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MUIR, ADAM CHARLES, army officer and settler; b. c. 1766 or c. 1770 in Scotland; m. 6 Aug. 1801 Mary Elizabeth Alexowina Bender in Montreal, and they had six sons and four daughters; d. 11 May 1829 in William Henry (Sorel), Lower Canada.

Partly because Adam Charles Muir began his military career as a common soldier, little is certain in his background. He made his first appearance in British army records by enlisting on St Patrick’s Day 1788 in the 41st Foot, which was then changing from a regiment of invalids to one of regulars. A deserving recruit could go far in such circumstances, and in five months Muir was a sergeant. On 30 July 1793 he was appointed adjutant, a position often given to worthy non-commissioned officers. His promotion to ensign soon afterwards made him a commissioned officer, and he advanced to lieutenant on 12 July 1794. His first active service took place during the campaigns of the mid 1790s in Saint-Domingue (Haiti).

The 41st came to the Canadas in 1799, and for more than a decade Muir made the rounds of the garrisons, spending most of his time at Amherstburg, Upper Canada, and obtaining a captaincy on 9 Feb. 1804. He was at Amherstburg in charge of the regimental detachment when war with the United States broke out in July 1812. As a senior officer of the only available regulars on the spot, he received command of several small expeditions during the summer and autumn. In the operations leading up to Major-General Isaac Brock*’s capture of Detroit on 16 August, Muir led British troops in skirmishes at Brownstown (near Trenton, Mich.) and Maguaga (Wyandotte, Mich.). Despite a wound received in the latter action, he was able to command the men of the 41st at the taking of Detroit. In September, Colonel Henry Procter, in charge on the Lake Erie frontier, sent Muir with some British troops and militia to accompany a large Indian force against Fort Wayne (Ind.). The expedition was intended to capture the fort and throw American preparations for a renewed offensive into confusion. At first things went well enough, but once scouts detected the unexpected approach of a large American army [see Sou-neh-hoo-way*], the enthusiasm of the Indians for the raid plummeted. Muir recognized that his plans were now futile, and as his allies drifted away he withdrew successfully to Detroit. He went back into action in January 1813 when the American advance guard was crushed at Frenchtown (Monroe, Mich.). During that year he was at the sieges of forts Meigs (near Perrysburg, Ohio) and Stephenson (Fremont, Ohio) as Procter vainly tried to halt the enemy’s move on Detroit.

Thus far Muir had been one of the most active British officers on the Lake Erie frontier, if usually in a subordinate role. Procter had commended his behaviour on several occasions, but relations between the two men were cool. By the time the British and Indians began their retreat from Amherstburg in the fall of 1813 Muir, like several other officers of the 41st, was openly contemptuous of Procter’s leadership. Just before the battle of Moraviantown in October, he said that Procter “ought to be hanged” for being away from the force. Captured in that disastrous action, Muir spent some months in Kentucky in conditions vividly described by his friend and fellow captive John Richardson*. Meanwhile, Upper Canada from Amherstburg to Ancaster became a kind of no man’s land open to forays by both armies. After his exchange in 1814 Muir was sent to the Grand River, where he took part in defending against American raids. Over the winter of 1814–15 he gave evidence at Procter’s court martial.

The end of the war in 1815 left Muir with few prospects. Ranker-officers rarely attained field rank (although he did have a brevet majority, awarded on 4 June 1814), and the possession of a gold medal for his service at Detroit did little to help an ageing man who was trying to support his burgeoning family on a captain’s pay. His luck got worse when he was in Dublin in September 1816, for his horse threw him and he suffered a badly dislocated thigh. Unable to move without crutches for several years and left permanently lame, he was forced to resign in 1818, and was granted an annual pension of £100. He returned to North America, where he took up land at St Andrews (Saint-André-Est), Lower Canada. There he was seen in August 1820 by Governor Lord Dalhousie [Ramsay*], who thought that he was trying hard to encourage settlement in the village. St Andrews prospered, but Muir evidently did not, for less than a year later his farm was advertised for sale, although it was not disposed of until 1827. His growing debts were burdensome enough to force his move to William Henry, where a military asylum for invalids was located. After a brief illness he died on 11 May 1829. His widow was hard pressed to make ends meet, and for some time thereafter addressed increasingly desperate petitions to the authorities. At least one of their sons, George Manly Muir, attained some distinction, as clerk of the Legislative Assembly of Quebec.

With the little personal detail available, it is practically impossible to assess Adam Charles Muir’s character or life, and only through his military service can he be judged. That was of significant, if largely unrecognized, importance. Without the presence of experienced men such as Muir among the handful of British regulars who defended the Canadas for much of the War of 1812, the conflict might well have taken a different course.

Stuart R. J. Sutherland

PAC, RG 8, I (C ser.), 167: 21–22; 205; 206: 1, 18, 215–19; 676: 233–36; 677: 18–21, 97–99, 102–10, 163–65; 678: 261–70; 683: 135, 286–92; 907; 914: 106–8. PRO, WO 12/5406; WO 17/151, 17/1516–19; WO 27/98. Doc. hist. of campaign upon Niagara frontier (Cruikshank). Ramsay, Dalhousie journals (Whitelaw), 2: 34. [John] Richardson, Richardson’s War of 1812; with notes and a life of the author, ed. A. C. Casselman (Toronto, 1902). G.B., WO, Army list, 1794–1819. D. A. N. Lomax, A history of the services of the 41st (the Welch) Regiment (now 1st Battalion the Welch Regiment), from its formation, in 1719, to 1895 (Devonport, Eng., 1899). Cyrus Thomas, History of the counties of Argenteuil, Que., and Prescott, Ont., from the earliest settlement to the present (Montreal, 1896; repr. Belleville, Ont., 1981).

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Stuart R. J. Sutherland, “MUIR, ADAM CHARLES,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed October 23, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/muir_adam_charles_6E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/muir_adam_charles_6E.html
Author of Article: Stuart R. J. Sutherland
Title of Article: MUIR, ADAM CHARLES
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1987
Year of revision: 1987
Access Date: October 23, 2014