The Upper Canada Rebellion

Mackenzie's Radicals Dispersed by Loyal Militia

Loyal militiaman, Frontenac County, Upper Canada, 1837-1838

Caption: Loyal militiaman, Frontenac County, Upper Canada, 1837-1838

When they learned the news of the Lower Canada Rebellion in Upper Canada, the radical reform followers of William Lyon Mackenzie, also called Patriots, decided to overthrow the government and declare a republic. The timing was particularly good, because there were no regular troops in the capital, Toronto (which in 1834 had dropped the name of York to take an Amerindian name). On December 5 Mackenzie marched into Toronto and down Yonge Street, with some 800 poorly equipped and undisciplined supporters, when a skirmish with a few Loyalists broke out, leaving two people dead. The incident led to the general mobilization of the city militia and volunteers, because most citizens did not want revolution.

Two days later some 900 Toronto militiamen equipped with two cannon attacked the 500 or so rebels - hundreds of others had already deserted Mackenzie's camp, for he was a superb speaker but a deplorable soldier - at their gathering point on Yonge Street, the Montgomery Tavern. The battle was brief and it ended with most of the rough-and-ready revolutionaries bolting at the first cannon shots. Only two rebels were killed. Mackenzie managed to escape to the United States but several of his lieutenants were captured.

These events turned the province upside down, because rumours of attacks by rebels were rife. Groups of Patriots met in the London area, but dispersed without fighting at the approach of a column of loyal volunteers commanded by Colonel Allan Napier MacNab.

Additional Images

Battle of Montgomery's Tavern, 7 December 1837