When my ancestor Thomas Knight was just sixteen years old, he signed up with the British Army. Six years later, after fighting in Spain, Holland, and France, he was sent to North America to fight in the War of 1812.
Next: Battle of Plattsburgh
His regiment met the Americans face-to-face near Lake Champlain in upstate New York. The British attacked the Americans both by water and on land.
At first, things went well. But the naval battle ended quickly and badly.
Thomas’s unit was surrounded and cut off.
His commanding officer was shot and killed while waving his white waistcoat as a flag of truce.
Three others were wounded, and thirty-one–including Thomas–were captured and marched to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where they spent more than a year in a prison camp.
When the war ended. Thomas and the other prisoners were released and marched back to Canada.
Next: Birth of a Son
Almost exactly nine months after his return to Canada, his son was born. The baby, who was also named Thomas, was baptised at the Anglican Garrison in Montreal, the son of Thomas and “Mary Knight, his wife.”
Six months after the baby was christened, in the same church and in the presence of the same chaplain, Thomas was married to “Mary Saunders, spinster.”
How had Mary gone from being a Mrs. to a Miss? It may mean that she and Thomas had first been married by a military custom called “Leaping the Sword.”
If no clergyman was nearby to perform a wedding, the company would assemble and a sword would be placed on the floor. The drum would beat, and an officer would give the order: “Leap, rogue, and jump, whore, and then you are married forevermore.” The couple would join hands and jump over the sword together. From then on, they were officially considered to be man-and-wife.
After the war, in recognition of his military service, Thomas was granted a parcel of land in Drummond Township, Ontario. Almost overnight, he became a farmer and brickmaker. He and his wife raised eight children there.
*Thomas Knight and John Knight both served with the 76th Regiment of Foot. They appear to be related, but it’s not yet known how.
Next: In Renfrew
When their eldest son was about 18 years old, the whole family moved northeast to Renfrew. Two more children were born there, and Thomas bought one of the first horses in the area.
Thomas and his sons were involved with the church, the Order of Good Templars, and the mechanics institute, which promoted reading and learning. They served as councillors, inspectors and school trustees in the new community.
Next: A New Home