April 19th 1775
April 19th, 1775 saw the opening shots of the American Revolution when British regulars opened fire on Captain Parkers Lexington Militia, igniting a day long battle between colonists and the British army. Though a significant date for the regiments that participated in the Lexington and Concord actions, April 19th was just another day for the Fusiliers who were encamped in lower Canada. The Regiment was approximately 300 miles away from the fighting, spread out over a wide swath of the Canadian wilderness in detachments and garrisons stretching from the Lake Champlain river valley to Quebec City.
Originally destined to garrison Minorca, the regiment had been diverted to Canada in 1773. Leaving Portsmouth in April, the Fusiliers arrived in Quebec to reinforce the 8th Kings and the 26th Regiments of foot. Sending detachments to Quebec City, Ft St John, Ft Chambly, Crown Point and Montreal the Fusiliers settled into a routine of garrison duty, frontier policing, and rebuilding fortifications which had fallen into disrepair. Much of the regiment was in Fort St John, or Montreal, where the regiments colors and bearskin caps were stored.
In addition to the bearskin, unlaced cocked hat, and forage cap the Fusiliers were dressed to army regulations and looked somewhat different than they would in 1780. The regimental coat, and waistcoat would remain unchanged but at this time the regiment wore white woolen knee britches, white stockings, and half gaiters. To augment this during the winter full cloth gaiters were issued, as were Canadian caps, blanket coats, and mittens to preserve the men’s health during the Canadian winter.
The opening days of the war found the Fusiliers on routine garrison duty, strung out, understrength, and unaware that hostilities had commenced. The British army in Canada was only a small fraction of what was needed to defend the vast province and it was a peacetime force. The army was about to undergo a dramatic shift in manpower authorization, doctrinal changes, and improvements to combat tactics, techniques, and procedures that were the product of lessons learned early in the conflict. First however, those lessons would have to be learned and absorbed by those regiments on the front lines when the war began, and one of those regiment was the 7th, Royal Fusiliers.