Plaque, Southwest corner of Wellington and Portland Sts., Toronto

A small park, once the Garrison Burying Site for nearby Fort York, features a squat memorial erected 1 July 1902. Plaques on the sides identify infantry, cavalry and other regiments in the War of 1812. A sculpture of a white officer graces the monument. On the southwest face, those serving on the “Western frontier” are listed, and squeezed into a bottom corner as though as an afterthought are the words “Coloured Corps & Indians”. Members of the Black community and others traditonally rallied here well into the 1970s on Emancipation Day in memory of the black soldiers.
One of the volunteers in a corps of Black volunteers (led by a white officer, Captain Robert Runchey) was Richard Pierpoint, who had first served as a soldier during the American Revolutionary Wars fighting alongside Butler’s Rangers, and thus securing his freedom from slavery. During the War of 1812, Pierpoint , who was known as Captain Dick, volunteered to fight alongside Isaac Brock at Queenston Heights.

Black volunteers fought many battles along the Niagara front alongside their Indian allies. According to David and Peter Meyler’s book, A Stolen Life: Searching for Richard Pierpoint (1999), “it is no real exaggeration to state without these units, Canada as a nation, at least a nation in its current form, would not exist”. Provincial plaques have been erected to the Coloured Corps (Queenston Heights) and to Richard Pierpoint (St. Catharines).

Photo Credit: Mel Johnston