Originally published in the Richmond Hill Liberal (August 31, 2019)
by Jim Vollmershausen, Vice-President, Richmond Hill Historical Society
The men of Miles Hill responded well to Gen. Brock’s call to arms, writes Jim Vollmershausen
In 1812, most citizens of Miles Hill, then a small community a couple of days travel north of York in Upper Canada, were aware of a war that Great Britain was engaged in with France. Many of them also knew that Britain’s naval blockade of France had angered the United States and dragged the young country into the hostilities, against the British.
Britain’s military leadership in Upper Canada, fearing an American attack, was busy fortifying strategic locations along the border, including Kingston and York. As part of this effort, in 1812, Gen. Isaac Brock called for the muster of all available men in the Miles Hill area, and he came to Miles Hill to inspect them. They were formed into a company of the 1st Regiment York Militia, and their superior officers included Capt. John Arnold, Lt. James Miles, and Sgt. John Langstaff.
The York Militia was heavily engaged in the war, and saw early action at Fort Detroit and Queenston Heights, and later at Fort Niagara, Chippewa, Lundy’s Lane and Fort Erie. In the winter and spring of 1812-1813, the regiment was in York, waiting for an American attack. When it seemed that an attack was not imminent, most of the Miles Hill men in the company were allowed to return to their homes, a day or two away up Yonge Street, to prepare for spring planting.
On April 27, 1813, the Americans did successfully attack York, and though there were many killed and injured on both sides of the battle, most of the Miles Hill men missed the action. Capt. Arnold was involved in the fighting but was captured and kept as a prisoner, though later released. Another Miles Hill resident, Capt. David Bridgford of the 3rd Regiment York Militia, was injured when the Fort York magazine exploded.
The men of Miles Hill responded well to Gen. Brock’s call to arms, and they acquitted themselves well in the fighting at a number of locations. By 1815, the war was over, and the Miles Hill veterans were able to get on with their lives, and many of them made lasting contributions to what was to become the City of Richmond Hill.
— Jim Vollmershausen is vice-president of the Richmond Hill Historical Society. The society can be found online at http://www.rhhs.ca.