Military Records

by John Patterson 


John Paterson was, by family tradition a soldier in the British army who fought under Sir Jeffrey Amherst at Louisburg in 1758 and under General James Wolfe at Gaspe in 1758 and Quebec in 1759.[i]  While there is much evidence to support this tradition[ii], to date no one has been able to identify a soldier in the British army at that time who could be our ancestor.


It is almost certain that the John Paterson who settled in Gaspe was either a corporal or a sergeant, as his initial land grant was for 400 acres[iii].  At that time disbanded privates were given 50 acres each, while non-commissioned officers (corporals and sergeants) where given 200 acres each and subalterns (ensigns and lieutenants) were given 2000 acres each[iv].  There was also an additional allotment of 50 acres for each dependent[v].  John probably arrived in Gaspe with his wife and three daughters[vi], providing him with four dependants and an entitlement to an additional 200 acres.    


It has been claimed that John was a lieutenant in Wolfe’s army.  This claim is first recorded in Historical Gaspé [vii] under the heading “The population of Gaspé – Disbanded Soldiers and Loyalists” where it is stated:


In the spring of 1764, Governor Murray allowed Felix O’Hara, a naval lieutenant, to settle wherever he wished in Gaspé, provided he did not take anyone else’s place.  On June the 23rd of the same year, Hugh Montgomery asked for a grant of land on the north shore of Gaspé Basin.  At the same time John Patterson, a lieutenant in Wolfe’s army, settled on the upper York River.


Raymond Patterson in his Family Gatherings also makes the claim that John was a lieutenant in Wolfe’s army, unfortunately like Roy and Brault in Historical Gaspe he provides no evidence for this claim, and Raymond’s source may very well have been Roy and Brault.    Lucien Brault held a B.A, M.A. and Ph. D. in history from the University of Ottawa.  He was Assistant Director and then Director of Research and the Public Archives of Canada while also teaching history at the University of Ottawa.  What information would leave him to conclude that John was a lieutenant?  One possibility is that he found a Lt. John Paterson in the muster rolls of the 15th Regiment of Foot, but to conclude that this soldier settled in Gaspe involves reconciling John being settled in Gaspe in 1764 and appearing in the muster rolls as late at 1767.  The second possibility is that John was commissioned a lieutenant in the Gaspe militia and appeared in some document as Lt. Paterson.   John Paterson of the 15th Regiment will be discussed below, and the possibility of a militia commission will be discussed in the Militia Records section.  


For many years research looking for the origins of John Paterson in the military records focused on John Paterson, lieutenant in the 15th Regiment of Foot, as a number of secondary sources had already stated it was he who settled in Gaspe.  The big challenge was to try and explain how he appeared in the 1765 census while still completing muster rolls for the 15th Regiment outside of Montreal.  In the end the conclusion had to be that they were two separate people.  In addition to having one person in two locations, we also had to deal with the fact that little of what we know of John Paterson in Gaspe is consistent with him having been an officer.  It is hard to imagine a former officer (who would have been educated and whose family would have made a significant outlay to purchase a commission in the army) making a living by building fishing boats and transporting fish for the local fishing company.  More conclusive evidence came with an understanding of the provisions for granting land to discharged soldiers as already noted (400 acres is consistent with being a corporal or sergeant).  There was also the problem that John Paterson of the 15th Regiment joined that regiment as an ensign after the capture of Montreal.  He had been with the 80th Regiment and had come to Montreal with Generals Gage and Amherst via Lake Champlain, and had never been to Louisburg, Gaspe or at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham.  Finally this John Paterson was located after his discharge in Prince Edward Island with his brother Walter Paterson, who was then the Governor of PEI, who incidentally had also served in the 80th Regiment of Foot as an officer.  This was more what one would expect from a former officer.


With Lt. John of the 15th eliminated another search was made of the muster rolls of General Wolfe’s army for any John Patersons.  The first problem is that the surviving muster rolls do not begin until 1761 (confirm date) and so locating a soldier in one of these regiments at this time does not necessarily prove he was in that regiment at Louisburg in 1758 or the Plains of Abraham in 1759.  With great excitement a Private John Paterson was found in the 28th Regiment of Foot, also a regiment that took part in the raid on Gaspe.  Unfortunately this John went with his regiment to participate in the siege of Havana, Cuba where he died.  Thus there was no John Paterson to be found in any of the surviving muster rolls from the regiments that were with Wolfe at Quebec.


At this point in the research it was determined that a more thorough analysis of the known facts of John should be examined to determine if he was really likely a soldier.


1.        John settled in Gaspe in 1764, after the British started discharging soldiers from various regiments that were being reduced or disbanded.

2.        John received a grant for 400 acres, which was consistent with him being a corporal or sergeant with a wife and three children (200 acres for being a corporal or sergeant and 50 acres for each dependent).  Richard Ascah of Peninsula received 300 acres and it is documented that he was a corporal and known that he had a wife and one child at the time he settled.

3.        In 1768 John was appointed Bailiff for Gaspe.  Most of the bailiffs appointed for the district of Gaspe were either discharged lieutenants or sergeants.  Richard Ascah (a discharged corporal) was appointed sub-bailiff for Gaspe.[viii]

4.        Family tradition was that John had fought with Wolfe at Louisburg and Quebec.  One problem with this is that both of John’s sons married daughters of Richard Ascah who did fight with Wolfe at Louisburg and Quebec.  If John was discharged from the British army, but had not fought with Wolfe at Louisburg and Quebec, could the stories about “grandpa” have become a bit confused over time?


With this in mind it was decided to search the records of the British for any John Paterson who would be available for settlement in 1764/65 rather than one who fought at Louisburg and Quebec.  The first step in this search was to look at War Office 17, Volume 1489 that contains returns for all Regiments in North America from 1762 to 1766 (with 1765 missing).  I concluded it was unlikely that John would have settled in Gaspe if he had been discharged from a regiment that was not in North America.  I also noted it would be more likely that he would come from a regiment that was either disbanded or reduced in Canada around 1764.  The records of War Office 17, Volume 1489 provided this information.  This data has been summarized in the chart which indicates for which months regiments were in North America.  Those whose muster rolls have been found and searched for specific periods (muster rolls were prepared for May and November each year) have been highlighted in yellow.  To date none of the records searched have identified a possible John Paterson.  Muster rolls for the Royal Artillery and for Royal Navy ships that took part in the raid on Gaspe have also been examined.        


[i] Patterson, Raymond, Family Gatherings, Typescript, c. 1957 Original in the Archives of Musee de la Gaspesie, p. 364.

[ii] John settled in Gaspe in 1764.  With the Treaty of Paris on February 10, 1763 a number of British Regiments were either disbanded, or returned home with soldiers being offered grants of land if they stayed.  John’s grant of 400 acres is consistent with him being a non-commissioned officer, and his appointment a few years later as Bailiff, a position generally given to Sergeants or junior officers suggests he probably had a military background.

[iii] No actual record has been found indicating how much land John Paterson was granted.  It appears that no petition was filed and no grant made.  The best guide to indicate the size of John’s grant is the fact that his daughter-in-law claimed 600 acres of land from the Gaspe Land Commission in 1819 and her late husband had been granted 200 acres in 1793, leaving an initial grant of 400 acres.  Raymond Patterson in Family Gatherings (see Appendix II) also states that the initial grant in 1764 was for 400 acres, without giving any sources.  Whether he based this statement on documents he had available or on family tradition is unknown.



[vi] Reports of the Archives of Quebec, vol. 1936/37, p. 114. Also see discussion below regarding Peter’s birth and land grant.

[vii] Roy, Charles-Eugéne & Lucien Brault; Historical Gaspé, Au Moulin des Lettres Quebec, 1934 p. 116.