William Ward, eldest son of career soldier, George Ward, grew up on the banks of the Thames River in an area called Paint Creek, Longwoods. Much later this area was named for his father and mother, George Ward and Margaret (Shaw) Ward. Both parents were born in Ireland but arrived in this area of Upper Canada as a soldering family. At the request of Lieutenant Governor John Simcoe, George Ward was appointed to command a block house on the Thames River as well as four gun boats. George Ward was also to establish a public house (halfway tavern/inn) in the Paint Creek area.
George Ward was born in Ireland in 1743 and as a young man he joined the British 58th Regiment of Foot, which was first formed in 1755 during the Seven Years war (1754-1763). He basically spent his entire adult life in service for the British. He served in many cities in Ireland, went to Quebec in 1776 and fought successfully at Three Rivers. Following that battle he became a sergeant over a company of the best marksmen from each of the 9th, 20th, 21st, 24th, 34th, 53rd and 62nd regiments. This company was ordered to Ticonderoga, where they beat the enemy at an outpost but were defeated later and taken as prisoners to Prospect Hill, near Boston. His great uncle was a Rebel general and as such offered George a position on his side but George declined and was later taken to Rutland where he along with 17 corporals and a drummer boy escaped. They headed for the British safe haven of New York.
Colonel the Honourable Thomas Talbot was born into an Anglo-Irish aristocratic family, on ancestral lands in Malahide, Republic of Ireland, which the Talbots had owned since the 12th century. He was born on July 19, 1771, the fourth of twelve children. At the age of 11, he was commissioned ensign in the 66th Regiment of Foot, British Army. In February, 1792, at 20 years of age, he was in Montreal with the 24th Foot when he was named private secretary to John Graves Simcoe, the first lieutenant governor of the new province of Upper Canada. With Simcoe, and later on Simcoe’s behalf, Talbot traveled extensively between York and Detroit, bounded by the Thames River and the Lake Erie shoreline.
Captain Gilman Willson (1771-1836)
At 39 years of age, Gilman Willson was described by Samuel Street, J.P. as “an honest, industrious man and — a respected inhabitant,” of Bertie Township, Niagara. More than 20 years earlier, in 1787, his Loyalist family had come from New Jersey and settled along the Niagara River, seven miles north of Fort Erie. Now, in 1811, Gilman was preparing for another move, this time to a wilderness settlement at Port Talbot on the north shore of Lake Erie, 150 miles further west.
George Crane was born in Scotland in 1771. In 1803, at 32 years of age, he was in Upper Canada after retiring from the British Army. By May 6, he was in York (now Toronto) when his path crossed with another ex-military, Thomas Talbot. Talbot had left England early in February with instructions from the Colonial Secretary to the Lieutenant Governor granting him 5,000 acres of land and permission to establish a settlement in the wilds of Upper Canada.
The 41st came to Canada in 1799, serving both Upper and Lower Canada prior to the war. They arrived on the western front, at Amherstburg, in 1805. By then, their reputation as an effective fighting force had been well established. General Brock noted the men to be “fit and well informed” and mentioned their “high state of discipline.” When war broke out they had already spent thirteen years in North America and they were expecting to return home to Britain on a rotation transfer. Instead, the marching orders were altered; remain fast and defend the Motherland’s colony.
A small guard detachment stationed at Fort Malden fired the opening shots of the war, their target General Hull’s men at the River Canard bridge. The date was July 16, 1812. The heroic stand became a rallying cry as the Regiment stepped up its war rehearsal manoeuvers.