EARLY MILITIA REGIMENTS OF KINGS COUNTY (September 2/05)

In last week’s column on the early apple industry, I mentioned that service in the county militia apparently was mandatory, even for people working in the vital agricultural field. In his Kings County history, A. W. H. Eaton writes that one of the early acts of the provincial governor was to establish a “universal militia” in which “all male persons, planters and inhabitants and their servants between the ages of six and sixty” were required to serve.

By the time Aldershot Camp was up and running, mandatory militia service had come down to attending annual summer training exercises. In his history of Aldershot Camp (published 1983) Advertiser columnist Brent Fox writes that militia outfits were “paid the grand sum of fifty cents a day” per man, a sum later increased (in 1902) to 75 cents.

Eaton’s history devotes an entire chapter to the Kings County militia. I’ve read it a couple of times and I find it slightly confusing and rather hard to follow. There seems to be no clear timeline on how the militia evolved and exactly which military group followed which. There’s little doubt, however, that the county’s most famous military regiment is the Kings Canadian Hussars. With apologies of course to the better known West Novies, which while operating here is a regional and not solely a Kings County outfit.

You’ll find when reading Eaton that Kings County had several of its own regiments almost from the time the Planters arrival. Eaton says there was a period when the Kings County regiment had as many as three battalions. What is little known is that at one time a military regiment, the 68th., was based here with headquarters in the town of Kentville.

At least, it appears that the 68th was a Kentville-based regiment. A badge collector recently gave me an excerpt from a Canadian military history which shows that the 68th was formed in 1869, less than a decade after the arrival of the Planters. “The regiment was raised as the Kings County Battalion of Infantry with headquarters at Kentville,” reads the excerpt. Of course in 1869 Kentville didn’t exist so this must refer to a later period in the regiment’s when there was a town.

Eaton writes that during the American Revolution it was feared that the 68th and other militia regiments would fight against the British. “It would be perfectly natural if the people of the midland counties of Nova Scotia had sympathized with New England (in their revolt against Great Britain)” Eaton observed. As the Revolution progressed, however, the Nova Scotia government found there was nothing to fear.

Perhaps the best known of local regiments is the Kings Canadian Hussars. It’s often assumed that the “kings” in the regiments name refers to Kings County and the “C” in the regiment’s badge to County. Thus we read of the Kings County Hussars, which is incorrect. I found it amusing when at a ceremony at the Harold Borden monument in Canning a few years ago the speaker referred to the Kings County Canadian Hussars; which was playing it safe and covering all bases, in other words.

However, A. W. H. Eaton is guilty of the same reference to the regiment. In his history, he calls the regiment the “King’s County Canadian Hussars.” Of course, he may have referred to the two squadrons of Canadian Hussars headquartered in Kings County since there were squadrons in at least two other counties. The “Kings” in the regiments name must be a reference to the British monarch and not the county.

2 thoughts on “EARLY MILITIA REGIMENTS OF KINGS COUNTY (September 2/05)

  1. Thanks for this informative piece. One point though: you wrote “…an excerpt from a Canadian military history which shows that the 68th was formed in 1869, less than a decade after the arrival of the Planters. “The regiment was raised as the Kings County Battalion of Infantry with headquarters at Kentville,” reads the excerpt. Of course in 1869 Kentville didn’t exist so this must refer to a later period in the regiment’s when there was a town” – You are confusing 1869 as being 1769, but the quoted piece is correct – the 68th was indeed formed in 1869, when the new Canadian government incorporated the old provincial militias into a unified system. Prior to 1869, there were Kings county militia regiments, numbered 1st Kings, 2nd Kings, etc..

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