Life in the Barracks

Interior of the barracks at Fort George
Interior of the Soldier’s Barracks at Fort George

Researcher: Jade Schumacher, Grade 12

​Soldiers would sleep, eat, socialize, and spend their free time in their barracks room. According to research from the Fort Henry site, beds were able to be folded in order to maximize space, and personal belongings of the soldiers were kept in boxes which were stored beneath their beds.

​Morning inspections were made to ensure cleanliness. This, however, did not really make a difference in living conditions, since the rooms were poorly ventilated, poorly heated, and poorly lit. In addition, because the rooms were locked at night, each barracks was supplied with a “urine bucket” which would not be emptied from dusk to daybreak.

​Even with the poor living conditions, the soldiers were much better looked after in the barracks than if they had never enlisted. Many of the men volunteering for the British Army were from slums with even harsher conditions for living. By enlisting, soldiers were assured regular meals, a safe place to stay, and a regular salary. In the British Army, the minimum length of service was ten years; soldiers received a small pension if they served a second term of eleven years.

Typically, the men would awake at 3:30 am to the sound of a drummer who beat a long roll on his drum. Soldiers were expected to wash up, as well as make their beds every morning. As soon as there was enough light (around 4:15 am), the first morning parade was called, all to the sound of the drummers and fifers. Here an inspection was made of the condition of the men’s cleanliness and clothing. After morning inspection, the soldiers left to attend to their assigned duties (which may include tailoring, repairing earthworks, felling trees for fuel, or repairing roads). On Sunday, soldiers also attended church service.

References:

Henderson, Robert. “Morning Routine of the British Soldier in the War of 1812.”

“Soldiers’ Barracks Room – Fort Henry.” Things To Do Kingston National Historic Site – Fort Henry. St. Lawrence Parks Commission, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2013.

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