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BARNES, JOHN, army officer and politician; b. c. 1746, probably in Great Britain; d. 30 April 1810 in Bath, England.

John Barnes entered the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich (London) as a cadet on 16 Aug. 1760. It was at this institution that future engineer and artillery officers of the British army received their technical training. The following year he received a commission in the Royal Artillery with the lowest rank, that of lieutenant fireworker. He was promoted second lieutenant in 1771 and first lieutenant in 1774.

Barnes came to the province of Quebec in the summer of 1776 with the military reinforcements sent to counter the American invasion [see Benedict Arnold; Richard Montgomery*]. He was probably an officer in one of the four artillery companies that, having left Woolwich in March 1776, were dispatched to Chambly and Montreal. Because of the state of war the British army in the province was increasing its headquarters staff. As a result, on 8 September Barnes was appointed assistant to the quartermaster general, Thomas Carleton. The quartermaster general’s department contained a deputy quartermaster general and three other assistants also chosen from among the officers. Barnes, who was responsible for the Montreal sector, had to organize the transport of troops, arms, and supplies and to develop plans for billeting the soldiers.

From the autumn of 1778 Barnes carried out the same duties at Sorel. With the arrival of the loyalists, however, his tasks were broadened to include quartering those who were in the armed forces and putting up those who were simply refugees. He also had to intervene to try to settle the problems caused by the insubordination of the self-proclaimed minister of the Church of England in Sorel, Thomas Charles Heslop Scott. He was promoted second captain in 1779 and captain in December 1782, and was put in command of an artillery company stationed in Sorel. Even though his company returned to England in October 1783, Barnes remained its captain until 1794, since his work at headquarters relieved him from the obligation of accompanying his unit.

In 1783, after the War of American Independence, Barnes became the person responsible for distributing supplies to the loyalists in that part of the province east of Cataraqui (Kingston, Ont.). He also had to assemble loyalists for resettlement in such areas as Baie des Chaleurs [see Nicholas Cox*] and Cataraqui [see Michael Grass]. Furthermore Governor Haldimand entrusted Barnes with the responsibility for making land grants to a group of loyalists under Alexander White which he had authorized to settle in the seigneury of Sorel, on the south shore of the St Lawrence. In September 1784, in accordance with the governor’s instructions, Barnes set off on a tour to inspect the loyalist settlements in the eastern part of Quebec. His mission was to prepare a list of those who were receiving supplies, to uncover abuses, and to pick out those making no effort to establish themselves. This tour took a year. On its conclusion Barnes reported the loyalists’ satisfaction but recommended that their allowances not be cut off on 1 June 1786 but instead be continued until 1 September to enable them to subsist until the harvest.

In October 1785 Henry Hope*, who held the post of quartermaster general, became commander-in-chief of the British troops, replacing Barrimore Matthew St Leger*. He decided to entrust management of the quartermaster general’s department to Barnes, who was given the title of deputy quartermaster general. This post carried with it the task of supervising the Provincial Marine and the office of the barrack master general. After his promotion Barnes moved to Quebec, where military headquarters were located.

In the first elections to the House of Assembly of Lower Canada in 1792 Barnes was elected for William Henry. This riding corresponded to the town of Sorel, which since 1787 had been called William Henry. He represented it until the end of the first parliament in 1796. His legislative career amounted to supporting the English party. During this period he was promoted major in 1794 and lieutenant-colonel the following year. On 21 Dec. 1795, at Quebec, he married 21-year-old Isabella Johnson from nearby Belmont; Anglican minister Philip Toosey* officiated and Henry Caldwell, a friend of Barnes, served as witness.

In 1799 the post of deputy quartermaster general was transferred to Halifax, N.S.; Barnes resigned from office but obtained the post of deputy barrack master general, which allowed him to remain at Quebec. In 1801, as the senior officer there, he commanded the garrison. That year he obtained leave to go to England and on 15 August, after 25 years in the colony without a break, he departed. Officially he remained on the rolls as deputy barrack master general in North America until September 1802, but he never returned to the Canadas. He was promoted colonel in the army in 1802, colonel of the Invalid Battalion of the Royal Artillery in 1803, and finally major-general in 1809. He died the following year in Bath.

John Barnes was one of many staff officers. Trained in the professional corps of the British artillery, he spent the greatest part of his career in administration and logistics. Since promotions in the Royal Artillery were made according to seniority, Barnes received them periodically, even though he was not serving with his regiment. His rise was swifter in wartime, and he took advantage of the expansion of the British empire in North America to carve out a place for himself in the military hierarchy.

Christian Rioux

ANQ-Q, CE1-61, 21 Dec. 1795; CN1-256, 19 Dec. 1795. BL, Add. mss 21697; 21699; 21700; 21714: 331–428; 21723: 14, 298–300; 21724: 251–56, 387, 399; 21744: 82; 21796–98; 21848: 219–20 (mfm. at PAC). PAC, RG 1, L3L: 43397; RG 8, I (C ser.), 29: 56–57; 209: 62; 512: 129; 744: 57, 63–64, 72, 74. PRO, CO 42/46: f.89; 42/48: ff.201–3, 215; 42/49, 6 April 1786; WO 17/1507: ff.7–12; 1711508: ff.1–9; WO 28/6: f.183; 28/7: ff.71, 73, 90, 94 (mfm. at PAC). “Les dénombrements de Québec” (Plessis), ANQ Rapport, 1948–49: 16, 66, 119. Kingston before War of 1812 (Preston), 1, 71. Quebec Gazette, index. F.-J. Audet et Fabre Surveyer, Les députés au premier parl. du Bas-Canada, 17–24. Battery records of the Royal Artillery, 1716–1859, comp. M. E. S. Laws (Woolwich, Eng., 1952), 47–83. “Collection Haldimand,” PAC Rapport, 1887: 411, 413, 433, 440–41, 469, 471–75. Desjardins, Guide parl ., 143. Kelley, “Church and state papers,” ANQ Rapport, 1948–49: 332, 339. List of officers of the Royal Regiment of Artillery . . . , comp. W. H. Askwith (4th ed., London, 1900), 12. “Papiers d’État,” PAC Rapport, 1890: 173–74, 278. Quebec almanac, 1792–1801. Quebec directory, 1790, 1791. Azarie Couillard-Després, Histoire de Sorel de ses origines à nos jours (Montréal, 1926), 127, 133, 158–61. Earle Thomas, “The loyalists in the Montreal area, 1775–1784” (paper presented to the annual meeting of the CHA, Halifax, 1981), 18–21. Hare, “L’Assemblée législative du Bas-Canada,” RHAF, 27: 371–73.

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Cite This Article

Christian Rioux, “BARNES, JOHN,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 5, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed April 16, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/barnes_john_5E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/barnes_john_5E.html
Author of Article:   Christian Rioux
Title of Article:   BARNES, JOHN
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 5
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1983
Year of revision:   1983
Access Date:   April 16, 2024