|Stewart would serve a total of 21 years, 11 months with the colours - eight years, seven months in Canada and 3 years, 2 months in the West Indies. Stewart may have seen some
active service in the field in Canada c. 1838 during was what called the Lower Canada Rebellion. Little remembered outside Canada today the rebellion began as the result of what was
considered bad government and was led not just by French speaking Quebecers but also by men of Scottish and even Polish heritage. As one might suspect from the early date of the
rebellion no medals were issued to British troops who took part in putting down the revolt.
While looking over Stewart’s discharge and service papers one comes to the conclusion that he was in many ways a “poster child” of the type of men who enlisted in army during the
pre and early Victorian era. While apparently employed as a tailor as previously mentioned he probably had little if any real education as a child. Illiterate, he signed his attestation
papers with an “X”. While his service long conduct is listed as “Good” one wonders just how poorly a soldier had to act before his service reputation would begin to suffer. Nestled
amongst his service papers are extracts from the Regimental Defaulters Book against No. 1118 Private David Stewart. This “extract” runs to almost two complete pages with a total
of 39 separate charge dates listed between 1840 and 1852. These infractions range from “absent” (17 counts) to “drunk” (24 counts). Given even this rather splendid list of infractions
Private Stewart was only once charged before a Court Martial.
On 7 October, 1846 Private Stewart was charged “For having been drunk while on Church Parade at Saint Anne’s Barbadoes, on or about 4th October, 1846.” Found guilty Stewart
was sentenced “To be deprived of a penny a day of his Pay for thirty days, and further to be Imprisoned with hard labour for Twenty days.” It seems that mere drunkenness was one
thing but drunk in church another matter altogether. Punishment for Stewart’s myriad of other infractions usually consisted of confinement to barracks, drill in full marching order or
forfeiture of pay. During World War One any single count of Stewart’s infractions could have landed him in front of a firing squad but the rather matter of fact if not lackadaisical
approach to his transgressions taken by his superiors certainly indicate that he was in fact nothing out of the ordinary for a soldier of his era.
When Private Stewart was discharged from service On 24 October, 1852 is was not as the result of any one or combination of his many scrapes with military authority but instead as
stated in his service papers: “This man is recommended for discharge in consequence of being worn out from length of service …”.
Of what became of Private Stewart after discharge at Dublin little is known. His discharge parchment states that his intended place of residence was Edinburgh and that he was
granted 1 Pound 5 Shillings for convoy to that city by way of Glasgow. Perhaps he took up his old trade of tailor once again. By today’s standards he would have been a relatively
young man of about 41 but it will always remain a mystery as to the exact toll his 21 years of service to the Crown must have taken on him.
|No. 1118 Private David Stewart, 1st Battalion, 71st (Highland Light Infantry) Regiment
of Foot, discharge parchment and original tinned iron storage tube. Both items are in a
remarkable state of preservation given being will over a century and half old.
Tube: Approximately 10 Inches long by 1 Inch Diameter (25.5 cm x 2.5 cm)
Parchment: 10 1/4 Inches by 8 Inches (26 cm x 20 cm)
|Above: The front and back of No. 1118 Private David Stewart's discharge parchment.