The Devil’s Own, 5th SEM forgotten history during The War of 1812, argument, clearly supporting 5th Batt. SEM, part of 1st Militia Light Infantry Battalion, Battle of Châteauguay.
At times hard too remember all the details during War of 1812, the above from René Chartrand’s, British Forces in North America all though few inaccuracies from secondary sourcing, overall holds water. 1st & 2nd., Militia Light Infantry Battalions or MLIB were ordered grouped, consisting of the flank Coy’s of five SEM Battalions (only). It’s a shame Chartrand provides no footnotes on main source, considering his narrative G.O. 12 Apr. 1813 dated only from 30 June, downed on moi, could’ve used a secondary source, unknowingly using parts of the original source, while René dropped the ball on 5th SEM uniform. LAC’s archives or on-line, there’s no nominal roll found for 1st and 2nd MLIB or records. All war 1812 raised militia corps for Bas-Canada, were registered and incorporated with French names for the exception of one, LAC nominal names of all regiments are in English. The MLIB 1st and 2nd doesn’t appear in the Québec Militia registry, all other corps was registered, including the British regiments.
As it appears in, L. Homfray Irving, Honorary Librarian, Gov. Archive Published Militia Names and Officer’s Muster Roll, book of record, in the War of 1812.
THE MILITIA LIGHT INFANTRY BATTALIONS. §
- Lt.-Col. Hercules Scott, 103rd.
Engagements :—Chateauguay, 26th Oct., 13.
- Lt.-Col. William Smelt, 103rd, 24 May, 13. See 2nd Batt.
- Lt.-Col. George R. J. Macdonell, G. L. I., 14 June, 13.
- Lt.-Col. Robert Macdouall, G. L. I., 11 Nov., 13.
- Maj. Jean Baptiste P. D’Estimauville, Jr., 3rd S. E. M.
- Adjt. John Tupper Connell, Lieut. 1st, 1 April, 13.
- Adjt. George Jackson, Lieut. 1st, 23 May, 13.
- Q.M. John Duncan, Sgt. 1st, 24 May, 13.
- Lt.-Col. Peter William De Haren, Can. Fencibles, 19 May, 13.
- Lt.-Col. William Smelt, 103rd, from 1st Battalion, 6 June, 13.
- Maj. the Senior Captain of the Line.
- Adjt. Charleton, Lieut. 103rd, 25 May, 13.
- Adjt. John Le Couteur, Lieut. 104th.
- Surgeon Charles Waring, Asst. Surgeon 8th, 28 May, 13.
The right and left flank Companies of the Select Embodied Militia were by G.O. 12 April, 13, incorporated with the Light Infantry of the Line into two Light Battalions. Disembodied 25 Nov., 13.
The First Battalion was formed at Kingston, U.C., and was composed of the two flank companies of the 2nd and 5th S.E.M., and the first flank company of the 3rd S.E.M. (G.O. 30 June, 13.)
The Second Battalion was formed at Chambly, and was made up of the two flank companies of the 1st and 4th S.E.M. , and the second flank company of the 3rd S.E.M. (G.O. 30 June, 13.)
Source; L. Homfray Irving, honorary Librarian 1908. p.116.
Therefore 5th SEM, emblazonable 1st Militia Light Infantry Battalion. (1er bataillon d’infanterie légère de la milice). Inheriting perpetuation unit, Black Watch Royal Highland Regiment of Canada, emblazonable, 5th Battalion Select Embodied Militia, 1st Militia Light Infantry Battalion.
(However: Capt’s Levesque’s Coy, the 5th SEM under command of de Salaberry in the Battle of Chateauguay, Captain Debartzch, Coy 5th SEM under McDonell, both Coys reunited the next day after the battle when Salaberry turns over command, the defence to McDonell).
In the War of 1812, Battle of Châteauguay, online , wiki, and mainstream historians favour the account of 2nd Battalion Select Embodied Militia, while in a cameo appearance, 5th Battalion is presented. On one of Wiki’s page Battle of Châteauguay the 5th SEM isn’t even mentioned, even though 100 years ago the 5th SEM spearheaded this account. Owing too secondary sourcing, copy and rewriting from Historians/Authors avoiding plagiarism, the original published text was forgotten.
5th Batt. SEM 2 coys 156 men dismissed in historical accounts, battle of Châteauguay under MacDonnell’s, 1st Militia Light Infantry Battalion. MacDonell, from Kingston received orders to mobilise with his troops the GLI, to the southern tip of the island of Montréal, across Lac Saint Louis, joining forces with Salaberry on the Beauharnois side; commanded the frontline, the reserves were commanded by MacDonnell. On the Chateauguay River there was a shallow path the Americans could’ve easily crossed. Salaberry protecting his position, circa 1.5 miles away, posted behind tree barricades, Coy’s of the 2nd and 3rd Bn.’s of Select Embodied Militia under Capt’s Daly and de Tonnancoeur, with a Coy of Beauharnois militia under Captain Brugière as a whole 160 all ranks. Two Coy’s 50 men each of the Voltigeurs, OC. Capt. J-B. Juchereau Duchesnay, Capt. M. L. Juchereau Duchesnay both brothers. A Coy of Canadian Fencibles under Captain Ferguson 50 men and militia Coy from Beauharnois under Capt. Longuetin 100 and 20 Mohawks, OC. Capt. Lamothe. In continuous reserve positions, stretching 1.5 miles along the river from the tree obstacles to the narrow shallow crossing and beyond, 150 Mohawks, the main force 2nd SEM with 480, 200 local “sedentary militia,” and five Coy’s of the Voltigeurs circa 300.
The 5th Batt SEM was dismissed in historical accounts, battle of Châteauguay under Macdonell’s, 1st Militia Light Infantry Battalion. The only Ville de Montréal raised elite Incorporated battalion in 1812 were, La “Brigades des Devils or Devil’s Own,” 5th Battalion Select Embodied Militia, H.Q. Montréal. It’s “rank” raised from prominent feared and respected city lawyers, Canada’s present and future leaders. Chambers with other academics writ’s, “the officers of other battalions named then as such, owing a majority of the officers were lawyers,” however is this account fact?
“In the coming battle the defence of Canada will fall almost entirely to the French-Canadian militia. More than three hundred are already moving up the river road to a rendezvous point in the hardwood forest not far from the future settlement of Allan’s Corners- the Sedentary Militia from Beauharnois in homespun blouses and blue toques, and two flank companies of the 5th Battalion of Select Embodied Militia “in green coats with red facings,” this is the notorious Devil’s Own battalion recruited from the slums of Montreal and Quebec, and so called because of its reputation for thievery and disorder.” Source; Pierre Berton’s War of 1812.
Henry sent the report onto de Salaberry and immediately ordered the two flank companies of the 5th Battalion Select Embodied Militia (under Captains Levesque and Debartszch) with about 200 of his Beauharnois Sedentary Militia to move upriver and occupy the site de Salaberry had chosen for his major defensive position. By nightfall these men were camped near the edge of the hardwood bush about five kilometres below the ravines. The next morning de Salaberry arrived with two companies of Voltigeurs and Ferguson’s Light Company of the Canadian Fecibles. With the militia unites, they moved on, occupied the ravine, and began setting up their defensive works. Source; Charles de Salaberry: Soldier of the Empire, Defender of Quebec By J. Patrick Wohler, 1984. p.80.
Acclaimed J. Patrick Wohler, didn’t provide main source, copied, rewriting from the original text, and Pierre Berton sourced from:
An Account of the Battle of Chateauguay; a Lecture delivered at Ormstown, March 8th 1889, by W.D. Lighthall, M.A.
Extracts from the published lecture, p.16-28, as fallows:
Henry sent word to General De Watteville, at La Fourche, and had Captains Levesque and Debartszch advance immediately with the flank companies of the 5th Battalion of embodied militia and about 200 men of the Beauharnois division. This was the preliminary move towards the battle. They advanced about six miles that night up the Chateauguay from La Fourche, when they came to a wood which it would not have been prudent to enter in the dark. Next morning early they were joined by De Salaberry with his Voltigeurs and the light company of Captain Ferguson, an officer who took a front place in the affair. De Salaberry brought all these companies about a league up the bank to the place he had fortified, and there stopped. An American patrol party being observed in front, General De Watteville came over himself, visited the outposts, approved of them, and the work proceeded.
De Salaberry, on hearing the firing, promptly advanced with the light company of the Canadian Fencibles, commanded by Captain Ferguson, “flanked by twenty-two Indians on the right and centre,” and two companies of his Voltigeurs, commanded by Captains Chevalier and Louis Juchereau Duchesnay. Ferguson’s companies he posted on the right, in front of the abattis, in extended order, its right skirting on the adjoining woods and abattis, among which were distributed a few Abenaquis Indians. The three officers, Ferguson and the two Duchesnays, executed the movements required of them with the coolness of a day of parade. The Voltigeur company of the oldest of the Duchesnays, known as “the Chevalier,” occupied, in extended order, the ground from the left of Ferguson’s Company to the Chateauguay, and the company under Captain Louis Juchereau Duchesnay, with about thirty-five Sedentary Militia under Captain Longtin, were thrown back along the margin of the river, hidden among the trees and bushes, so as to flank Colonel Purdy’s men, or prevent him from flanking the Canadian position. Between the abattis and the frontline were a company of Voltigeurs, Captain Lecuyer commanding, and beyond them on the right a light company (that of the 5th Battalion) of embodied militia with their side pickets, under Captain Debartzsch; then, to the right of them, in the woods, the Indians under Captain La Mothe. There were thus in the front only about 240 Canadians. The positions, however, occupied about a mile along the river, and the rest of the troops—some 600—were distributed among the other breastworks, under command of McDonell.
De Salaberry master of the field, with scarcely 300 men in actual action, and no British guns anywhere within seven miles. Sir George Prevost, with Major-General De Watteville, arrived on the ground at the close of the engagement and overlooked De Salaberry’s arrangements, thanked him with great praise, and then immediately wrote an inaccurate despatch to England, in which he claimed the principal credit for himself. That evening De Salaberry wrote to his father-. “I have won a victor mounted on a wooden horse!”
After the battle was over the American firing did not cease, for no sooner did darkness come on than Purdy’s scattered command, moving up the right bank, commenced a most destructive fire on each other, mistaking them for the British, and they continued it the greater part of the night. The final incident took place just as day dawned on the 27th, when about twenty Americans, mistaking some of the Canadian militia on the left bank for their own people, were compelled by them to surrender. That day at dawn McDonell came up in command of Captain Rouville’s Company of Voltigeurs, Captain Levesque’s Company of Grenadiers (of the 5th Battalion Incorporated Militia), and sixty men of the Beauharnois Division. De Salaberry turned over to McDonell the defence of the abates or obstructions in front, and the hero of Ogdensburgh pushed on to two miles further than before. The day passed in expectation of a second attack, but no enemy appeared. (However; Capt’s Levesque’s Coy 5th SEM under command of de Salaberry in the Battle of Chateauguay, Captain Debartzch, Coy 5th SEM under McDonell, both Coys reunited when Salaberry turns over command, the defence to McDonell the next day).
Meanwhile, the straggling order which the nature of the swamp and forest imposed on Purdy’s retreat exposed him to rear attacks from the Indians, which were repeated after dark and caused him loss. A large quantity of muskets, drums, knapsacks, provisions and arms were found on Purdy’s shore, especially indicating the confusion just previous to their retreat. Upwards of ninety bodies and graves were found on that bank, among them two or three officers of distinction. On Hampton’s field were two dead horses, and the enemy were there seen carrying off several of the wounded in carts. The Canadian loss was only two killed, sixteen wounded, and four missing. Three missing were by mistake at first included among the killed in the returns.
Time now wore on, another night was passed, and the morning of the 28th arrived, when Captain La Mothe, with about 150 Indians, reconnoitred the enemy, who, according to the report of Captain Hughes, of the Engineers, had abandoned his camp the day before. A party of the Beauharnois Militia, supported by Captain Debartzch, (with 5th SEM) burnt and destroyed the newly-erected bridges within a mile of the enemy’s camp, which was now about one and a half leagues from Piper’s Road, i.e., about two leagues from his former position. On the same evening the Indians, under Captain La Mothe, proceeded through the woods and came up with the enemy’s rear-guard. Here a slight skirmish ensued, in which the Americans lost one killed and seven wounded. Hampton, having re-occupied his late position, called a council of war, where it was determined to fall back and occupy the former position at Four Corners, to secure their communication with the United States; from thence either to retire to winter quarters or be ready to re-enter Lower Canada.
“On that day or the day previous (5th SEM) Captain Debartzch, of the Militia, was sent to the American headquarters with a flag. When he stated the number and description of troops by which General Hampton had been opposed, the latter, scarcely able to keep his temper, insisted that the British force amounted to 7,000 men. On being assured of the contrary, he asked: “What, then, made the woods ring so with bugles?” Captain Debartzch explained this; but it was apparently to no purpose.” The Americans retired on the 29th. “On the 30th a party of Indian Chasseurs, under Captain Ducharme, reported that the enemy had abandoned his camp at Piper’s Road in the greatest disorder, and was on the road to Four Corners.” The Canadians followed up and hung upon the rear and embarrassed the retreat. Canada was saved!
Wilkinson’s army proceeded on its own course down the river, but was almost as ignominiously defeated at Chrysler’s Farm on the 10th of November, where his 3,000 or 4,000 men were matched, partly in open field and partly with the assistance of a ruse as at Chateauguay, against 800 British and thirty Indians, under Colonel Morison, a man equally brave and able with McDonell and De Salaberry. In 1847 it was decided in England, after much agitation, to issue what was called “the War Medal,” rewarding all those who had fought British battles during the years 1793 to 1814 and not received any special medal. Clasps were attached for each battle in which the recipient was engaged. A medal seems to have been given, as was meet, to almost every one on the field of Chateauguay, for 260 were distributed. It was, in fact, erroneously issued to some who were not present. One lieutenant, in particular, says Mr. Dion, is known from the De Salaberry letters to have himself lamented that he only came up the day after. The Indians and regulars also got medals. The simple record of what was done, however, is the best memorial of honour to those who were present on that memorable day.
Mr. R. W. McLachlan relates his recollections of one of the veterans at Montreal. “Clad in an old artillery uniform, he was always seen marching out alongside of the troops on review days. He was ever ready to recount his adventures on the day of battle. Although we have heard it often from his lips, all that we can remember is that: “De Yankee see me fore I see him, and he shoot me drouth de neck.”
It is the privilege of the men of Chateauguay to remember that their region is haunted by the spirits of heroes. “The dead still play their part” sings the Canadian poet Sangster, and here the musing thought must for ever conjure up De Salaberry, McDonell, the 800 waiting behind their breastworks in the gloom of the woods, the touching scene of Captain Longtin and his Beauharnois men, and the stubborn onset of Daly against overwhelming odds. The meaning of it all is: that given a good cause, and the defence of our homes against wanton aggression, we can dare odds that otherwise would seem hopeless; that it is in the future, as in the past, the spirits of men, and not their material resources, which count for success; that we need only be brave and just, and ready to die, and our country can never be conquered; and that we shall always be able to preserve ourselves free in our course of development towards our own idea of a nation.