An Impartial and Authentic Account of the Civil War in the Canadas/Chapter V
Description of the county of Two Mountains — Reported state of Grand Brulé — Attack delayed — Force under Sir John Colborne — March — Attack on St. Eustache — St. Benoit surrenders at discretion ; burned nevertheless — Suppressed Despatches — Girod's Death — Surrender of Girouard, his Character — Lord Gosford's Summary — Absence of any Plan of Revolt.
The sketch placed at the head of this chapter will materially aid the reader in gaining a conception of the scene of the expedition which it is the business of the following pages to record, more especially it he will take the trouble to turn to the general map of the province, in order to determine the position of the seat of the campaign, in relation to the other parts of the country.
The county of Two Mountains lies upon the mainland, immediately at the back of the Island of Montreal, and of Isles Jesus and Bizarre. On the south-east and south-west, the county is washed by the Ottawa river, which is here divided into several channels,90 forming the islands just named, together with Isle Perrot, all of which will be seen in the above sketch ; until, at length, the two streams fall into the St. Lawrence, at the north-east and south-west extremities of the Island of Montreal.
The county takes its name from two beautiful mountains, rising at a moderate distance from the river, which here widens into a lake, a feature common to all the Canadian rivers. This lake bears the same name as the county, as does also a seigneurie forming part of the county.
One of these mountains is called Mont Calvaire, on the summit of which are the ruins of some buildings called the Seven Chapels, said to have been erected by the early missionaries.
The length of this county is eighty miles, and its extreme breadth about forty, but being of unequal shape, its contents, according to the surveyor-general's computation, is 979 square miles.
The principal streams are the Rivière du Nord, and the Rivière du Chêne, together with some others of minor note. All these rivers are impeded by rapids, and consequently not navigable to the Ottawa. Portions of most of them, however, are practicable for canoes, and so afford considerable facilities to the local trade. The Rivière du Nord might perhaps be rendered navigable for a considerable distance, at a moderate expense.
The county comprises the seigneuries of Mille Isles, or Rivière du Chêne, Two Mountains, and Argenteuil, besides the townships of Chatham, Grenville, Wentworth, Harrington, Arundel, and Howard, lying higher up the Ottawa than the seigneuries.
In point of population, this county ranks third ; and in point of agricultural produce, fourth in the province. The following statistical particulars, are from Bouchette's Topographical Dictionary of the province.
|Do. Roman Catholic.
The seigneurie belongs to the priests of the Seminary of Montreal, to whom it was originally granted in 1717, and is now in a very flourishing state. In the seigneurie are two Indian Villages ; the one inhabited by the Algonquins, and the other by the Iroquois, once the terror of the English colonies. The whole Indian population now amounts to 887.
The principal village in the county of Two Mountains, and it may be added, one of the largest in the province, is St. Eustache, situated at the mouth of the Rivière du Chêne, in the seigneurie of the same name. Here the post-road through the county abuts, as it were, upon the river, passing, as already stated, through St. Benoit to St. Andrews, and thence, along the course of the Ottawa, through Hull. St. Eustache is beautifully situated, on an elevated spot, commanding a view of the well-cultivated lands of Isle Jesus, with the picturesque islands and rapids in the neighbourhood. It contains, or rather did contain, a handsome church, a Presbyterian chapel, and about 150 houses. At each extremity of the village is a bridge over the Rivière du Chêne. The population of the village was in 1831, about 1000. Some manufactures are carried on here, among which may be particularly mentioned that of cigars, which enjoy a fair reputation among the connoisseurs of the cities. There is also a brewery, a pottery, two tanneries, and a manufactory for hats, and another for chairs, all of which help to give St. Eustache a character for enterprise, and, at the same time, add to its wealth. From Montreal, the distance is twenty-one miles, including the ferries.
The village of Grand Brulé, or St. Benoit, in the parish of the same name, lies about twelve miles west of St. Eustache. A small stream passes through the village, and falls into the Rivière du Chêne, which waters the parish. The village contains about fifty houses, much scattered. Three of them only are built of stone. The population of the parish was in 1831, 4664; that of the village may be about 300.
The parish of St. Scholastique lies on the Rivière du Nord. It is less populous than St. Benoit, containing only 3000 people in 1831. The village scarcely deserves the name, as it consists of only about ten houses, around the parish church.
St. Andrews, which is twenty-four miles from St. Eustache, lies at the confluence of the Rivière du Nord with the Ottawa, in the seigneurie of Argenteuil. The population of the whole seigneurie was in 1831, about 2,800; chiefly persons of Scotch descent, and Americans. In 1824, St. Andrews contained twenty-eight houses, and about two hundred inhabitants; in 1831, it numbered fifty-five houses, and 330 inhabitants ; now it probably contains eighty or ninety houses, with a proportional increase of people. It is a smart, thriving, American-looking place ; the clack of the loom not unfrequently striking upon the ear. There is also a considerable paper-mill. During the recent troubles, St. Andrews gave birth to a corps of volunteers.
Carillon is a small island lying south of St. Andrews, in the lake of the Two Mountains. A military force has been stationed there since the government began to prepare its operations ; and we believe a small establishment is usually kept up, if it be only in aid of the works on the Grenville canal.
With these brief, but necessary explanations, the reader will be able to follow us through the details of the expedition.
Whilst the operations on the Richelieu were going on, it was understood that the armed peasantry were in force at Grand Brulé. We have already described the state of alarm this produced at Montreal ; the more especially as an assault was expected from that quarter. Offensive operations, however, seem to have formed no part of the plan of the insurgents, either on the Richelieu or at Two Mountains. In a Montreal paper of the 1st of December, it was stated, that on the 25th and 26th of the previous month, a considerable muster of the armed peasantry had taken place. The number was variously stated from "some hundreds " to "no less than 2000." In the same paper, it was asserted that they had been for some time at work upon entrenchments for the defence of the village ; and that they were prepared for an attack in either direction — that is, either from Montreal, or from St. Andrews. Report also stated that they had cannon, but none appear ultimately to have been found ; indeed, it will be seen in the sequel that the reports from this quarter, were of a most exaggerated nature, commensurate rather with the state of alarm which prevailed, than with probability.
It is certain that travellers through this part of the country were stopped and questioned about the end of November and beginning of December. A party of about 150 men also went round and quietly disarmed the "loyalists," for the double purpose of taking the sting out of their adversaries, and of arming their own people. A large number, or rather a large proportion — for the number appears not to have been large — fled to Montreal about the end of the month.
Whilst the country on the Richelieu was in a state to give employment to the troops. Sir John Colborne's force was too small to be divided ; and he does not appear to have been disposed to trust much to the volunteers. As soon as that section of the country was deemed tranquil by the defeat of the small body under Bouchette, arrangements as we have already stated91 were commenced for the march into the county of Two Mountains.
It is evident that the reports which had reached, or, perhaps, more properly speaking, had arisen in Montreal, had made some impression on the commander of the forces, for nearly the whole regular force of Montreal was employed in the service. It consisted of the disposable strength of three regiments, namely, the Royals, under Colonel Wetherall ; the 32nd, under the Honourable Colonel Maitland ; the 83rd, under the Honourable Lieutenant-colonel Dundas ; a detachment of artillery with 6 guns under Major Jackson ; the Montreal rifle corps ; another corps of volunteers, and a detachment of cavalry. In addition to which, it was afterwards augmented by a portion of the 24th regiment and the St. Andrews volunteers, under Major Townsend. The whole force could not have been much short of 1500 or 1600 men ; commanded by Sir John Colborne in person.
On the 13th the whole force was assembled at St. Martin on Isle Jesus, where there is a bridge from the Island of Montreal which Sir John Colborne had previously secured. Here the troops passed the night, and Sir John directed Major Townsend to march upon St. Benoit on the following day with the detachments of the 24th under his command and the St. Andrews volunteers.
On the morning of the 14th, the troops commenced their march upon the devoted village of St. Eustache. The river St. Jean, called in the despatches, the northern branch of the Ottawa, which in fact it is, was frozen, so that the troops crossed without difficulty on the ice at a distance varying from a mile and a half to three miles below the village.
It should be here mentioned, that the troops were divided into two brigades, one, consisting of the 32nd and 83rd regiments with a part of the artillery, under Colonel Maitland ; and the other, consisting of the 2nd battalion of the royal regiment, the Montreal rifles, and Globenski's volunteers, under Colonel Wetherall ; the object being to attack and enter the village at two or more points at one and the same time.
Col. Maitland's brigade appears to have crossed first and marched to the village, towards which they advanced covered by a couple of guns and the light company of the 32nd. As the troops approached, the insurgents were seen to cross to a small island opposite the village, when the two guns were directed by Sir John Colborne to open a fire upon them. This was done, when the fugitives retired into the town.
Hitherto our statement has embodied the substance of the despatch of Sir John Colborne with that of the report of Colonel Maitland ; we now adopt the language of the latter.
The brigade again advanced in the same order, and the guns took up a position and opened a fire upon the church ; as I perceived with my glass that they appeared to occupy the church in considerable force, the guns still continued to cannonade the church. I then, agreeable to the directions of your Excellency, changed direction to the right with the brigade, the 32d regiment leading, covered by its light company, and followed by the 83d regiment, under the command of Lieutenant-colonel the Honourable Henry Dundas, with a view of securing the roads and bridges92 from the opposite side of the town, leading to the Grand Brulé road, where it was supposed that the rebels would eventually make a stand; the troops at this moment were within musket-shot of the town, and found the greatest difficulty in their advance, owing to the ruggedness of the ploughed fields, the depth of snow, and the strong fences they had to break through; they exerted themselves for this purpose with the greatest energy, and having obtained possession of the roads and bridges, succeeded in taking a number of prisoners, who were running in great confusion from the town. My object being here accomplished, I left detachments of the 83d to secure these places, and pushed in advance with the whole of the 32d regiment towards the church, and occupied houses close to it, on that side of the town. After remaining there some time, firing on the rebels in the church, I found myself obliged to withdraw from that advanced situation, as the regiment was then unavoidably exposed to the fire of our own artillery from the opposite side of the town, as well as that of the rebels, but I detached the grenadiers 1st and 2d companies, to favourable positions, to intercept any of the rebels attempting to escape from the church, and which answered effectually, as, upon the taking of that building, a number of the rebels fell under the fire of part of these companies. On an attack like this upon a town, much remains with the individual superintendence of commanding officers of battalions, and, about this time, the 83d regiment were, by your Excellency's orders, directed to enter the town in another direction, in support of the 2nd battalion of the royal regiment ; fortunately we experienced no loss, owing to the favourable cover afforded the troops by the number of houses in this neighbourhood ; the 32d regiment had only one man severely wounded.93
It appears to have been after the fire from the artillery had been opened on the church, that the second brigade came up. Colonel Wetherall in his report states,
At about 600 or 700 yards from St. Eustache the artillery were found in position, battering the church and adjoining houses.
I was here directed94 to follow up the 1st brigade, which was making a detour of the village, for the purpose of cutting off the retreat of the rebels by the St. Benoit road ; but on arriving opposite the centre of the village, I was directed to enter it, which I did, and having advanced up the main street, occupying the most defensible houses, and meeting with no opposition, I reported the circumstance to the Lieutenant-general, who desired me to detach an officer to bring up the artillery ; in executing this duty the officer was driven back by a fire from the church, and the artillery entered the village by the rear, and opened their fire on the church-door, at the distance of 230 yards, while some companies of the royal regiment and the rifles occupied the houses nearest to the church ; after about an hour's firing, and the church-doors remaining unforced, a party of the royal regiment assaulted the Presbytery, killed some of its defenders, and set it on fire.
The smoke soon enveloped the church, and the remainder of the battalion advanced ; a straggling fire opened upon them from the Seigneur's house, forming one face of the square in which the church stood, and I directed the grenadiers to carry it, which they did, killing several, taking many prisoners, and setting it on fire.
At the same time, part of the battalion, led by Major Gugy, Provincial Assistant Quarter-master-general, and commanded by Major Warde, entered the church by the rear, and drove out and slew its garrison, and set the church on fire ; 118 prisoners were made in these assaults.95
Such is the official accounts of the attack upon St. Eustache, and of its result. It is sufficiently meagre, and gives no very clear conception of the destruction which took place. The Church, the Presbytery, the Nunnery, together with the houses of the Seigneur Dumont, Dr. Chenier, Scott and many others were destroyed. The following is from the Montreal Herald, the sickening print from which we have already quoted.96
On Thursday evening the village of St. Eustache presented a heart-rending appearance, the whole of the lower portion being one sheet of lurid flame. It is supposed that about fifty houses have been burnt, and nothing now is left of them but stone walls or solitary chimneys. The moon looked blue and wan through the thick and curling smoke, and seemed as if mourning over the melancholy scene.
It is conjectured that from 150 to 200 were killed by the military, or perished in the flames. The stench from the burning of the bodies was very offensive.
Another paper says,
"The village having been surrounded, there was no possibility of escape ; and the prisoners say that numbers retreated into the vaults of the church, and the cellars, where they must have perished miserably."
It should be remembered that these statements are not from papers favourable to the insurgents ; they are not therefore disposed to magnify the sufferings of the people at the hands of the troops ; on the contrary, they are disposed to make no statement unfavourable to the government or their agents. All the liberal papers had been put down, or had ceased to appear, and their proprietors and editors were in jail or in exile.97 Hence we have, as we stated on a former occasion, to make the best we can of one-sided evidence, a task neither pleasant nor easy.
Lord Gosford's summary of the march upon St. Benoit, appears to be a clear statement of what took place, we therefore adopt it without alteration.
On the following morning, Friday, the 15th, the troops left St. Eustache for St. Benoit, where it had all along been understood the greatest preparation for resistance had been made, and arrived there shortly after mid-day, unopposed, having on their march been met by a deputation of Canadians, who announced the flight of their leaders, and the anxiety of those remaining in the village to lay down their arms and to surrender unconditionally. If they had not taken this step, the loss of life must have been very severe, as they were completely hemmed in, a force under Major Townshend, consisting of a part of the 24th regiment and a party of volunteers, having, as a combined movement, marched from Carrillon in the opposite direction, and arrived at St. Benoit shortly after Sir John entered it. During the brief stay of the troops at that place, from 150 to 200 individuals surrendered themselves with their arms, and were discharged, in pursuance of a proclamation issued by Sir John Colborne immediately after the affair of St. Eustache, calling upon the habitans to come in and lay down their arms, and assuring those who should obey, provided they were not especially implicated in the graver crimes of insurrection, of a free pardon. I regret to add, that this village suffered severely by fire, but whether from design or accident I am not yet informed. The exasperation of the settlers of British origin in the neighbourhood was, I understand, very great, in consequence of the severities they had previously experienced at the hands of the other inhabitants of the parish, and it is not improbable that the desire of retaliation may have led to this destruction of property. It was not the work of the troops.98
The only allusion by Sir John Colborne to "the suffering of the village from fire," mentioned by Lord Gosford, is in the following exceedingly vague passage in Sir John's despatch to Lord Fitzroy Somerset : —
It is scarcely possible to suppose that the loyal and peaceable subjects, whose property had been pillaged, and who had so recently suffered from the outrages committed by the rebels of Grand Brulé and the Rivière du Chêne, a population of the worst character, could be prevented, on being liberated from their oppressor, from committing acts of violence at St. Benoit.
In short, there is abundant evidence that these despatches are prepared for the public eye. In the second chapter we pointed out a flagrant case of the suppression of despatches, one of which is the detailed official report of the affair of St. Charles. Here we have to notice a similar case of suppression of evidence the most important. St. Benoit surrendered, the people had thrown themselves on Sir John Colborne's mercy, Lord Gosford, in his proclamation of the 29th of November, had promised the forgetfulness of transgressions to all who would put down their arms ; yet, in spite of these promises, the village that night was laid in ashes. It was boldly asserted, in some of the Montreal journals, that the houses of some of the leaders being intentionally set on fire the rest caught by accident. Unfortunately for this statement, the houses of the village are not contiguous, but are much scattered, many being separated from the "leaders'" houses by the little river which runs through the village. We need not, however, trouble ourselves by trying the statement on its own merits, as a few days after the circumstance occurred, Major Townsend, in reporting his arrival at Carrillon, informed Sir John Colborne that "every house in the village was set on fire," and that it was "the volunteers who were the instruments of the infliction," adding, that it was impossible to restrain them. Now, this report or despatch of Major Townsend is not to be found among the papers relating to this expedition, published by order of the House of Commons ; neither is Sir John Colborne's proclamation promising pardon. Sir John Colborne did not burn the village, it is true ; but, in neglecting to protect it, did he keep the promise held out by his proclamation ? The letter of his proclamation — yes ! its spirit — No ! It certainly does appear to have been Major Townsend's duty to see that Sir John's pledge was religiously redeemed, and yet he pretends that the volunteers could not be restrained. To prevent so shocking an outrage Major Townsend should have shown his determination to use his bayonets, and the restrained volunteers would have been saved from this shocking act of barbarity, by which, be it remembered, the aged and the in firm, the women and their infants, were turned into the woods, in the depth of a Canadian winter, to perish. The tale of horrors, resulting from this barbarous act, remains yet to be learned.
The Times newspaper, by no means inimical to Sir John Colborne, and certainly far from friendly to the Canadians, cannot restrain its indignation on the occasion, as the following extract will testify : —
If the loose narratives, Canadian or republican, may be safely trusted, we fear that much unnecessary, and therefore indefensible, suffering, has been inflicted upon the unfortunate, many of them, no doubt, guiltless, inhabitants of the scene on which, and in whose neighbourhood, the attack was made by Sir J. Colborne. * * The statements on every side agree that the whole village of St. Eustache was burnt to the ground. It would rejoice us to believe what we see asserted in one of the letters just arrived, that it was the insurgents themselves who set fire, by accident, to St. Eustache, and destroyed their own habitations with those of many peaceable citizens. If, on the other hand, it be confirmed by the next advices that not only St. Eustache, but St. Benoit likewise, was burnt by those of our fellow-subjects calling themselves loyalists, in defiance of the humane orders of Sir John Colborne, after his back was turned, and in revenge for excesses, outrages, and robberies, said (we dare say truly) to have been perpetrated by the insurgents while in possession of those respective towns, it is impossible to reprobate with sufficient force the barbarous wickedness of such retaliation, or to calculate the effects of such impolitic and frantic ferocity. It is incredible that Sir J. Colborne, or any experienced and well educated commander, could have tolerated such proceedings. It is equally so that any regular, well-disciplined, and highly-officered troops like those of England, could have executed them.
After the surrender of St. Benoit, Sir John Colborne ordered Colonel Maitland, with his regiment, to proceed to St. Scholastique, a village of ten houses. There was of course no resistance ; in short, resistance was at an end in every direction.
The following is the official return of killed and wounded, as made up after the return of the troops : —
Montreal, 20th December, 1837.
Royal Artillery — 1 corporal, 2 privates, wounded.
2d Batt. 1st or Royal Regt. — 1 private killed ; 4 privates wounded.
32d Regt. — 1 private wounded.
Total — 1 private killed ; 1 corporal, 7 privates, wounded.
N.B. — Major B. C. A. Gugy, Provincial Assistant Quarter-master-general, was also severely wounded.
The number of killed on the side of the peasantry is stated, in the Montreal papers and in Lord Gosford's despatch, at about 100, whilst the prisoners amounted to about 120. The exaggerated nature of the previous reports now became apparent. There were neither fortifications nor cannon99 ; they were but ill supplied with arms, and so destitute of ammunition, that, it is said in some of the accounts, marbles (which of course broke into powder at the discharge) were used for balls. The troops, therefore, had little more to do than to take up a position at a safe distance, (600 or 700 yards, according to Colonel Wetherall), with their artillery, and resort to the firebrand and the bayonet only when confusion had been produced.
The persons residing in this county against whom warrants could not be served in consequence of the rising of the peasantry, appear, by Lord Gosford's dispatch, to have been J. J. Girouard, and W. H. Scott, the members for the county, the Rev. Mr. Chartier, curé of St. Benoit, Dr. J. O. Chenier, and Amury Girod ; the last of whom was a Swiss.
Of these Dr. Chenier was killed in the church at St. Eustache, Scott was taken at St. Scholastique, Girod made his escape at the time, but subsequently shot himself rather than fall into the hands of the volunteers, and M. M. Girouard and Chartier were not to be found. The circumstances attending Girod's death are detailed in a letter in the Montreal papers, written by one of the volunteers disputing for the credit100 of the capture with "one of the regulars," who appears to have claimed it to the great indignation of the volunteer.
It seems that about three or four days after the affair of St. Benoit, intelligence was received by a party of volunteers at Longue Pointe, just below Montreal, that Girod was at Pointe aux Trembles. The persons who gave the information acted as guides. On arriving at the spot, "at a small distance back," says the writer, "in a field adjoining the road and in continuation of the line fence, there was a short piece of close boarded fence, with another piece forming a right angle, behind this Girod had screened himself. The Canadian guide having advanced and looked over the fence, saw Girod, and retreated in great terror towards Higgins, (a volunteer), who was advancing, and kept advancing towards the inclosure. At this moment, it is presumed, Girod had seen Killigan (another volunteer) and me advancing upon the side of the inclosure running parallel with the road, and in consequence he stepped out of it by an opening into the field upon the other side of the line fence. He stooped on passing through, (so says Higgins, for I could not see it,) and on raising his head, seeing Higgins advancing from one point. Captain Clarke from another, and Killigan and me from a third, he could not but perceive that all chance of escape was hopeless. At this moment Girod called out, Halloo ! drew from his breast a pistol, which caused Captain Clarke to turn rapidly round and retreat some paces, and also caused Higgins to stop and raise his musket to the present, when instead of levelling at any of the party he lodged the ball in his own brain." On returning towards town they met parties of their own corps, of the cavalry and lastly of the rifles, all anxious for a share in the honour, no doubt, of the capture.
The body of the unfortunate man was conveyed into the city, where a coroner's jury was impannelled, when a verdict was returned of "Suicide, whilst flying from justice as a rebel."
But little is known to us concerning M. Girod. He settled in Canada a few years ago, and wrote in the papers on agriculture, and especially on the necessity of teaching it in schools. He always called himself a cultivateur. In 1835, he commenced printing a work on Canada, entitled "Notes diverses sur le bas Canada" the first livraison only is published ; it is a useful statistical collection, but not very skilfully arranged. Girod is said to have served under Napoleon, but he does not appear to have known much of military tactics. He appears to have been singularly rash and deficient in judgment.
M. Girouard after undergoing great hardships, surrendered himself to Mr. Simpson, the collector of the customs at the Coteau du Lac, whom he knew and at whose hands he could feel assured of the most humane and considerate treatment. Mr. Simpson, probably for that purpose of protecting him from insult in his adversity, accompanied him to Montreal, where he was immediately lodged in jail.
Jean Joseph Girouard, who has been long known to his countrymen as a very active politician, was born at Quebec, and is now about forty-two years of age. His father was a notary of very high reputation, ranking among the first lawyers101 in Canada. His father was drowned when he was young, and his grandfather and uncle both at different times, lost their lives by a similar casualty.
Girouard was educated at St. Eustache, under M. Gatian, the curé of that parish, and afterwards commenced studying for his father's profession, to which in due time he was admitted. He settled at St. Benoit, and soon acquired a very extensive practice, enjoying a high reputation as a légiste, his opinions on points of conveyancing (involving very frequently the multitudinous and minute rights and duties of the seigneurs and tenants), being sought in all quarters.
With such a reputation, it is quite impossible for any one in Canada to keep out of the Assembly, even if he were desirous so to do. He was accordingly elected one of the representatives of his county in 1831, and he has continued a member ever since, acting always with the majority.
M. Girouard is a man of extensive acquirements independently of his professional knowledge. His conversation is instructive and at the same time cheerful and animated, and his disposition is such as to cause him to be greatly esteemed by his friends. He is considered somewhat eccentric in his habits — a circumstance, which, in all probability, arises from his modes of thinking, and his associations generally, being of a character not likely to be thoroughly understood by his neighbours. From his great talents and acquirements, his energy, and his honest and uncompromising character, his surrender may be deemed to have conferred a great prize on the antipopular party.
Lord Gosford, in his despatch of the 23rd of December, thus sums up the result of the coup d'etat of the executive, and of the events embracing a period, extending from the 18th of November to the 16th of December.
Thus have the measures adopted for putting down this reckless revolt been crowned with entire success. Wherever an armed body has shown itself, it has been completely dispersed ; the principal instigators and leaders have been killed, taken, or forced into exile ; there is no longer a head, concert, or organization amongst the deluded and betrayed habitans ; all the newspaper organs of revolution in the province, the "Vindicator," "Minerve," and "Liberal," are no longer in existence, having ceased to appear about the commencement of the present troubles ; and, in the short space of a month, a rebellion, which, at first, wore so threatening an aspect, has, with much less loss of life than could be expected, been effectually put down. It will, however, still be incumbent on the executive government to maintain for some time longer a guarded and vigilant attitude.
Of M. Papineau's movements or place of refuge nothing is known ; and of the 20 other individuals who have been most conspicuous in the late insurrection, four have been killed, — Ovide Perrault, M.P.P., Julien Gagnon, J. O. Chenier and Amury Girod ; eight are in prison, — Wolfred Nelson, W. H. Scott, M. P. P., Desrivieres, F. Tavernier, R. S. M. Bouchette, G. P. de Boucherville, A. Ouimet and the Rev. Mr. Blanchette, curé of St. Charles ; and the remaining nine, mentioned in the margin, are supposed to be now in the United States. The total number of persons in custody on charges of high treason or sedition amounts to 169.102
The nine mentioned are the following : —
E. B. O'Callaghan, M. P. P.
C. H. O. Cote, do.
A. Jobin, do.
E. E. Rodier, do.
J. J. Girouard, do.
J. T. Drolet, do.
Rev. M. Chartier, curé of St. Benoit,
T. S. Brown.
Of these, M. Girouard, as we have seen, had surrendered himself, increasing the number of prisoners to 170.
In the course of our observations on the transactions on the Richelieu river, we stated, what appeared to us, some strong grounds for believing that the revolt was not premeditated — that, in short, its true character was a rising of the people to protect from arrest their most respected fellow citizens. The affairs of St. Eusfache and Grand Brulé, give additional colour to this supposition. Had there existed a preconcerted plan of combined and organized movement, some evidence thereof would assuredly have been imparted to the revolt. We ourselves have no pretensions to a knowledge of tactics ; but it seems evident, that the first effort of the leaders of an organized revolt, would have been to secure the means of free communication between the several parts of the country destined to form the theatre of that revolt, and especially with the supposed friendly people of the neighbouring States. In the case of the river Richelieu, we have seen how this could have been effected. It seems that, out of the force under Colonel Gore, 400, or certainly, not over 500 men, were deemed sufficient to garrison the whole line. Three times as many armed peasantry ought to have been sufficient for a similar purpose. The effect of this would have been, to enable the undoubted sympathy of the state of Vermont, and that part of New York bordering on Canada, to manifest itself in the shape of aids of arms, ammunition, provisions, clothing, and above all, of men, which, in such a case, could enter Canada without difficulty by the open path of the Richelieu.
With regard to the rising at Grand Brulé, an equally obvious course presented itself. On the St. Lawrence, about five leagues from the mouth of the Ottawa, is the Coteau du Lac, where there is an old fort, or block-house, which, at the commencement of the disturbances, was in a totally defenceless state. If there had been any preconcerted plan of operations, it seems to us obvious, that the very first step would have been, to march secretly across the county of Vaudreuil, and seize the fort in question. The effect of this would have been, first, to keep open a communication with Upper Canada ; second, to effect the same object with the state of New York, and thence, with the Richelieu ; and, lastly, to secure a large supply of artillery which has lain there since the war of 1812 — 15. All this might have been done, almost at one and the some moment, had there been the forethought which has been alleged ; and, it could scarcely have been prevented, even had the plan been known, provided every point had been attacked simultaneously. The whole regular force in Canada, does not much exceed 4000 ; and at the time of the rescue at Longueil, the volunteers were scarcely organized. Sir John Colborne could not, perhaps have taken more than 2000 men into the field, which force must have been much divided. In the actual case, he first subdued one section of the country, the other at the same time waiting his leisure, and then, concentrating all his strength upon that which was deemed one of the strongholds of the revolt, he finally subdued the whole district.
Another piece of evidence of the want of preconcerted plan, is to be found in the nature of the warfare. All the leading men in Canada are well acquainted with the history of the American struggle. It is an interesting period to them, for it is not to be denied, that they may one day or other have to enact it. Now, if the present had been deemed the time, they would certainly have taken some lessons out of the book of that history. What is the most conspicuous of these lessons ? evidently that an undisciplined peasantry should never meet the regular troops. In the American war, whenever the provincials met the regulars, the latter were victorious. They were continually gaining advantages, and yet in the long run, they invariably retired from the seat of war. How was this ? Simply because they were vanquished by the difficulties of the country. How was Burgoyne's army captured ? After being harassed by the riflemen planted in every bush, Burgoyne suddenly found his progress stopped by a sort of chevaux de frize of prostrate forest trees. From these he retired, when, to his dismay, he found that his retreat had been cut off by the same means. He tried the right — the left — the same barrier presented itself. To force a way through it was impossible, as it was covered by unseen rifles. To remain within the enclosure was to starve — he had no alternative but to surrender. Almost every road in Canada presents facilities for this sort of warfare. Across the hollows of the roads, trees might be thrown, so as not to be perceived by advancing troops until close upon them. In the confusion incident upon such a surprise, heightened by a brisk fire from rifles in the woods, nearly every single shot telling, their retreat might be cut off by a similar barricade in their rear — skilful axe-men could do this in less than ten minutes. In this position, a body of troops would be a prey to the rifles of the peasantry, or would be compelled to surrender. Of this mode of warfare, every reader of American history is cognizant ; and we feel confident that had there been any extensive plan as alleged, it must have been carried into effect — it could not possibly have escaped their notice. That it was neglected, affords, we repeat, a strong presumption that no plan existed.
The great error of the political leaders appears to have been withdrawing from the city in November; although, entertaining the feelings they did respecting the constitution of the courts of justice, and the measures of the executive, we cannot feel much surprise at the course they adopted. Had they, however, submitted for a while to the persecution which was designed for them, that persecution would, in the long run, (unless there be any evidence which has not as yet transpired to justify it), have reverted on their political adversaries. As for judicial murders, we cannot conceive them to be possible. A jury composed of the persons who thought it "ridiculous to fatten fellows all the winter for the gallows,"103 might have condemned, and an exasperated judge might have sentenced, but we are quite sure neither Lord Gosford nor Sir John Colborne, would have dared to execute, even had they been so disposed. Under these circumstances, we regret the withdrawal from Montreal, mentioned in the first chapter, as an unfortunate, though, we are bound to admit, a very natural error.
Here may be said to end the history of the actual disturbances in Lower Canada ; Sir John Colborne now finding himself in a position to dispatch part of his force to the upper country. Before we commence our narrative of the transactions in that province, however, there are some occurrences growing out of the recent state of Lower Canada which require to be explained. We allude particularly to the course pursued by the Constitutional Association of Montreal ; a body of intolerant men, who had for some time fallen into insignificance, from which they were suddenly extricated by the events we have related.
Accordingly, in the next chapter, we shall lay before the reader such facts and observations as seem necessary to complete the history of the events connected with the outbreak in Lower Canada.
90. Between the Island of Montreal and Isle Jesus, it is called La Rivière des Prairies, and between Isle Jesus and the main land, La Rivière St. Jean, or Jesus.
91. Page 68.
92. The two bridges mentioned in our description of the village at page 71.
93. Par. paper, No. 99, page 13.
94. This was apparently by the same order that Colonel Maitland was instructed "to change direction to the right with the brigade," so as to secure the bridges and road to St. Benoit.
95. Par. paper, No. 99, p. 14.
96. Chapter iii. page 43 and 44.
97. O'Callaghan, Duvernay, Louis Perrault, and Bouchette.
98. Par. papers, No. 100, p. 3.
99. There were two wooden cannon bound with hoops, and calculated to sustain three or four discharges.
100. Though it does not appear on the letter, it is most likely a dispute for the blood-money, £500 having been offered for Girod's apprehension.
101. Let us here remind the reader, that a notary is not a mere bill protester as in this country, but a conveyancer, and, therefore, a property-lawyer.
102. Par. paper, No. 100, p. 4.
103. See Chap. iii. p. 41, note.
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