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At the time of our story, this lovely country was de formed by the evil passions of men ; it was the centre of the revolt, the scene of its worst excesses. A numerous body of the disaffected were assembled here, led by a man named Girod, a clever demagogue, who had received a good education, but was devoid of courage or principle.
On the morning of the 13th of December, Sir John Colborne, the commander of the forces in Canada, with about thirteen hundred men, advanced towards this district from Montreal, along the left bank of the Ottawa. On the opposite side was the fortified village of St. Eustache ; the army crossed the river on the 14th, and invested it. The greater number of the insurgents, terrified at the approach of danger, fled in the night : among these was Girod; he was overtaken, and put the seal upon his shame by suicide. A brave, misguided enthusiast, named Chenier, with about four hundred men, threw themselves into the church and the adjoining buildings, and defended themselves with courage and constancy; but their cover was beaten down, and finally fired by the artillery ; their leader and many of their number were slain, the remainder taken or dispersed.
The next day the troops advanced on St. Benoit, where had been the stronghold of the insurrection ; a vigorous resistance was expected, but the leaders who were so bold in speech dared not act out their treason ; a deputation from the inhabitants came to beg for mercy; they said that those who had incited them to rise had deserted them in their time of trial. Their submission was accepted, and they were allowed to depart to their homes.
On the 16th, Sir John Colborne returned to Montreal, leaving a detachment to reduce the rest of the district; there was no further resistance. Many loyalists had fled from St. Eustache and the Rivière du Chêne, during the brief power of the insurgents, suffering much insult and hardship. When the wheel turned, these injuries were revenged in the blackened hearths of the defeated; the soldiery exerted themselves to the utmost to save the villages, and partially succeeded.
The three principal newspapers employed in spreading the dis. affection, vanished at the first outbreak, as did also the great leader of their party in the house of assembly : he, in after times,
expressed the strongest disapprobation of these scenes of violence and danger; and, while they were being enacted, gave a proof of his dislike to them quite convincing to his followers, by keeping his own person out of their reach. Many of his admirers, no doubt, regretted very much when flying from the law or mounting the scaffold, that they had not imitated his later proceedings as implicitly as they had acted on the plain tendencies of his principles. The next time he was heard of, he was safely settled in the State of New York. Perhaps, if the insurrection had terminated successfully, he might at length have overcome his horror of the bloodshed which purchased it. His ardent patriotism might have urged him to sacrifice his own feelings to the public good, and “ La Nation Canadienne ” might have had the benefit of the future services of its principal hero.
The troubles in Canada caused great excitement among a certain class of men in the United States : some, with a sincere love for freedom, and very many others with a still sincerer love for plunder, were moved to assist their Canadian neighbors, whom they called “ The Patriots.” These sympathizers assembled in large bodies, principally threatening the upper province. They thought it an excellent opportunity for playing the game in which their countrymen had succeeded in Texas; their opponents being English, instead of Mexican, spoiled the parallel. thizers,” —what soft and kindly ideas the name they assumed suggests ! Tearful eyes and cambric handkerchiefs, good Samaritan acts of tenderness and charity, soothing words of consolation. Not so to them their sympathy was given in the midnight assassins' bloody knife, in the torch of the merciless incendiary, in the ransacking hand of the rapacious robber.
Upper Canada was not without its hero: a man named William Lyon Mackenzie, the editor of a republican newspaper at Toronto, laid aside the pen and seized the sword; he assembled about five or six hundred men at a place called Montgomerie's Tavern, four miles from the town, on the evening of the 4th of December, with the intention of entering in the night. As soon as this decided step was taken, they arrested every one on the roads, to prevent intelligence being carried to the Governor, Sir Francis Head.
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Colonel Moodie, a worthy veteran, and three of his friends, were unfortunately seen riding towards Toronto; he was fired at from the Tavern ; fell, wounded in two places, and in a few hours was dead. The leader then harangued his followers, telling them that as blood had been shed there was now no retreat, and per. suading them to advance. The authorities were perfectly aware of the approaching danger; but, confiding in the loyalty of the great majority of the inhabitants, all the troops had been sent to the lower province at the first news of the outbreak there. The insurgents, styling themselves a provincial convention, published proclamations, calling on the people to rise and free themselves; in terms of blasphemous hypocrisy using the name of God to urge them to break God's law.
Some loyal volunteers manned the city hall, and orders were given to the militia to assemble immediately. During the night nothing occurred but a slight skirmish, in which the insurgents were worsted. The next day the governor had mustered sufficient strength to attack, but first made an effort to bring the deluded people to reason without the loss of life. In the meantime his opponent had seized the mail, and imprisoned several inoffensive individuals. A number of horses were also pressed for his ser. vice, and a neighbor's house was burned. Flushed with these achievements, the attempts of the peace-makers were useless.
On the 7th of December, Colonel McNab, with a party of militia, marched from Toronto, and attacked the tavern; the defenders, who were armed with rifles, made a short resistance and fled ; their leaders, as the governor quaintly describes it, in a state of the greatest agitation ran away. A good many prisoners were taken, but immediately afterwards contemptuously dismissed.
The news of this rebellious movement had at once roused the indignation of the masses of the population : from ten to twelve thousand men immediately crowded to Toronto, to give their services to the law. The day after its termination a public notice informed them that there was no occasion for their services in that place, and the forces of the Eastern districts were allowed to turn towards Lower Canada.
In the meantime, the ex-editor had escaped in disguise to Buffalo, in the United States, where, by the story of his wrongs,
promises, he succeeded in collecting a force of sympathizing Americans, who plundered the state arsenals of cannon, arms, and ammunition, and took possession of Navy Island, a little above the Falls of Niagara, on the 13th of December.
Supplied with stores and provisions from Buffalo, they threw up works, and threatened the opposite shore. Very few Canadians joined them. Proclamations from the Provisional Government were published from this place, offering a hundred dollars, and three hundred acres of land, in their future conquests, to every volunteer. Five hundred pounds were offered for the apprehension of the English Governor, the rebels stating that all the wealth and resources of the country would speedily be at their disposal.
They opened a fire of artillery upon the houses of the peaceable inhabitants of the Canada shore, but without doing much injnry. A body of militia watched their movements defensively. On the 28th of December, the steamer Caroline, employed in conveying arms and supplies to Navy Island, was boarded by some loyalists, led by Lieutenant Drew, an officer of the Royal Navy, while moored to Fort Schlosser, on the American shore, and, after a bloody struggle, carried ; she was then set on fire, and suffered to drift over the great falls. It was an awful sight; the blazing mass, floating slowly at first, but each moment increasing its pace, at length whirled rapidly along—all around, the red glare lighting up the gloomy forest, the broad waters, and the dark wintry night, as it rushed past to its terrible grave.
Exaggerated versions of this attack caused great excitement in America, but the undoubted piratical occupation of the vessel convinced all well-thinking people of its necessity, and the United States government did not agitate the question of the invasion of territory.
Soon afterwards, a sufficient force was collected to dislodge these invaders from Navy Island. A short cannonade from the north bank of the river, caused them to evacuate their position on the night of the 14th of January. When they landed on the shore of the United States, their leader was arrested and held to bail, and their arms taken possession of by the authorities. Other attempts were made by sympathizers, on Kingston and Amherst
burgh, but were at once defeated by the militia.
Another party having assembled at Point Pelée Island, in Lake Erie, the artillery and troops marched twenty miles over the ice to attack them, taking up a position which obliged them either to fight or surrender. There was a sharp resistance, many of the soldiers were shot down in their close ranks, from behind the wooded coverts; after some time they extended their files, to avoid the concentrated fire, and charged with the bayonet; the island was then carried, and most of the defenders captured or slain.
For all these forays, except in the first outbreak at Toronto, nearly all the marauders were citizens of the United States, and their conduct throughout was unredeemed by a single act of humanity, generosity, or courage. The Washington government, with good faith, tried to restrain these outrages, but the feeble executive was unequal to the task. Every night, houses were sacked and burned on the Canadian side. Amongst other depre. dations, a pillar raised to the memory of the brave Sir Isaac Brock, slain at the head of an English force in the last American war, was blown up with gunpowder, and much injured, by a man of the name of Lett, who was afterwards imprisoned for robbery in the United States.
On the 30th of May following, a party of sympathizers plundered and burned a Canadian steamer, the Sir Robert Peel, while lying at Wells Island, belonging to the United States, in the river St. Lawrence. The leader was a man named Johnson, of great cunning and skill; he managed to carry on his system of piracy and destruction for a considerable time, without interruption. For twenty-five miles below Kingston the Thousand Islands adorn the river; they are nearly two thousand in number, rocky, wooded, without inhabitants, and varying in size from ten miles long to mere rocky tufts. In this watery labyrinth, where the thick forests overshadow the river, these marauders lurked; they were provided with boats of wonderful swiftness, their expeditions were secret and sudden, and pursuit was vain.
In the month of September, several French Canadians were tried by the usual forms of law, for the murder of a volunteer named Chartraud, which had been perpetrated with cold blooded atrocity. The jury were exclusively countrymen of the accused,