FOSTER, COLLEY LYONS LUCAS, army and militia officer; b. 1778 in Ireland; m. first 1813 Elizabeth Kirkpatrick in Clonsilla parish (Republic of Ireland), and they had seven children; m. secondly 4 Feb. 1836 Ellen Humphreys in Toronto, and they had one son and two daughters; d. 7 May 1843 in Kingston, Upper Canada.
Colley Lyons Lucas Foster was commissioned in the English militia in 1798, and then entered the 52nd Foot when it raised a second battalion in 1799. He served in England and Ireland until 1804, much of the time as adjutant, and was promoted lieutenant in 1800 and captain in 1804. Between 1804 and 1811 Foster was in Jamaica as aide-de-camp and military secretary to the lieutenant governor, Sir Eyre Coote, and the governor, the Duke of Manchester. After returning to England he served briefly in Jersey, and then became aide-de-camp to Lieutenant-General Gordon Drummond* in Ireland.
In 1813 Foster accompanied Drummond to his new command in Upper Canada. He was soon immersed in the war on the Niagara frontier, and after the taking of Fort Niagara (near Youngstown), N.Y., in December, he was selected to convey the captured American colours to Governor Sir George Prevost*. On 7 Feb. 1814 Foster was appointed adjutant general of the Upper Canadian militia, and he took up additional administrative responsibilities as Drummond’s military secretary. He was twice mentioned in dispatches by Drummond for his efforts in the headquarters at the siege of Fort Erie that summer.
With the conclusion of the war Foster was moved to Quebec, and gave up his militia appointment to Nathaniel Coffin. In 1816 he was appointed assistant adjutant general to the regular forces in Upper Canada, a post he held until his death. He was promoted lieutenant-colonel in June 1815 and colonel in January 1837.
Like other officers who served in the War of 1812, Foster received extensive land grants and speculated in the undeveloped land. His grants, totalling 1,200 acres, chiefly in Ancaster, Clinton, Thorold, and Cartwright townships, were sold to finance both his purchase of a town-lot in Kingston and a small farm near the town and the construction of buildings on these properties.
From June 1824 until September 1827 Foster acted as deputy adjutant general to the army in the Canadas. In this position he was called upon to act frequently for Governor Lord Dalhousie [Ramsay] on ceremonial occasions, and to be his military secretary. Foster petitioned for permanent appointment as deputy adjutant general, but his hopes were dashed by the arrival of Colonel Sir Thomas Noel Hill.
With the withdrawal of nearly all regular troops from Upper Canada in 1837, Foster succeeded to the command of the remaining handful of soldiers. When William Lyon Mackenzie*’s insurgents prepared to march down Yonge Street early in December, Foster played a leading part in organizing and arming a guard from among the citizens of Toronto. On 7 December, when Lieutenant Governor Sir Francis Bond Head* marched against Mackenzie with a small force, he declined Foster’s services, preferring that the issue be decided by inhabitants of the province. Once Head’s resignation became effective in January 1838, Foster, as senior officer, took command of the militia and regular forces in Upper Canada until the arrival of Major-General Sir George Arthur* in March. He had at times 15,000 militia under arms during this period, but he did not take the field personally. After the rebellion, Foster reassumed his duties as assistant adjutant general. In his last years he was concerned to sell his commission and retire, but he died while still on service.
Colley Lyons Lucas Foster had served out his life as a competent military administrator. He never commanded troops in the field beyond his subaltern service, but he soon caught the eye of senior commanders and rose through their personal staffs to responsible positions in war and peace.
AO, MS 502, ser.A, C. L. L. Foster corr.; ser.B-1, B-3, C. L. L. Foster corr.; MU 1057. PAC, RG 8, 1 (C ser.), 187: 88–91; 237: 64–65; 685: 94–100; 704: 126; 1184: 35; 1187: 11, 88, 95; 1191: 40; 1203 1/2M: 18–19; 1203 1/2P: 68; 1219: 177–78, 290–93. QUA, MC, Colley Foster papers.