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Sketches Illustrating the Early Settlement and History of Glengarry in Canada
Chapter 26


Events in Upper Canaoa..—Supineness of Sir Francis Head —A Typical Address from the Loyal Men of Lochiel —His Characteristic Reply.—Toronto in Serious Peril. —Rescued by Colonel MacNab and the "Men of Gore." Murder of Colonel Moodie.—Navy Island.— Cutting out or the "Caroline."—She is sent over the Fails of Niagara. — "General" Van Rensellaer dislodged.—Trouble on the Michigan Frontier.—A Specimen "Proclamation."— Attacks at Amherstburg.—Rendezvous at Watertown.—Further Attacks in the West.—Departure of Sir Francis Head. — Advent of Sir G. Arthur.— Execution of Lount and Mathews.

With the exception of the occurrence last mentioned the Province of Upper Canada east of Toronto was not troubled either with insurrection or the attacks of brigand "sympathizers." In the west, however, it was different, yet as the Glengarry Regiments were employed in Lower Canada and in protecting the frontier of the eastern portion of the Province, I need not enter at any considerable length into a narrative of these events, as they will be found elsewhere in Lindsey's Life of William Lyon Mackenze, in Dent's two volumes of the Upper Canadian Rebellion, and other works. Early in December, 1837 the insurgents had narrowly missed capturing Toronto, owing to the supineness of the Lieutenant-Governor, Sir Francis Bond Head, who could not or would not believe that affairs had reached such a crisis, and this in spite of remonstrances while he had received from almost every district in the Province. Warnings had accompanied the loyal addresses of the well disposed, and yet Mackenzie and his fellows had been allowed to make deliberate preparation for revolt, to write what they chose, say what they chose and virtually do what they chose. The number and ardour of the address may have misled him. Mr. Christie quotes one, probably more or less typical of them all, from "the loyal and true-hearted Highlanders of Lochiel," forwarded shortly after the attack on Toronto, in which abhorence was expressed of the late foul and unnatural rebellion, and the signers declared "by the memory of the past, by the hope of the future, by all that is worthy of ourselves and of being transmitted down to posterity," that they were all ready to a man and at a moment's warning to march against the rebels of their adopted country. The following is the characteristic reply of His Excellency to this spirit-stirring address :

Brave and loyal Highlanders of Lochiel,

The few remaining rebels who dared to insult the authorizes of this noble portion of the British Empire, have absconded from its dominions, and the only enemies we have now to encounter are a band of pirates, who, under American leaders, have invaded our territory, for the avowed object of plundering our lands and subverting our revered institutions.

I feel confident, if this unprincipled aggression should continue, that, in one body, you will advance to exterminate the perfidious invaders of our liberties, or, like Highlanders, perish with your backs to the field, and your feet to the foe, And leaving in battle no blot on your name, look proudly to Heaven from the deathbed of fame!

Government House, January 13, 1838.

All this was very well in its way, and tallied with the dedaration of the somewhat dramatic Lieutenant-Governor, when, alluding to Papineau's threat that the people of the United States would assist a republican movement in Canada, he stated, "In the name of every regiment of militia in Upper Canada, I publicly promulgate. let them come if they dare." When Sir John Colborne withdrew the troops from Toronto to Kingston he offered Sir Francis Head to leave two companies as a guard for the capital of the Province, which Sir Francis rashly declined. It was then determined by the insurgent leaders that early in December they should assemble their force, which they anticipated would number about 4000, at Montgomery's tavern, about three miles north of Toronto, and proceed thence to the city, capture 4000 stand of arms which Sir Francis had left with the civic authorities for protection, seize the Lieutenant-Governor and his chief advisers, place the garrison in the hands of the Liberals, declare the Province free and proclaim a republic. They did accordingly assemble at Montgomery's, and but for some disarrangement of their plans as regards the date of attack, which was changed from the 7th to the 4th of December, their programme would probably have been carried out in its entirety. They were within half a mile of the city when some shots were fired by some of the people of the town from behind a fence. Both parties then took to their heels, the rebels leaving one man killed and two wounded. They rallied at Callow's Hiil, near Montgomery's tavern, but fortunately the "men of Gore," with gallant Colonel —afterwards Sir—Allan Macnab at their head, had arrived from Hamilton, numbering some 600, and a brisk fire from their artillery, a few volleys of musketry and a bayonet charge was sufficient. The rebels retreated in greatest confusion, with a loss of thirty-six killed and fourteen wounded, of the Loyalists only three being slightly wounded. Colonel Moodie, who had previously commanded the 104th Regiment of Foot, was cowardly murdered by the rebels when passing Montgomery's tavern on his way to warn the authorities of the rising on the previous day, and a leading "patriot" named Anderson was shot by Alderman John Fowell on attempting to make that gentleman a prisoner near Montgomery's, while a flash in the pan of the pistol in the hand of the same gentleman alone saved Mackenzie the same fate. Colonel Moodie was killed by a man named Ryan, who probably is now dead or he would in all likelihood have been pensioned by the same Legislature which recently handsomely compensated Montgomery for the burning of his hotel, which, with the house of Gibson, a Member of the Assembly, and who had a command under Mackenzie in the Rebel force, was ordered to be destroyed by the Lieutenant-Governor. Montgomery, I may mention, was subsequently tried for his share in these events, found guilty and sentenced to death, when his sentence being commuted to transportation, he escaped from Fort Henry, Kingston, when en route to Bermuda. It would seem incredible that he should have been compensated to anyone not fain liar with the views which find expression in the Assembly when the question of rewarding the surviving volunteers who suppressed the rebellion comes up.

After the affair at Gallow's Hill, Mackenzie escaped to the States by way of Niagara, a reward of 1000 being offered for his apprehension and 500 for that of Gibson, Lount, Fletcher and Loyd, the other leaders of this movement. Colonel Macnab and his loyal "men of Gore" were then ordered to the London District, where a Dr Dunseomb had actively encouraged isurrection, which Colonel Macnab's force quelled in the same satisfactory manner that they had dispersed the rebels at Gallow's Hill and saved Toronto when in such imminent peril. Mackenzie then raised the standard of rebellion on Navy Island, opposite Cuippewa, in the Niagara River, offered a reward of 500 for the apprehension of the Lieutenant-Governor, issued a ridiculous proclamation, appointed a scamp named Van Rennselaer "commander in chief" of his ragged force of refugees and Yankee sympathizers, which soon amounted to over a thousand men, and generally attempted to foment trouble, though his efforts in that direction, further than naturally producing considerable alarm in the neighbourhood, were as futile as might be expected. A steamer, the famous "Caroline," which was employed in their service, was captured by Colonel Macnab, Mr. Elmsley, formerly of the Royal Navy, Lieutenant Drew, R.N., and a force of volunteers on the night of the 29th December, set fire and sent over the Falls of Niagara. Just where she was taken appears somewhat doubtful, though the weight of testimony seems to show that she was cut from her moorings at the wharf at Schlosser, on the American side, by the occupants of the attacking boats, some seven in number, each containing about nine men, five of her crew being killed and several wounded. It was intended to take her across the river, but owing to the strength of the current that was found impossible, and she had to be abandoned to her fate. Her passage through the rapids and over the falls, a mass of flame, was a grand spectacle. The Americans professed great indignation over the affair, though their conduct in permitting the Canadian refugees to outrage the rights of asylum and practically allowing their own citizens in sympathy with them to engage in open war with a neighbouring country with which their Government was at peace, would seem to have stopped them from complaint, and the fact that the "Caroline" was ostentatiously and undeniably in the service of the rebel force on Navy Island, carrying articles contraband of war, to have rendered her destruction entirely justifiable.

Colonel MacNab was knighted for his services in this affair, and the House of Assembly tendered its thanks to the force engaged and voted swords of honour to Colonel Macnab and lieutenant Drew. It very nearly led to war between Great Britain and the United States. In 1842 the British Government expressed regret at the circumstance. The steamer "Sir Robert Peel" was burnt in retaliation on the 29th May, 1838, while taking in wood at Wells' Island, on the St. Lawrence, eight miles from French Creek, by a band of armed ruffians from the American shore, the passengers wantonly insulted and a large amount of money and other property plundered.

Sir John Colborne now determined to adopt in Upper Canada the same effectual methods by which he had suppressed the rebellion in the Lower Province. Although the season was mid winter, it was remarkably open, the St. Lawrence being navigable until the middle of January and the upper lakes and rivers free from ice. He accordingly forwarded from Lower Canada a sufficient number of troops to garrison the more exposed frontier posts, thus allowing the militia to attend to their respective districts.

Early in January, 1838, the American Government made a show of doing its duty in suppressing the outrageous proceedings on their frontier by arresting Mackenzie. He entered into a recognizance in $5,000 for his appearance and immediately returned to Navy Island, where he remained until Van Rensellaer and his ragamuffins were driven out under a fire of heavy guns and mortars directed against it by the artillery from Chippewa on the 14th of that month. Mr. Lindsey claims that the Buffalo "Committee of Thirteen" and not the "Provisional Government" directed the evacuation. I strongly suspect that the artillery men had more to do with it than either those high sounding organizations. The British loss during the seige was one killed and one wounded I cannot find that of the "patriots.'*

In the meantime another band of ruffians, under the leadership of a person named Sutherland, an American citizen, who styled him self "General of the Second Division of the Patriot Army," had assembled on the Michigan frontier, to the number of 1000 or 1200,, and a proclamation was of course in order. As this precious document, while containing the usual and appropriate lies, had the one merit of brevity, I give it as a specimen of what a long-suffering people had to endure: proclamation to the patriotic citizen's of upper canada.

You are called upon by the voice of your bleeding country to join the patriot forces and free your land from tyranny. Hordes of worthless parasites of the British Crown are quartered upon you to devour your substance, to outrage your rights, to let loose upon your defenceless wives and daughters a brutal soldiary.

Rally, then, around the Standard of Liberty, and victory and a glorious future of independence will be yours.

Thomas J. Sutherland, Brigadier-General.

Headquarters, 2nd Division, Bois Blanc, U.C., Jan. 9, 1838,

Associated with "Brigadier-General" Sutherland were the following distinguished warriors with their titles: Henry S. Handy, of Illinois, who before the advent of Sutherland was "Commander in Chief," Mr. Lindsey assuring us that his command extended over "the whole of Western Canada"; James M. Wilson, Major-General E. J. Roberts, "Brigadier-General of the First Brigade;" Dr. Theller, "Birigadier-General commanding the First Brigade of French and Irish troops to be raised in Canada; "Colonels" Dodge, Davis, Brophy, Bradley and others. Their object was a descent upon Amherstburg. They rendezvoused at the Island of Bois Blanc, in the Detroit River, on the Canadian side, secured cannon and several hundreds of muskets from the State arsenals of Michigan, which were placed on board the schooner "Anne" at Detroit without concealment, which vessel also brought another large detachment of Canadian refugees and their "sympathizers." So great was the feeling manifested in their favour on the American side that the United States marshal was utterly unable to prevent their proceedings, though plainly a violation of all international obligations. The Canadian militia were hastily summoned for the defence of the neighbourhood, and were found quite equal to the occasion. Several feints were made before they came to close quarters, which resulted in the capture of the "Anne," which had grounded, the militia plunging into the water, boarding and carrying her in the most gallant manner, taking twenty-one prisoners, three pieces of cannon, over 300 stand of arms, some money and a large quantity of ammunition, stores and provisions, the crew having three killed and twelve wounded. Sutherland, who had kept safely aloof, then retired to Sugar Island, off the American side, and procured a visit from Governor Mason of Michigan, who dispersed his men and arrested him, only of course to be set at liberty after the farce of a trial had taken place.

Van Rensellaer, who had figured at Navy Island, from which he had been driven in January, turned up in the following month at Watertown, in the State of New York, with his colleague Mackenzie, where with one "Bill" Johnson, a most notorious ruffian, they organized some 2000 men for an expedition against the St. Lawrence frontier. They had a rendezvous at French Creek, but the strength of the garrison at Kingston frightened them, and after considerable bluster they dispersed. Johnson, however, continued in the neighbourhood for some time and committed many depredations, the burning of the "Sir Robert Peel," one of the finest steamboats plying the St Lawrence, being his chief exploit. Alter this event he issued the inevitable proclamation. I do not know his ultimate fate, though I don't think he was ever captured, and thus escaped what he deserved, nor so far as I know has he had Montgomery's good fortune in being compensated for the "losses" he undoubtedly sustained.

A Scotchman named Donald McLeod, who was of course a General, was associated with a Colonel Vreeland in another expedition from the neighbourhood of Detroit. They crossed to Fighting Island, in the Detroit River, on the 24th February, where they met a small force of regulars and retired quickly with five wounded. They were then taken in hand by the United States authorities and dispersed.

Sutherland again gave trouble, a force under his directions numbering about 500, establishing itself at the end of February at Point au Felee, about forty miles from Amherstburg. They were dispersed by Colonel Maitland. of the 32nd Regiment, with a loss to the patriots of thirteen killed and forty wounded, in addition to a number taken prisoners, while of the British two were killed and twenty-eight wounded. Sutherland himself was taken prisoner. He was not convicted, however, owing to some technicality in his trial, and his release was ordered by the Government.

On the 6th March, 1838, Sir Francis Head prorogued the Legislature in a lengthy review of recent circumstances, and retired; being succeeded by Sir George Arthur, who was sworn in on the 22nd March. Sir Francis had some narrow escape in his journey to New York via Kingston and Watertown, where he was recognized and pursued to Utica. He was enabled to escape simply by distancing his pursers.

In the spring of 1833 executions for high treason commenced, the first to suffer being Samuel Lount and Peter Mathews, who were hanged on the 12th April at Toronto, their execution being witnessed from the windows of the gaol by Montgomery and others, twelve in number, whose sentences were commuted through the mistaken leniency of Lord Glenelg and the home authorities, and who eventually succeeded in escaping from Fort Henry. A special commission sat in Hamison for the trial of political offenders, while courts-martial assembled at Toronto and Kingston. Petitions were in order on behalf of those who had been taken red -handed and by those who still were in league with the Hunters' lodges and other kindred organizations, yet who bitterly complained when Sir George Arthur properly stated in reply to the "Constitutional Reformer of Toronto," that he was fully determined to allow impartial justice to take its course, that commodity being precisely what they did not want administered to their friends.


 


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