The 41st Regiment was deployed in 1799 for Canada. The balance of the regiment set sail from Cork, Ireland for Quebec City on the transport ship, Asia.
While enroute, an illness or fever broke out on board the ship. This fever stayed with the regiment during its early time in Canada.
The following letters are a fascinating account of the passage, efforts to deal with the fever on board and also the financial and physical aftermath of the fever.
Asia Transport at Sea
3rd October 1799
From the great increase to the numbers of the Sick and Convalescents the Expenditure of Sugar exceeds the usual Ration allowance issued to each individual. I have therefore to request you will give me a voucher to draw an additional allowance for the use of the Sick of the 6th and 41st Regiments.
Surgeon 41st Regiment
Lieutenant Colonel Thomas
Commanding 41st Regt.
You will be good enough to order one half hundred Weight of Sugar for the above purpose
Signed Wm. Thomas
Lieut. Col. 41st Regt.
9th Oct. 1799
The quantity Sugar you ordered to be issued for the use of the Sick of the 6th and 41st Regiments has been expended and having occasion for a second Supply, I have to request you will be pleased to order half a hundred for this use.
Surgeon 41st Regt.
Lieut. Col. Thomas
Commanding 41st Regt.
You will be good enough to issue the above.
Lieut Col. 41st Regt.
10th October 1799
As the Surgeon has represented to me that the Salt provision is improper for the Sick. You will therefore be so good as to issue Flour in lieu of Beef or Pork.
Lieut. Col. 41st Regt.
13th October 1799
The surgeon having represented to me the necessity of a key supply of Sugar for the use of the Sick of the 6th and 41st Regiments, You will therefore issue one half for that Purpose.
Lieut. Col. 41st Regt.
These are to certify that the following number of Beds, Blankets, Pillows & Hammocks were / in consequence of the Sick having small pox and Flux sleeping on them / condemned and throw over board at Sea, on the passage from Cork to Quebec.
Pillows .. 10
Given under our hands on board the Asia Transport at Quebec this 24th day of October 1799.
Lieut. Col. 41st Regt.
Lieut. V. Q. Masr. 41st Regt.
6th April 1800
The unfortunate state the 41st Regiment has been in from the Arrival at Quebec on the 20th of October, 1799, to late in February 1800, and the losses sustained from a violent contagious fever that raged in it (25 only having escaped the Disease) has swelled the Hospital expenses to such a magnitude, as to necessitate one to take the liberty of laying them before you; from the impossibility of complying with His Majesty’s Instructions, so as to enable the Paymaster, to include them in his accounts, without a official Order for that purpose.
The Circumstances which I beg to state are as follows. --- On the passage from Cork to Quebec: a Contagious Fever broke out, which I conceive originated from a number of Drafts being sent from Duncannon Fort on Board the Asia Transport to join the 41st Regiment. Previous to its embarkation on Board that vessel, & which Drafts were countermanded in Consequence (I presume) of a Memorial of mine to His Excellency Lord Cornwallis; stating that I had been informed at Waterford that a Contagious Disease prevailed amongst them, & entreating His Excellency Earl Cornwallis to order them to be remanded to the Prison Ship from whence they came; - I was more strengthened in this belief, from the Circumstances of having sent the Major of the Regiment & the Surgeon to examine minutely the State these Men were in; who reported to me, that three of them were actually confined to their Berths on Board the Asia with the Jail Fever.
A few days after we sailed I discovered a Fever on Board; and suspecting the Cause as above; I gave the most particular Orders to have the Decks well scraped and washed every Morning; the Hammocks, Bedding & Bottom Boards of Berths to be constantly exposed on Deck to the Air; and the Vessel to be fumigated with Pitch or Gun Powder as often as possible, sprinkling the Decks with Vinegar. – I also directed a Tier of Berths to be made on the Upper or Gun Deck for the Sick, in Order to cut off as much as possible all communication with the rest of the men, as well as to give the Sick a free Circulation of Air, which it was impossible to procure for them on the lower or Horlop Deck; where about five hundred Souls were cooped up without a Ray of light, a single Port Hole or Scuttle to admit Air (except what could be procured from live Wind Sails) that Deck being under the Water Line, so ill adapted are these Vessels to the Transport Service: I must here observe that a Captain & two Subalterns were constantly on Duty to carry the above Orders into execution in addition to the Staff of the Regiment.
By these means and the Exertions of the Surgeons and Officers, the Disorder was in a great Measure checked; until our Arrival in the River St. Lawrence, where we experienced such a dreadful Gale of Wind having lost two Anchors as prevented for some time the usual precautions of Washing, fumigating, or even Cooking Provisions for the Men: in this Situation we arrived at Quebec, where our Sick from the above Causes were even more than doubled in the four last days.
The sick were then Ordered to be landed & sent to a House hired for the purpose of a Hospital, where they were attended by our Assistant Surgeon: and the Remainder of the Regiment was immediately Ordered to proceed in Batteaux’s to Montreal.
Soon after our departure from Quebec, the Fever appeared again, & continued to increase, in consequence I presume of the Fatique & Wet the men were exposed to, the Severity of the Weather & the Sudden change from the Horlop Deck of the Transport to the open Bateaux’s add to this that the Men were Young & predisposed to Contagion from their former Situation on Board Ship, and were not sufficiently provided with warm Clothing to withstand the Rigors of so advanced a Season: and had it not been for the one hundred and eighty six Drafts received from the 60th Regiment, who were well Clothed & inured to the Climate; we should not have accomplished our Passage to Montreal; which even with their assistance took up Fifteen and Seventeen Days to accomplish.
Soon after we left Quebec the Surgeon was seized with the Disease which deprived the Regiment of his assistance during the whole continuance of the Fever: thus situated, I proceeded to Montreal; from whence I sent the Garrison Surgeon M. Gould with every comfort of Provisions, Liquors & Five hundred Blankets to meet the two Divisions of the Regiment; directing the Batteuxs of the 2nd Division to be tracked by Horses as it appeared that, that Division was more Sickly than the other & had been detained at Point du Lac for four Days by contrary Gales of Wind. I also made every preparation in the Interim for the Reception of the Sick; the number of which amounted to near one hundred on the Regiment’s arrival at Montreal on the 5th and 8th of November; and notwithstanding every Precaution that was taken, the Fever increased so rapidly & to such an alarming degree, that we had near about two hundred & Fifty Sick with it at one time . --- Doctor Gould was soon Seized with the Fever, and shortly after died; we also lost our Assistant Surgeon Mr. Sinclair, & another Staff Surgeon McGraham at Quebec. ----- So circumstances without a General Hospital, a Regimental or Staff Surgeon I was necessitated to give the Care of the Sick to two Medical Gentlemen of this Town. ----- Doctors Rowan & Jones (who being of course totally unacquainted with Military Practice, could not be expected to regulate the expenditure as prescribed in His Majesty’s Regulations) until assistance could be procured from the Medical Staff at Quebec; who voluntarily stepped forward at this arduous moment, & whose Skill, Humanity & unremitting Attention His Majesty’s Service is much indebted & the 41st Regiment will ever remember with Gratitude.
At this critical time I was myself seized with the Fever; as was the next officer in Command of the Regiment (the next to him having died at Three Rivers where also a private practitioner was employed.) – In this distressing Situation, how was it possible for His Majesty’s Regulations to be complyed with? -- which direct the Surgeon to purchase the several Articles, & to lay WeeklyhisExpenditures before the Commanding Officer & Paymaster.
During my illness Doctor Fisher was sent to our Aid by Lieut. General Hunter with extensive Powers, he approved of the liberal use that had been made previous to his arrival of Wine, Beer, Cyder, Milk & etc. --- And ordered a Continuance of these Articles for the Sick, in the different Hospitals; during the Prevalence of the Fever; the daily expenditure of Wine alone; whilst Doctor Fisher remained at Montreal (and which it is evident, was judiciously administered from the happy Consequences that resulted) daily amounted from one hundred & fifty to nearly about two hundred Quarts, regularly issued by the Officer of the Day, agreeable to Doctor Fisher’s directions and those of the other Medical Gentlemen under his command: and afterwards by M. Dewer who succeeded him: --- As the Hospital expenses as incurred, & so unavoidably necessary; amount to a large & very unusual Sum from the above mentioned causes and the impossibility of complying with the Government’s Directions as the Surgeon, Asst. Surgeon & Staff Surgeon here, the two Senior Captains & myself being deprived of the Power of doing my Duty, & being obliged to employ private Medical Practitioners as before stated, I am of Opinion it require a more than Ordinary Authority as a voucher will enable the Paymaster with Safety to make a Draft for the Amount or include it in the Accounts with Government.
I beg leave to lay before you the Hospital Accounts during the above Malady; which is now totally subdued, & I beg you will have the Goodness to take this into your Consideration for the Purpose of putting them in a Train of Payment; so as to prevent my being arrested as well as the Officers who have had temporary Command at Quebec & Three Rivers, which has lately been threatened; unless immediate Payment was made, you will please to observe that there are Affidavits to all those accounts, & that I have checked many of them by laying such as I thought extravagant before the Magistrates & Medical Gentlemen of this Town who always granted their assistance with Cheerfulness.
I have the Honour to be
your most Obedient
and most humble Servant
Lt. Col. 41st Regt.
Major General Burton
Commanding the District for
Montreal V. V. V.
April 8th 1800
Be so good as to lay the inclosed from Lt. Col. Thomas before Genl. Hunter
As to the Vouchers, I know nothing of them.
I also forward to you my letter of Service
I have the honour
Your Most Obedient Servant
D. C. Burton
V. V. V.