The Battle of Yonge Street
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Clashes in Upper and Lower Canada
The Battle of Yonge Street
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The Battle of Yonge Street

Encouraged by the news of the Patriote victory at Saint-Denis in the Richelieu Valley, rebels in Upper Canada decided to prepare their attack at the beginning of December 1837.

William Lyon Mackenzie, a member of the Upper Canadian Legislative Assembly and Mayor of Toronto, was convinced the time was ripe to march on Toronto.
On December 4, 1837, 150 men assembled at Montgomery's Tavern, just north of Toronto, to plan an armed revolt against British authorities. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
On December 4, 1837, 150 men assembled at Montgomery's Tavern, just north of Toronto, to plan an armed revolt against British authorities. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
In the absence of British troops, who hade all been dispatched to Lower Canada, he hoped to seize power and form a provisional government in Upper Canada.

Most of Mackenzie's followers were disaffected farmers. He summoned them to Montgomery's Tavern, a few miles north of Toronto. On December 4th, only 150 men had answered Mackenzie's call. They were tired, famished and poorly organized.

A rebel recounted:

"Little Mac conducted himself like a crazy man all the time we were at Montgomery's. He went about storming and screaming like a lunatic, and many of us felt certain he was not in his right senses."

Mackenzie and his second-in-command, Samuel Lount, a surveyor and blacksmith, were unable to agree when exactly they should march on Toronto.
Rebels clashed with militiamen loyal to the British crown along Yonge Street on December 5, 1837. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
Rebels clashed with militiamen loyal to the British crown along Yonge Street on December 5, 1837. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
They decided to sleep on it. The next day, Mackenzie and Lount decided to act. Twenty militiamen, loyal to the British crown, were waiting for them along Yonge Street. Mackenzie gave this account of what happened next:

"Colonel Lount and those in the front fired - and instead of stepping to one side to make room for those behind to fire, fell flat on their faces. The next rank did the same thing. Many of the country people, when they saw the riflemen in front falling down and heard the firing, they imagined that those who fell were killed by the enemy's fire, and took to their heels. This was almost too much for the human patience.
The city would have been ours in an hour, probably without firing a shot. But 800 ran, and unfortunately the wrong way."

Two days later, another confrontation took place. This time it was Mackenzie's men who were waiting along Yonge Street to confront the advancing militia. Half the rebels had firearms; the rest only had pikes and cudgels.

The clash was brief. The rebels dropped their weapons in front of the soldiers and fled. Militiamen and volunteers ransacked Montgomery's tavern and set it on fire.

Mackenzie, along with some of his comrades, made his way to the United States to seek refuge. But others were not so lucky. Samuel Lount and Peter Matthews were hanged in front of the Toronto jail four months later.

The rebellion in Upper Canada lasted less than a week.

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The Battle of Saint-Eustache and its Aftermath

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