Black Corps during the War of 1812

Richard Pierpont, black man and former member of Butler’s Rangers, in 1812 proposed to raise “a corps of Men of Color on the Niagara Frontier.” . It was formed late in the summer from the Lincoln Sedentary Militia and put under the command of Capt. Robert Runchey, 1st Lincoln Militia. (Sometimes, it was called Runchey’s Corps or Company.) Early in October, 14 men from the 3rd York Militia were added to make a total of 38 men. Runchey may have led the Corps in the battle of Queenston Heights, but sources differ on this.

Early in 1813 it was attached to the Quartermaster-General’s Department and re-designated as the “Coloured” or “Black” Corps.

The Corps fought in defence of Niagara on May 27, 1813 and remained with General Vincent’s army in its retreat to Burlington Heights. In August, it was at St. David’s and by September, at the mouth of Four Mile Creek. Next it became an artificer unit working at Fort George and the construction of Fort Mississauga.

It was disbanded in 1815.

Most of this information comes from G.Newfield, “Upper Canada’s Black Defenders? Re-evaluating the War of 1812 Coloured Corps,” Canadian Military History,vol.18 (2009), 31-40 and the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 7.

Photos by Cosmo Condina.