Vancouver Island Volunteer Corps
The Vancouver Island Volunteer Rifle Corps, was an all-white volunteer organization created to help defend Vancouver Island, as many residents of the colony understood they would have to act on their own accord and in their own defense if necessary.1
Volunteer rifle corps were very popular in Britain, a tradition which has continued to this day. With the arrival of British emigrants to the colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia, this long-standing tradition of volunteer militias was transferred and became an establishment in both colonies.2 However, a volunteer unit was not specifically established in Victoria until the population grew. By 1859, many settlers volunteered their services. There were four distinct groups formed between 1859-1871, all the volunteers in each group were responsible for paying their monthly dues, purchasing their uniform, accoutrements and practice ammunition.3
The Vancouver Island Volunteer Rifle Corps, one of the four main units, was formed in Victoria in June 1861. The volunteers for this corps were called the loyal and industrious Canadian portion of the population, many of whom felt called to volunteer due to the growing tensions between the United States and Britain, especially at the outbreak of the American Civil War.4 On the corps' inauguration on 30 June 1861, approximately 131 men enrolled. That July, Major George F. Foster was elected to command the corps. On his own initiative, he approved the formation of a sub-unit with the corps -- an artillery company.5
The training for the artillerymen began on 24 July 1861. Despite its enthusiastic and promising start, the corps quickly declined in September 1861 after Foster went on leave to England. In his absence Captain G. T. Gordon took over his position, who during this time was caught in an embezzlement scandal where he was subsequently imprisoned, then escaped and fled the country.6 The corps found itself leaderless and in disarray.
During this time, the corps also had internal conflict between the two groups of the corps -- the main group and the artillery company. The corps could not survive its internal quarrel and upon Foster's arrival, he could not revive his previous command.7 The Vancouver Island Volunteer Rifle Corps was disbanded by public proclamation on 16 July 1862, approximately a year after its formation.8
The Victoria Rifle Volunteer Corps took over as one of the main units after the former disbanded, it was formed on 19 March 1864. It should be noted that prior to these two corps, a small volunteer unit was formed in 1851 to enforce justice on Vancouver Island. This group was made-up of primarily Métis and Iroquois, they called themselves the “Victoria Voltigeurs.”9
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Foster, George F.

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British Columbia

Vancouver Island