LORING, ROBERT ROBERTS, army officer; baptized 27 Sept. 1789 in Englefield, England, youngest of five sons of Joshua Loring and Elizabeth Lloyd; grandson of Joshua Loring*; m. 3 Feb. 1814 Mary Ann Campbell, daughter of William Campbell, in York (Toronto), Upper Canada, and they had two sons and three daughters; m. secondly 19 July 1828 Ann Smith in Overton (North Yorkshire), England, and they had two sons and two daughters; d. 1 April 1848 in Toronto.
Robert Roberts Loring joined the 49th Foot as an ensign on 15 Dec. 1804, and the following July arrived at Quebec to join the regiment, which had been in the Canadas since 1802. On 3 Sept. 1806 he was promoted lieutenant. Early in his career Loring demonstrated an affinity for staff work. Roger Hale Sheaffe*, then a lieutenant-colonel, claimed to have noticed him as an ensign, and when Lieutenant-General Gordon Drummond* assumed command of the forces in the Canadas in 1811, he was impressed with how Loring was “performing the duties of Adjutant” in the 49th and added him to his staff. Loring accompanied Drummond to Britain in October 1811, but the outbreak of war with the United States in 1812 convinced the young officer that his duty lay in North America, and he returned to Lower Canada that autumn.
On 26 June 1812 Loring had become a captain in the 104th Foot and on 29 Oct. 1812 he was appointed aide-de-camp to Sheaffe, the new administrator of Upper Canada. Many of Loring’s responsibilities in this position were routine, but with the increasing intensity of the war and Sheaffe’s attention to defensive preparations they assumed more pressing urgency. One concern which Sheaffe inherited from Sir Isaac Brock* was the loyalty of the population, and the alien boards set up by the new administrator in Niagara (Niagara-on-the-Lake), York, and Kingston provided considerable work for his aide-de-camp.
Loring’s first action was during the American attack on York in April 1813. At one point Sheaffe and Loring were between the enemy and the retreating British. When the magazine of Fort York exploded Loring suffered “a severe contusion,” an injury which resulted in the partial disabling of his right arm. Sheaffe returned to England in November, and when in December 1813 Drummond arrived to assume command of the forces in Upper Canada, he appointed Loring to his staff, first as aide-de-camp and later as civil secretary. Loring gradually assumed ever larger responsibilities, becoming in practice Drummond’s personal secretary.
In December 1813 Loring was with Drummond at the capture of Fort Niagara (near Youngstown), N.Y., and on 25 July 1814 he was promoted brevet major. Before he learned of his advancement, however, he was captured in the battle of Lundy’s Lane, and he spent the remainder of the conflict in Cheshire, Mass. One of his fellow captives was the young William Hamilton Merritt*. Merritt’s account of his not unpleasant imprisonment includes several mentions of his friend Loring, whom he described as “Clever in the cabinet, cool and determined in the field.”
Following his repatriation, Loring arrived at Quebec with Drummond on 3 April 1815. A week later he was officially appointed the latter’s private secretary, a post he filled until Drummond returned to England in May 1816. Loring resumed his military career by joining the 104th and on 17 Aug. 1816 was appointed brigade-major, at Kingston, but he held the job only until 24 June 1817, one month after being placed on half pay. Loring remained in Upper Canada, and on the death of the provincial secretary, William Jarvis*, offered himself without success for the position. In September 1818 he was living in Kingston, where he owned a town lot, but it is not clear what he did to support himself and his family until 9 Dec. 1819, when he transferred to a captaincy in the 76th Foot.
On 20 June 1820 Loring was made assistant military secretary to the new commander-in-chief in British North America, Lord Dalhousie [Ramsay], and a year later he became a brigade-major. He was involved in various organizations at Quebec such as the Agriculture Society and the Quebec Emigrants’ Society, but this was not a happy time for Loring: a daughter died in 1820 and another daughter and his wife in 1822.
In October 1821 Loring was invited to assist Lieutenant-Colonel John Harvey* in the deputy adjutant general’s department, and he moved to Montreal as superintendent of the quartermaster general’s department. From September 1825 he acted as assistant adjutant general at York in the absence of Lieutenant-Colonel Colley Lyons Lucas Foster. Placed on half pay on 20 March 1827, he left for England on leave that summer. Soon after his return in September 1828 he was notified that he had been appointed an inspecting field officer of militia in Nova Scotia with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. Loring arrived there in the spring of 1829 and remained for eight years performing routine administrative tasks until early 1837, when the House of Assembly repealed the grant to the inspecting field officers. On 1 Jan. 1838 he was appointed to be “Employed on a Particular Service” in the Canadas. Again placed on half pay on 29 October, in November 1839 he was permitted to sell his commission. He appears to have lived off the proceeds at his Toronto home until his death.
Robert Roberts Loring was the quintessential staff officer, a quality which was recognized early and utilized by a number of commanders. His name appears in a huge volume of correspondence, but almost all the documents reflect his work, and his personal life remains largely hidden. He did have one serious personal problem, however, which arose directly from his staff position. In 1814 Drummond granted him 700 acres in Lincoln County, Upper Canada. These lands had previously been granted to two different persons, but when it was discovered that one of the lots included a salt spring, the original grantees were induced to locate elsewhere. A complicated series of mistakes allowed two other families to settle on the land. When Loring received the lots, it was charged that he was taking advantage of his position on Drummond’s staff. He refused to give them up, paying one of the settlers for his improvements but wrangling for years with the other. Local residents and government officials in Toronto and London had strong feelings about the issue. Many sided with Loring, but he was left with a clouded reputation because others could never accept that he had not used his connections for personal gain.
PAC, MG 11, [CO 42] Q, 133, 255, 320–26, 330; MG 24, K2; RG 8, I (C ser.), 2–4, 51, 122, 126, 170, 192, 203, 234–35, 240, 273, 280, 605, 747, 900, 973, 1176–77, 1181–82, 1186, 1188, 1203 1/2P. Doc. hist. of campaign upon Niagara frontier (Cruikshank). Select British docs. of War of 1812 (Wood). Quebec Gazette, 11 July 1805; 6 April 1815; 25 May 1815–29 Feb. 1816; 4 Dec. 1817; 19 March, 31 Aug. 1818; 9 Aug., 26 Nov. 1821; 15 July 1822. G.B., WO, Army list, 1805–40. W. R. O’Byrne, A naval biographical dictionary: comprising the life and service of every living officer in Her Majesty’s navy . . . (London, 1849). C. W. Humphries, “The capture of York,” The defended border: Upper Canada and the War of 1812 . . . , ed. Morris Zaslow and W. B. Turner (Toronto, 1964), 251–70. G. F. G. Stanley, The War of 1812: land operations ([Toronto], 1983).