Simon Fraser University. p. 26. 
  11. ^ Scott, Laura Elaine (1983). The Imposition of British Culture as Portrayed in the New Westminster Capital Plan of 1859 to 1862. Simon Fraser University. p. 26. 
  12. ^ Moody, Richard Clement. Letter of Colonel Richard Clement Moody, R.E., to Arthur Blackwood, February 1, 1859, preserved in the British Columbia Historical Quarterly (January – April 1951), ed. Willard E. Ireland, Archives of British Columbia. British Columbia Historical Association. pp. 85–107. 
  13. ^ Jean Barman, The West Beyond the West: A History of British Columbia, (Toronto: University of Toronto) p.7
  14. ^ Ormsby
  15. ^ "Heraldic Science Héraldique, Arms and Devices of Provinces and Territories, British Columbia". Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  16. ^ Scott, Laura Elaine (1983). The Imposition of British Culture as Portrayed in the New Westminster Capital Plan of 1859 to 1862. Simon Fraser University. p. 27. 
  17. ^ Scott, Laura Elaine (1983). The Imposition of British Culture as Portrayed in the New Westminster Capital Plan of 1859 to 1862. Simon Fraser University. pp. 19–20. 
  18. ^ Howard, Joseph Jackson (1893–1906). Heraldic Visitation of England and Wales. 8. pp. 161–164.
  19. ^ Scott, Laura Elaine (1983). The Imposition of British Culture as Portrayed in the New Westminster Capital Plan of 1859 to 1862. Simon Fraser University. p. 23. 
  20. ^ Scott, Laura Elaine (1983). The Imposition of British Culture as Portrayed in the New Westminster Capital Plan of 1859 to 1862. Simon Fraser University. p. 25. 
  21. ^ Scott, Laura Elaine (1983). The Imposition of British Culture as Portrayed in the New Westminster Capital Plan of 1859 to 1862. Simon Fraser University. p. 109. 
  22. ^ Scott, Laura Elaine (1983). The Imposition of British Culture as Portrayed in the New Westminster Capital Plan of 1859 to 1862. Simon Fraser University. pp. 115–117. 
  23. ^ Cail, Robert Edgar (1974). Land, Man, and the Law: The Disposal of Crown Lands in British Columbia, 1871 -1913, Vancouver, University of British Columbia. p. 60. 
  24. ^ Thomson, Don W. (1966). Men and Meridians, Vol. 1. Ottawa, Department of Mines and Technical Surveys, Government of Canada. p. 282. 
  25. ^ Scott, Laura Elaine (1983). The Imposition of British Culture as Portrayed in the New Westminster Capital Plan of 1859 to 1862. Simon Fraser University. p. 131. 
  26. ^ Ormsby.
  27. ^ Scott, Laura Elaine (1983). The Imposition of British Culture as Portrayed in the New Westminster Capital Plan of 1859 to 1862. Simon Fraser University. p. 137. 

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