History of RNR

Bulger’s Company

Bulger’s Company, the re-enactor group, was formed in 1990 by founding members Bill Byrick and Jack Contin and named after Lieutenant Andrew Bulger. Andrew Bulger was born November 30, 1790 in Newfoundland and was only 16 years old when he received this commission with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. He was involved in the War of 1812 from the opening shot to its conclusion receiving a medal and clasp in honour of his actions in the fall of Detroit, a clasp for his actions at the Battle of Chrysler’s Farm, and the Naval war medal and clasp for his role in capturing the American war schooners Tigress and Scorpion (during which action he was wounded). He was temporarily appointed a Captain in the closing months of the war when placed in command of the captured Fort McKay, Prairie du Chien, on the Mississippi. On June 24, 1816 at the age of 26, he was placed on half-pay as a lieutenant when his regiment was disbanded. In 1822 he was appointed governor of Assiniboia, a post he held for a little more than a year, and in
1858 was buried at the age of 68 at the Anglican Church of St. Stephen’s in Montréal.

The Founding of the

Royal Newfoundland Regiment

The Royal Newfoundland Regiment of fencible infantry that we represent was first formed in 1795 by Major Thomas Skinner, R.E. to provide for the defence of Newfoundland, England’s oldest colony. Disbanded in 1802 according to the terms of the Treaty of Amiens, Skinner’s fencibles were again reactivated in 1803 for service in the Americas. It was to consist of one grenadier company, one light company, and eight battalion companies, and in all respects was to be on the same footing as His Majesty King George III’s regiments of the line. Through vigorous recruiting, regimental strength reached 683 men by the year 1805.

The Role of the Regiment

During the War of 1812

As the war of 1812 approached, it became apparent to Major General Brock that control of the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes was essential to the survival of Upper Canada. As a result five companies of Royal Newfoundlanders were posted to Kingston for service on ships of the Provincial Marine. Remaining elements of the regiment were scattered throughout the Canadas as detachments to Quebec, Prescott, Kingston, Fort George and Fort York.

They saw active service in many of the major battles of the war, and acquitted themselves well, particularly in the fall of Detroit where the Newfoundlanders won a special commendation from General Brock, and also in the heroic resupply of the starving garrison at Fort Michilimackinac and the subsequent capture of the US warships Tigress and Scorpion in 1814. During the course of the war many suffered, died, were injured, or taken prisoner. In the naval battle of Lake Erie, September 10, 1813, twenty-eight percent of the total British casualties were Newfoundlanders.

Milestones & Engagements

1812, April – In anticipation of a war. At the request of Major-General Brock, five companies (360 all ranks) of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment proceeded to Upper Canada for service as marines to help overcome the shortage of manpower in the Provincial Marine.

1812, June 18 – Onset of the War of 1812. War against Britain declared by the U.S. President Madison. It was struck against Canada, Britain’s only North American possession.

1812, July 1 – The headquarters of the marine wing were at Kingston under the command of Major Heathcote. He had 19 officers, 18 sergeants, 14 drummers, and 317 rank and file. They were assigned to such vessels as the Royal George, the Gloucester, the Earl Moira, the Prince Regent, as well as smaller boats on Lake Ontario. On Lake Erie they were employed on the Hunter, the Queen Charlotte, and the brig Detroit. The light company formed part of the garrison at Fort Erie.

1812, August 16 – Fall of Detroit. A detachment of Newfoundlanders under Captain Mockler, serving as seamen aboard the Hunter and the Queen Charlotte intercepted and captured in the Detroit River 11 batteaux carrying wounded American soldiers. The Newfoundlanders were then brought ashore to form a core of regulars for the militia element of the force attacking Detroit. The Newfoundlanders won a special commendation from General Brock for their service in the fall of Detroit, a bloodless victory in which the American General Hull surrendered his army of 2500 to a British force which he outnumbered 2 to 1.

1812, October 1 – Marines seize a prize. Rochester, N.Y. Boats from the 22 gun Royal George (which was manned mainly by Newfoundlanders) entered the mouth of the Genesee River and seized the schooner Lady Murray as well as a smaller revenue cutter. A few days later, they took another prize.

1812, October 9 – An American raid. An American raid was launched from Black Rock, N.Y. to capture an unarmed prize vessel, the Detroit lying at anchor under the protection of the guns at Fort Erie. Among the prize crew of 12, were 10 Newfoundlanders. Of these, one was killed, while 18-year old Ensign Thomas Kerr, and four others were wounded.

1812, October 13 – The battle of Queenston Heights. Although light infantry and grenadier companies of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment were active in the Niagara Peninsula during the winter of 1812-1813, they are not thought to have been involved in this battle.

1812, November 28 – Defence of Fort Erie. A light company of 50 Newfoundlanders under the command of Captain John Whelan were responsible for holding Fort Erie against attack during the second major attempt to cross the Niagara at Frenchman’s Creek.

1812, December 21 – Regimental Strength. Twenty-eight officers and 515 men on strength, (150 aboard various naval vessels). Since the commencement of hostilities, 13 Newfoundlanders had died or been killed.

1813, January 22 – Battle of the River Raisin. Captain Robert Mockler and 60 Newfoundlanders (all ranks) were among a British and Indian force which crossed the ice at the end of Lake Erie and engaged in a bitter fight to capture Frenchtown, Michigan. All but 50 of the nearly 1000 Americans were either killed or captured. One third of the British were casualties, and the Newfoundlanders in particular suffered 1 killed and 18 wounded. A few days later, Ensign Kerr died of his wounds.

1813, February 22 – Capture of Ogdensburg. After crossing the ice from Prescott, 40 Newfoundlanders were in the van of a bayonet assault which captured Ogdensburg, N.Y. They, along with the other troops of the line received praise for their “conspicuous bravery”. Their officer, Captain Tito Lelievre was specially commended for his active leadership. The Newfoundlanders suffered 1 killed and 4 wounded.

1813, April 26 to May 9 – Fort Meigs Expedition. Captain Mockler and all the surviving Newfoundlanders from the battle of Frenchtown sailed from Amherstburg aboard the Nancy as part of a British expedition against Fort Meigs, Ohio. They found themselves employed as additional artillery gunners and were given special commendation. Three were killed, 1 wounded and 1 taken prisoner.

1813, April 27 – Battle of Fort York. An Infantry company of 92 Newfoundlanders under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Heathcote were involved in the defence of York. A greatly outnumbered force of British regulars, militia and native allies put up a stout resistance before being driven back or taken prisoner. One Newfoundland officer and 16 other ranks were captured, and in addition 12 were killed and 7 wounded.

1813, May 26 to 27 – Prelude to the Battle of Fort George. The RNR grenadier company under the command of Captain William Winter was among 200 defenders who were attacked in assault landings at the mouth of the Niagara River, the prelude to an attack on Fort George by General Dearborn’s army of 6000. In the thick of the fighting, the grenadiers lost 21 killed, 12 wounded, and 5 taken prisoner.

1813, May 29 – Expedition against Sackets Harbor. A flotilla of 33 boats crammed with 700 troops, including RNR marines, sailed from Kingston to Sackets Harbor, N.Y. in an inconclusive venture to take the enemy’s main naval base. In the fight to take the fort, the RNR lost 4 killed, 13 wounded and 1 missing.

1813, September 10 – Battle of Lake Erie at Put-in-Bay. In this naval battle, 100 marines of the Regiment suffered the loss of 39 (28% of the total British casualties) during close-in fighting where volleys of musket fire swept the decks on both sides. One of the first to fall was an RNR officer, Lieutenant James Garden. The bodies of 14 RNR marines were committed to the waters of Lake Erie. The remaining 25 wounded were taken prisoner to Sandusky to begin a painful march to Chillicothe, Ohio and thence to Frankfort, Kentucky were they were held captive until the end of the war.

1813 – Reduced by Casualties. Seriously reduced by casualties, the RNR did not participate in any of the land actions at Moraviantown, Chateaugay, Chrysler’s Farm, nor at Lundy’s Lane the following July. However, Lt. Andrew Bulger of the RNR received a clasp for the action at Chrysler’s Farm while serving under Captain Mulcaster of the Royal Navy.

1814, February to April – Relief of Michilimackinac. Six officers and 130 men of the RNR (virtually all who remained fit for service) accompanied by 11 artillerymen, and a naval party of 21, marched overland with supplies during the winter from Kingston to the Nottawasaga River. Moving to re-supply the starving garrison at Michilimackinac, in a remarkable operation that demonstrated their capability and determination both ashore, and on the water, they felled trees to build 30 batteaux, and then rowed from the Nottawasaga River across Lake Huron to the fort at Michilimackinac (some 360 miles) losing only one boat crushed in the ice choked waters.

1814, August 4 – Battle of Fort Michilimackinac. The Royal Newfoundlanders at Michilimackinac participated with no losses in repulsing an attack by outnumbering American forces.

1814, September 1 to 5 – Capture of the Tigress and Scorpion. Fifty-four Newfoundlanders, 3 of their officers (Lieutenants Bulger, Armstrong, and Radenhurst) all in 3 small boats, and Lt. Miller Worsley RN., with a party of sailors in a fourth, plus a small number of native allies, succeeded in capturing the American warships Tigress and Scorpion. Seven of the Newfoundlanders, including Lt. Bulger, were wounded (3 sailors and one artilleryman were killed in the action).

1814 – Bulger to Fort McKay. Lt. Andrew Bulger was dispatched to Fort McKay at Prairie du Chien on the Mississippi River to oversee destruction of the fort, and removal of supplies. During this operation, Bulger was appointed as an acting Captain.

1814, December 24 – Treaty of Ghent. The War of 1812 between the U.S and Britain was over. Neither side achieved its war aims, and none of the issues over which the nations fought was included in the treaty. It was agreed simply to return to the pre-war status quo. Despite this apparent stalemate, the Royal Newfoundland Regiment played an important role in helping to defend Canada against American expansionism, and against an outcome that may well have changed Canada’s present day boundaries if the Americans had been successful.

By June of 1815, the Royal Newfoundland Regiment was on Drummond Island (Michilimackinac having been handed back to the Americans under terms of the peace treaty). From there they returned to St. John’s by way of of the Nottawasaga River route and Quebec. They reached home in September 1815 where they rejoined the badly treated prisoners-of-war who had Bulger’s Company Royal Newfoundland Regiment been captured at Put-in-Bay but released in July 1814. The regiment was disbanded on June 24, 1816 thus closing the chapter on the War of 1812.

However, the Royal Newfoundland Regiment was raised again later in the century and also saw valiant service during the two world wars of the 20th century. It exists today as two battalions stationed in Newfoundland.


More about Andrew Bulger can be found in An Autobiographical Sketch of the Services of the late Captain Andrew Bulger of the Royal Newfoundland Fencible Regiment printed by the Regimental Press, 2nd Battalion 10th Regiment, Bangalore, 1865. A copy is held in the Baldwin Room of the Metro Toronto reference library.

For more about the Royal Newfoundland Regiment see The Fighting Newfoundlander. A History of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment by G.W.L. Nicholson, published by the government of Newfoundland, 1964. 614 pages.