Battle of the Chateauguay

The capture of Montreal had long been the first objective of the Americans. The seizure of Montreal would severe the supply line along the St Lawrence River, bringing about the fall of Upper Canada (future Ontario). The growing city, its population approaching 20 thousand, was thought to be an easy target.

In fact, Montreal had none of the natural fortification that Quebec City had exploited to great effect throughout its history. In July 1813, shortly after the first anniversary of the start of the war, Major General James Wilkinson was appointed the Commander of the American Army of the Center.

To tell the truth, his personal history was one marred by scandal, intrigue, trickery, and, most important of all, incompetence. Indeed, Wilkinson had three times been obliged to resign his commissions due to his participation in plots and conspiracies. But he had a good friend, Mr. John Armstrong, the Secretary of War.

Armstrong decided that Montreal should be the first target during the campaign of 1813. 4, 000 regulars and 1,500 militia were concentrated at Chateauguay Four Corners, just south of the border between Lower Canada (Quebec) and New York State, in the end of September.

The Canadians were well aware of the American forces at Chateauguay Four Corners. The commander of the Canadian outposts, Lieutenant Colonel Charles-Michel d’Irumberry de Salaberry had for months been receiving accurate intelligence from the farmers in the surrounding area.  Major General Louis de Watteville, the recently appointed commander of the Montreal District, had already ordered units of his militia to be called up. Salaberry ordered his corps, the Canadian Voltigeurs, to do breastworks. The Canadian forces amounted to roughly 470.

Thus they were outnumbered by a factor of more than eight to one. Colonel Robert Prudy, of the American force, led more than 1,000 men along the south side of the Chateauguay River in order to cross the ford to the north shore.

Another force of 1,000 men was led by Brigadier General George Izard, on the north side. Prudy and his men marched through the swamp and underbrush, led by ineffective guides who had warned Americans that they had no real knowledge of the terrain.

On 26 October, Purdy came under fire from the militia who had been dispatched to guard the ford. If only to escape enemy fire the Americans moved further north, where they were confronted by another group of Canadian militia. Izard’s troupes realized that the battle had begun. They moved to confront Canadians, but as they moved forward in a fashion more suited to the open warfare of a European theatre of war, they were met with the fire of Mohawks.

Thinking that they were outnumbered, the Americans retreated. In all, two Canadians and 23 Americans were killed. Dozens of Americans deserted. The Americans decided than ant renewed advance would only be met with failure. Thus the force of 470 Canadians had repulsed 4,000 American invaders.

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