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Glossary

Select a letter to browse an alphabetical listing of terms and definitions.

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Sap

Trench projecting out at right angles to the front line. Saps allowed small parties of men to get close to the enemy so they could raid, observe or snipe.

Sapper

Soldier-artisan mainly involved in construction of field fortifications, most notably the seige trenches called "saps" in military engineering. There were sappers in individual regiments from the 17th century. Detachments of the Royal Military Artificers, called the Royal Sappers and Miners from 1813, were posted in Canada in the 1790s. They played a major role in building large forts and citadels, as well as the Rideau Canal in the 1820s and 1830s.

The first Canadian sapper unit appears to have been the 1778-1780 corps of Artificers and Labourers in St. John’s, Newfoundland, although there had been a militia artificer unit during the 1775-1776 siege of Québec. During the War of 1812, a Corps of Provincial Artificers served in 1813-1815 in Upper Canada. Most of its men were Blacks who had fled slavery in the United States. Thereafter, there were no permanent engineering units with non-commissioned officers and sappers in Canada until the formation of the Royal Canadian Engineers in the early 20th century.

Scout

Soldier sent on reconnaissance to gather information on terrain, enemy forces, etc. There were occasionally special units of scouts.

Sea Fencible

A type of naval militia volunteers appearing in Britain in the 1790s. There were Sea Fencible units attached to the battalions of St. John, Charlotte and Northumberland counties in New Brunswick during the War of 1812. They were raised among sea-faring men in coastal communities and seem to have all disbanded after the war. From 1833 to 1867, there was a unit of St. John Sea Fencibles that functioned primarily as an artillery unit. Its officers and men wore naval uniforms.

Sedentary Militia

Basic reserve of local, able-bodied men from which to draw volunteers for militia service. The term was commonly used in Canada from the late 18th to the mid-19th centuries. During the War of 1812, units of Sedentary Militia were called out on active duty for short periods of time, notably in Lower Canada during the autumn of 1813.

See also: Select Embodied Militia, Incorporated Militia, Volunteer Militia