The Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812

The Battle of Chateauguay

300 Versus 3000

Soldier, Light Infantry company, 3rd Battalion Lower Canada Select Embodied Militia, 1813

Caption: Soldier, Light Infantry company, 3rd Battalion Lower Canada Select Embodied Militia, 1813

On the morning of October 26 Hampton's army came into a clearing across from the first barricade defended by about 175 men. General Izard's American infantry brigade placed itself in attack formation. An American officer on horseback approached the barricade and, in French, invited the "Braves Canadiens" to join the soldiers of freedom to shake free of the British yoke. In response, Salaberry stood on a tree trunk, shouldered the musket of one of his Voltigeurs and put an end to his speech! Gunfire then broke out everywhere. While part of the American army was advancing towards the first line of barricades on the west shore, a column of 1,500 men under the command of Colonel Purdy, which was more or less lost, was slithering through the woods on the eastern shore to get around the Canadian position. These men suddenly came up against the two Canadian militia companies, who immediately fired a salvo at them and charged the American column. Surprised and confused, the Americans hesitated and then began to weaken, with several heading for the riverbank, where they were immediately met by gunfire from the Canadians on the other shore, which forced them to retreat.

Part of the American brigade attempted to go around the first barricade - a movement that appeared to succeed, because the Canadian soldiers began to withdraw. But no sooner had the Americans reached the edge of the woods than the war cries of the Amerindians waiting in ambush were heard, along with their gunfire; at the same time, bugles could be heard everywhere, along with the shouts of hundreds of men hidden beyond in the woods. Salaberry had asked Lieutenant-Colonel George Macdonell, who was commanding the lines of barricades behind, to make as much noise as possible. That was all it took for the Americans to believe that the woods were full of Amerindians and that the entire British army was on their trail! They beat a retreat. The next day Hampton and his army took the road to the United States. Thus ended the short American offensive against Montreal.

With only one man to every 10 Americans, victory initially appeared improbable to Salaberry and Watteville. For three days they even awaited a further assault. The Canadians - no British corps took part in the action - had only four dead and eight wounded out of the 300 men who took part in the combat. The Americans, who deployed approximately 3,000 men during the confrontation, had at least 50 dead. The battle was to have an enormous impact among the French-Canadian population, who saw in it indisputable evidence of their military prowess.