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Sketches Illustrating the Early Settlement and History of Glengarry in Canada
Chapter 27

Further Attacks on Border Towns in Upper Canada.— Colonel Prince's Laconic Despatch.—Glengarry Regiments and others garrison Cornwall in winter of 1838-9.— Officers on Particular Service - Colonels Turner, K.H, and Carmichael,—Their Thanks to the; Militia of District. — Letters of both to Colonel Fraser, Commanding Charlottenburg Regiment.— Arrival of Sir James Macdonell, in Command of Brigade of Guards.—His Great Military Career.—Defence of Hougoumont.—Invested with Order of the Bath by Sip John Colborn.—Addresses of Magistrates of Glengarry and Stormont on his Arrival and Departure.

War with the United States being a possible contingency, owing to the ill-feeling in both countries arising over the "Caroline" affair and the Maine boundary matter on the one hand and the frequent and outrageous attacks upon our frontier towns on the other, Sir John Colborne therefore sent engineer officers to all posts where troops or fortifications were required. At Amherstburg, Fort Maiden was repaired, barracks were commenced at London, Fort Mississaga at Niagara was strengthened, additional barracks were constructed at Toronto, the works at Kingston were strengthened, Fort Wellington at Prescott rendered impregnable to sudden attack, and more troops were forwarded to various points.

Notwithstanding these precautions, a body of sympathizers crossed near Niagara and committed considerable depredations. Thirty of them were taken prisoners as well as their leader Morrow, who subsequently suffered the death penalty. Simultaneously with this, bodies of "patriots" penetrated into the London District, rescued a number of state prisoners and plundered some of the inhabitants, when they were taken in hand by the Indians, and badly routed, several of them being taken prisoners. At Goderich also a body of them made their appearance in a sloop, and after committing some robberies in the shops, escaped. Nothing further transpired until November, when took place the attack on Prescott, and the battle at the Windmill already described, and another invasion on Amherstburg on the 4th December, when some four hundred and fifty miscreants crossed, marched upon Windsor, captured a few militia guarding it, burned the steamer "Thames" and some buildings, murdered a negro and proceeded to Sandwich, brutally murdering Surgeon Hume, of the Regular Army, who happened to meet them, and mutilating his body in a shocking manner.

They were then met by Colonel Prince, who attacked and routed them. killing twenty-one of their number. Some prisoners were brought in shortly after the engagement and properly dealt with by Colonel Prince. His despatch states the facts: "Of the brigands and pirates twenty-one were killed, besides four who were brought m just at the close, whom I ordered to be shot on the spot, which was done accordingly." Twenty-six prisoners were shortly afterwards taken and reserved for the authorities to deal with. The remainder escaped, except nineteen who concealed themselves in the woods, and, unable to re-cross to their friends, were shortly afterwards found frozen to death. This practically closed the rebellion, though affairs remained in an unsettled condition for some time. One hundred and eighty of those taken at the Windmill and elsewhere were tried before general courts-martial at Fort Henry (Kingston) and London early in 1839 and sentenced to be hanged, the great majority having their sentences commuted. Ten were hanged n Kingston, including Von Schultz. Of the remainder, most of them were sent to Van Dieman's Land, where many died, the remainder being eventually pardoned and many of them returned to Canada.

The militia, though some of them had been out on three different occasions, were liable to be again called on at a moment's notice. Thus, among Colonel Fraser's papers I find the following letter from the distinguished officer on Particular Service commanding in this District:

Cornwall, 20 min. to 10 a.m., 22nd November, 1838.

My Dear Colonel,—I wish to see you in here as soon as possible. I fancy some very important information has come to light regarding the American Government. Two Regiments of Glengarry's are immediately to be stationed in this town. In haste Yours very faithfully,

C E. Turner, Colonel Com'g.

To Colonel Fraser, 1st Glengarry Militia.

Judge Pringle states that during the fall of 1838 and the early part of 1839 First Provisional Battalion under Lieutenant-Colonel Vankoughnet, the third (Lochiel) Regiment of Glengarry Militia under Colonel Alexander Chisholm, the Fourth Provisional Battalion (practically the Lancaster Regiment of Glengarry Militia under Colonel Donald Greenfield Macdonell, Major Jarviss troop of Lancers, Captain Crawford's Independent Company of Infantry and Captain Pringle's Company of Artillery were ail stationed it. Cornwall, which must have had the appearance of a garrison town. At the same time the Fifth Provisional Battalion under Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Fraser (no doubt largely composed of the officers and men of the Charlottenburg Regiment of Militia) was raised in Glengarry, and was on duty along the front of that County, the headquarters I believe being at Lancaster; and the First Regiment of Stormont Militia under Colonel Donald Æneas Macdonell was on duty in the Township of Cornwall. In the spring of 1839 the First Stormont, the Third Glengarry and Captain Pringle's Company of Artillery were relieved from duty, while later in the season the Provisional Battalions were also relieved. The Government then authorized the formation of the Fifth Battalion of Incorporated Militia under Lieutenant-Colonel Vankoughnet, which evidently caused some friction, as I observe in a letter from Colonel Turner to Colonel Fraser the statement (of which I had previously known), "I can neither make head or tail of Colonel Macdonell in consequence of Colonel Vankoughnet being employed in preference to himself, and it would not surprise me, from the manner in which he and his friends are now acting, if the company or his son will not continue their services any longer than the end of this month.'' Similar trouble or, a larger scale had occurred before, when Glengarry men in Scotland were not given the post of honour, which they deemed their services had earned. Their pride and prejudices have always to be reckoned with, and I can easily understand how little they would like the imputation (probably never intended) that they were not capable of defending their own frontier!

At the expiration of two years Colonel Vankoughnet's Regiment was re-enlisted for two years, and remained in Cornwall until April or May, 1842, when the Fourth Incorporated Battalion, which had been stationed at Prescott, was sent to Cornwall, the Fifth going to Prescott. In May, 1843, all the five incorporated battalions were disbanded. They were clothed and armed as the regular troops and are fully eqaual to them in drill and efficiency, and had they been kept on foot would have formed an excellent nucleus for the training of our militia and volunteers.

Early in the rebellion the authorities in England had sent out Officers of experience to take command of the militia and superintend the formation and drill of the regiments and companies ordered out for service. Judge Pringle gives the names and stations of these officers as follows: Colonel Chichester, Chatham; Colonel Marshall, Brockville; Colonel Cox, K.H., Whitby; Colonel Carmichael, Lancaster and Coteau du Lac; Colonel Young and afterwards Colonel Williams, Prescott; Captain Baron de Rottenburg, Belleville ; Captain Swan, Niagara; Colonel Tturner, K H., Cornwall.

The Town Major of Cornwall during the stirring times from 1838 to 1843 was Major Donald McDonald; who had been a lieutenant in the Fortieth Regiment and had previously seen much service in the Forty-Second (Black Watch) Highlanders. He had the Peninsutar medal with ten clasps for Corunna, Frentes D'Onor, Ladaioz, Salamanca, Vittoria, Pyrenees, Nivelie, Nive, Orthes and Toulouse.

Colonel Carmichael, who had seen so much of the CharIotenburg Regiment during its several periods of service, was presented with an address by its officers oft his removal to Prescott. His reply was as follows :

Prescott, May 24, 1839

Gentlemen,—I beg you will accept my very best thanks for the address you were pleased to present to me at Lancaster on my way to this District.

During the time I have been employed amongst you your zeal and good conduct could not have been surpassed, and there cannot be a stronger proof of your attention to your duty than my never having a single complaint from any of the men who served in the Fifth Provisional Battalion last winter.

That you may long enjoy the confidence and support of your loyal and brave countrymen to uphold the reputation of Glengarry is my sincere wish.

L. Carmichael, Col. P.S. Col. the Hon'ble Alexander Fraser and officers of the 1st Regiment of Glengarry Militia.

Colonel Turner on the 29th April, 1839, in District Orders, stated that he could not permit so many of the brave, loyal militia of the District to return to their homes without returning them his best thanks for their zeal, indefatigable attention to their drill, discipline in the field and their exemplary conduct in quarters, instancing the fact that while on service under him not a complaint had reached his ear from those who had so nobly come forward in defence of their Most Gracious Queen's dominions in Canada, and of the glorious and happy Constitution under which by God's blessing they were permitted to live, and of which a set of unprincipled rebels and remorseless vagabonds and brigands from the United States, who had no fear of God nor regard for civilized and humane laws, had endeavoured in vain to deprive them of. He mentioned that he had received from the several commanding officers of corps in the District so cordial a support as to render his duty pleasing and easy; begged them to accept his special thanks and to convey the same to those officers under them, and trusted that God's blessing would attend all. officers and men, and that happiness and prosperity would crown their labours in their different occupations in life, assuring them that he knew well that should their services ever again be required they would all with willing hands and stout hearts again take the field to put down unnatural rebellion, and drive from their happy soil pirates and brigands who should dare to put foot on it.

Such language, though not now the mode in the Legislature of the Province, had the ring in it which appealed to the hearts of the men of half a century ago.

I have been so fortunate as to procure the letters which Colonels Turner and Carmichael addressed to Colonel Fraser on their return to England, and cannot do better than to give them both in full:

Cornwall, 12th April, 1843.

My Deal Colonel Fraser,—I cannot quit the command of this loyal District, which I have had the honour to hold for upwards of five years, without expressing to you how much I have valued your useful services to your Queen and country and to myself for your advice and information In a time of great excitement in the country, and when I was an entire stranger in the District, and which advice and information I always found correct and for the benefit of Her Majesty's service and the good of the District and of the brave militia in which I had the good fortune to command during the disturbances in this country—and for which I now tender you my sincere thanks. And I beg in the name of Mrs. Turner and myself to acknowledge our obligations to you and Mrs. Fraser for the kindness and hospitality so often shown to us and our family, and sincerely do we hope that by the blessing of God yourself and family may continue to prosper and be happy to the end of your days, which we pray may be long and past in peace and tranquility. God bless you all, and believe me, my dear Colonel, Your very sincere friend, C. B. Turner, Colonel Particular Service.

Colonel Carmichael wrote as follows:

Williamstown, 21st May, 1843.

My Dear Colonel Fraser,—Previous to my departure from this country, I beg you to accept my warmest acknowledgments for the able assistance you have given me in the performance of my duty during the last five years, which from your well-earned influence among your countrymen, was on every occasion most valuable, and cannot in the future fail to be of the utmost service to Government.

The soldier-like manner in which you have conducted the First Glergarry Regiment was most creditable, and no country can boast of a better corps, in appearance, good feeling and loyalty.

That you may long retain your high position among such the men is my sincere wish. Always believe me, yours very sincerely-

L. Carmichael, Lt.-Col. P. S.

Colonel the Honourable Alexander Fraser, Glengarry,

The advent to Canada of Sir James Macdonell during the rebellion in the position of second in command of the British forces under Sir John Colborne, was naturally regarded with great gratification by the people of Glengarry. He arrived at Quebec on the 9th May, 1838, in H. M.S. "Edinburgh", which was accompanied by the "Inconstant" frigate and the troop ships "Apollo" and "Athol," bringing the Second Battalion Grenadier Guards and the Second Battalion Coldstream Guards, the whole under the command of Sir James. He was on the 28th June following, together with Vice-Admiral the Honourable Sir Charles Paget, G.C.H., Lieutenant-Colonel the Honourable C Grey, the Honourable Colonel Charles Coupei and the Honourable Charles Buller, appointed a member of Lord Durham's Special Council.

He was one of the most renowned soldiers of the day. In the Service he was known as the ' Hero of Hougoumont," and throughout the Empire he had for years borne the glorious appellation of "The Bravest Man in Britain." He was the third son of Duncan Macdonell, 14th Chief of Glengarry, by Marjory, daughter of Sir Ludovic Grant, Bart, of Dalvey, and a brother of Alastair Ranaldson Macdonell, 15th Chief, described by Mackenzie as "being truly called the last specimen of the Highland Chiefs of history, and who is stated to have been, in the most favourable features of his character, Scott's original for Fergus MacIvor."

He had obtained his commission in the Coldstream Guards in 1796. and with his regiment had taken part in the expedition to Naples and Calabria in 1805 and 1806. He had rendered most important service in Egypt, and subsequently in Portugal, Spain, France and Flanders. He had received one of the few gold medals given for Maida. It was at Waterloo, however, that he covered himself with greatest glory. He was then a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Guard and was in the Second Brigade of the First Division, under General Sir J Byng, afterwards Field Marshal the Earl of Strafford. On the eve of the 18th of June it was decided that Lieutenant-Colonel Macdonell with the Second Battalion of the Coldstream Guards should have charge of the buildings of Hougoumont. while Lord Saltoun should hold the orchard and wood. The Rev Mr. Gleig. in "The Story of the Battle of Waterloo," describes the defence: "Hougoumont was felt to be a point of vital importance, and Napoleon calculated that could he make himself master of that he might suspend all future operations in this quarter and turn his undivided strength against the allied left. Wherefore clouds of men rushed down to sustain the advance, which, having won the wood, appeared to be on the eve of winning the Chateau likewise. * * * Dense masses of assailants rushed against the gates, and shouted as they flew open, and then began such a struggle as does not often occur in modern warfare. Not a foot would the defenders yield. Not for a moment or two would the assailing party withdraw. At last the bayonets of the Guards carried all before them, and five individuals, Lieutenant-Colonel (now Lieutenant-General) Macdonell, Captain (now Lieutenant-General) Wyndham, Ensign (now Lieutenant-Colonel) Gooch, Ensign Harvey and Sergeant Graham, by sheer dint of personal strength and extraordinary bravery and perseverance, succeeded in closing the gate and shutting the enemy out."

Sir Walter Scott concludes "The Field of Waterloo" by the following reference to the defence of Hougoumont:

Yes, Agincourt may be forgot,
And Cressv be an unknown spot,
And Blenheim's name be new;
But still in story and in song
For many an age remembered long
Shall live the Towers of Hougoumont
And Field of Waterloo.

Mr. Southey, in his "Pilgrimage to Waterloo," thus refers to it:

But would thou tread this celebrated ground,
And trace with understanding eyes a scene
Above all fields of war renowned,
From Western Hougoumont thy way begin;
There was our strength on that side, And there first
In all its force, the storm of battle burst.

Sir James was created a K.C.H. in 1837 and a K.C.B. in September, 1838, his investiture with the latter Order taking place in this country, the Governor-General, Sir John Colborne, acting by deputation from Her Majesty. The Quebec papers of the day contained interesting accounts of the ceremony, which was attended with great military pageant, guards of honour, waving banners, a splendid cortege and military music. On either side of the Throne were placed the colours of the Grenadier Guards and Seventy-First Highlanders, of which Regiment Sir James afterwards became Colonel. Sir John Colborne, in his highly complimentary address to Sir James, alluded to his services in Egypt, the Peninsula and at Waterloo, and expressed his gratification at being the Queen's representative to thus honour so distinguished a soldier and so faithful a subject. "Nothing," said the "Herald," "could be more imposing than to witness a war-worn hero like Sir John Colborne, covered with wounds and wearing numerous stars and orders as the reward of his heroism, being the means of bestowing a mark of Her Majesty's favour on one who had with him opposed and triumphed over the gigantic power of Napoleon" "With much grace and propriety," says Dr. Henry, m his "Recollections of a Staff Officer," "one eminent soldier was thus the Royal Representative in conferring this honour on another gallant companion in arms; and that well tried sword which had led the Fifty-Second to victory on many a hard-fought field and finally waved before them when they routed a column of Napoleon's Guards on the evening of Waterloo, was now most fitly employed in bestowing knighthood on the. stalwart and indomitable defender of Hougoumont." Sir James, in addition to the gold medal for Maida and the Waterloo medal, had the Peninsular medal with clasps for Salamanca, Vittoria, Neville and the Nive. He had also received the Order of Maria Theresa, and was slso Knight (fourth class) of St. Vladimir. He was principal Equerry to the Queen Dowager.

He was, of course, a frequent visitor to his friends and relatives in Glengarry during his command in Canada. Upon the occasion of his first visit he was presented with an address by the leading gentry of the County and the adjoining County of Stormont. The original of his answer is in my possession and is as follows:

To the Inhabitants of the Counties of Glengarry and Stormont,

Gentlemen,—I return you my most sincere thanks for the congratulation with which you have met my arrival amongst you, and for the marks of affectionate kindness I have received in the Counties of Glengarry and Stormont. From the moment in which I received the intimation that Her Majesty had been graciously pleased to approve of my nomination to the Staff of British North America, I promised to myself the pleasure of visiting you, and I looked for welcome, not on my own account, but for the sake of my deserted brother, who, when in life, loved you more than life itself thro' me you have honoured his memory, and have thus convinced me that Highland hearts beat as warmly in the Canadas as on the heath-covered mountains of our Mother Country.

Gentlemen, you have justly said that it is not necessary to assure me of your warm and unshaken attachment to your Sovereign and the Constitution of the Parent State: You have proved it by your past conduct, and should circumstances again call for your active services, I know you will uphold the character you have already established.

J. Macdonell, Major-Ger'l.

To the address presented to him on his retirement from his command he made the following reply:

To the Magistrates and other Inhabitants of the Counties of Glengarry and Stormont,

Gentlemen, —I have received with no ordinary feelings of pride and gratification the address which has been presented to me. I am conscious that your expressions of regret at my approaching retirement from the command I have had the honour of holding in this country, spring from no other source than that of a pure and kindly character; and the assurance you convey to me of your loyalty and attachment to our Beloved Queen enhances your tribute of regard.

Your allusion to my military services I estimate as a soldier, and with the pride of one shall ever gratefully remember.

Should it please my most gracious Sovereign to again require my services, it will be my duty to obey, and believe me when I assure you that that portion of Her Majesty's Canadian possessions, which contains a population of such devoted zeal and fidelity as that of the Counties of Glengarry and Stormont, shall never be forgotten by me.

I am truly sensible of your esteem and regard, and shall derive no small degree of consolation when far removed from all intercourse with you by reflecting that the ties which bind us to each other are those of loyalty and honour.

Your allusion to the memory of my departed brother !s grateful to my heart. If, as you justly designate him. "the noble, highlander and patriotic Glengarry," how truly have those who this day honour me with their kindly expressions of attachment, cherished his memory by me in the hour of danger, maintaining the honour of their country.

And now, gentlemen, permit me to bid you farewell, and to once more assure you that individually and collectively I shall pray for your happiness and prosperity.

J. Macdonnell, Lt.-Gen'l.

Srr James Macdonell had evidently, previous to his leaving Canada, been offered the command of the Forces or the Lieutenant-Governorship of the Upper Province, as I find the following in one of his letters (December, 1840) relating to family masters, "I have declined Uppei Canada, as the brevet which I confidently look for must remove me from the Staff of North America, and if even a brevet should not appear, I mean to return to England with the Brigade of Guards should they be called home in spring or summer which is more than probable."

Sir James died unmarried in 1857.


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