William "Tiger" Dunlop | The Canadian Encyclopedia


William "Tiger" Dunlop

William "Tiger" Dunlop, army surgeon, soldier, politician, author (b at Greenock, Scotland, 19 Nov 1792; d at Côte-Saint-Paul 29 Jun 1848).

William "Tiger" Dunlop, army surgeon, soldier, politician, author (b at Greenock, Scotland, 19 Nov 1792; d at Côte-Saint-Paul 29 Jun 1848). Among the more colourful characters of the War of 1812, William "Tiger" Dunlop stands with the best. "Tiger" Dunlop served in the war as an army surgeon, where he earned a reputation as a tireless medical professional. While he was known as "the Doctor" to most, the nickname "Tiger" came, allegedly, from his service in India.

Dunlop arrived in Upper Canada in 1813, where he was to serve as an assistant surgeon to the 89th Regiment of Foot. While en route from Montréal, he came upon the French Canadian sedentary militia on the march. He was impressed by their drill and physical stature, and believed no regular force would be much of a match for the hardy Canadians.

Battles of the War of 1812

Dunlop and the 89th soon had their own mettle tested at both the Battle of Crysler's Farm and the bloodiest battle of the war, Lundy's Lane. Like most surgeons, Dunlop was armed with a gruesome tool kit to treat battlefield injuries. It contained an amputation saw, knife, scalpel, forceps, and tourniquet. By war's end, Dunlop's kit would be as red as the men he had worked on, and his stomach for war would be spent. Yet, throughout his life, he maintained an engaging and sometimes reckless sense of humour about life, its foibles, and the sorrows that permeated his recollections of the war.

Medical Care During the War of 1812

After the Battle of Crysler's Farm, 11 November 1813, Dunlop was in charge of the medical work done at Prescott, Ont. Three weeks after the battle, the wounded at Crysler's Farm who could make the journey headed to Prescott for intensive treatment. There, Dunlop protected American prisoners against local German and Dutch immigrants, whose hatred of the Americans stemmed from the persecution they endured after supporting the Crown during the American Revolution. Dunlop prescribed the strict diet of "milk porridge" or "rice gruel" twice a day, with a meat broth at lunch. Such meals were thought to lessen the chance of fever and give the wounded a better chance of survival.

The civilians thought this prison diet barbaric, and Dunlop had to fight off their efforts to cram his patients with regular food. But far more challenging than civilians bearing gifts of food was the onslaught of casualties from the Battle of Lundy's Lane, 25 July 1814. With no surgeons available in the wake of the battle, Dunlop worked tirelessly on more than 220 men from both sides. Dunlop alleged that he worked for two days straight, stopping only to eat and change his clothes before returning to work. Dunlop later recounted the story of an American military wife who had come to care for her husband, as many wives did. The man's suffering was so great that she challenged British and American heads of state to bear witness to the results of their war. Such events stayed with Dunlop long after peace resumed.

The Rebellions of 1837

At war's end, Dunlop spent time in India, Scotland and England and pursued a career in journalism before returning to Canada, where he became a soldier and politician. His command of the Huron Regiment during the Rebellions of 1837 was plagued by misconduct, which earned the unit the nickname "The Bloody Useless Regiment." Dunlop later worked for the Canada Company before being elected to the Huron riding of Upper Canada. He died in 1848, and left behind Recollections of the American War, 1812-14, one of the most colourful memoirs of the War of 1812.