The Chief

Lieutenant Colonel A. T. Thompson
114th (Brock’s Rangers) Battalionthompson

The ancestors of these men fought for Great Britain in every battle on the Niagara frontier in the War of 1812, and were with General Brock in large numbers when he fell at Queenstown Heights. To this day they venerate his memory, and the name for which I ask, Brock’s Rangers would greatly add to our prestige with them, and gratify them exceedingly.

(A.T. Thompson to Militia Department, 25 Mar 1916)

 Andrew Thorburn Thompson was editor of the Canadian Military Gazette and Liberal MP for Haldimand and Monck (1900—1904). Born on 27 May 1870 in Indiana, Ontario he belonged to a prominent Ontario Liberal Party. His father had been a provincial politician and his grandfather had fought in the War of 1812. A member of the 37th Haldimand Rifles since 1893, Thompson took command of the 114th Battalion after the death of the original colonel, E. S. Baxter on 15 February 1916.

114thThompson and his predecessor Baxter had requested special permission from the Militia Department to enlist First Nations volunteers. Through his close connection with the Six Nations reserve near Cayuga, Thompson had been made an honorary chief and given the Iroquoian name, Ahsaregoah (the Sword). Recognized as the “Indian Battalion,” the 114th was half composed of Mohawks, Cree and Ojibwa from southern Ontario, Manitoba and eastern Quebec.

After sailing to England in November 1916, the 114th was dispersed between the 34th and 35th Battalions. Unable to serve on the front, during the December 1917 election, Thompson worked as chief scrutineer for the Union Government in Britain. He told Major W. L. Grant: “In Parliament and out of Parliament I fought for Laurier and Liberalism. But I have two boys in France lying seriously wounded. I want to see their places filled.” The Liberal Opposition subsequently accused Thompson with having manipulated the vote and participated in “a conspiracy to defeat the will of the people of this country.”

After falling ill, Thompson returned to Canada in 1918. Likely referring to his own disappointing experience overseas, Thompson wrote in the Canadian Militia Gazette:

None have been so hardly dealt with as those men who raised a corps in Canada, from whom commands were taken away, to be broken up for reinforcements on arrival in England, and who were then returned to Canada as without further use. Their reputations were not even protected.

Refuting charges of cowardice and neglect, Thompson defended his fellow colonels, “whose hearts were nearly broken because they were not given the opportunity to see the great adventure through.”

In response to leadership challenges within the Six Nations reserve, the Canadian government appointed Thomason to investigate the political organization of the reserve. Thompson recommended replacing the hereditary leader with an elected council.

He died on 20 April 1939.

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