The British Strike North of Montreal

The Battle of Saint-Eustache, 14 December 1837

Caption: The Battle of Saint-Eustache, 14 December 1837

But the Patriotes to the north of the city still held out. The arrival in Montreal of the 83rd Regiment gave Colborne the men and the resources he needed to march on Saint-Eustache, their headquarters. Colborne thus had the combined forces of the 1st, 32nd and 83rd regiments, 79 artillerymen with five artillery pieces and Congreve rockets, the Royal Montreal Cavalry, a company of the Montreal Rifles and a company of Saint-Eustache loyal volunteers; in all, there were some 1,280 British soldiers and approximately 220 volunteers. The Patriote organization was primitive and many members did not even have firearms. They thought they could get 800 combatants but eventually only 200 men, led by Dr. Jean-Olivier Chénier, lay barricaded in the convent, the church, the rectory and the manor in the centre of the village. To those who requested weapons, Chénier replied, "Relax, some will be killed and you will take their muskets." 96

Colborne placed his troops around the village and had his soldiers advance systematically to tighten the vise on the defenders. Towards noon he ordered the artillery to open fire on the centre of the village and then to advance up the main street and break down the doors of the church where many Patriotes had taken refuge. Two companies of the 1st Regiment were able to take the rectory nearby, and they set it on fire so that the smoke would make it difficult for those defending the church to see. The grenadiers of the 1st Regiment then took the manor and set it on fire as well, and then were able to enter the church through the vestry, which they also torched prior to withdrawing under the fire of the Patriotes in the balcony. Caught in the burning church, the Patriotes tried to get out by jumping from the windows, at which point the British troops made a final assault in a merciless struggle. This disastrous battle for the Patriotes lasted at least four hours; 70, including Chénier, were killed, against only three British soldiers.

Additional Images

Grenadier officer, 1st, or The Royal Regiment of Foot, 1838