The Battle of Saint-Eustache and its Aftermath
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The Battle of Saint-Eustache and its Aftermath
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The Battle of Saint-Eustache and its Aftermath

After the battles of Saint-Charles and Saint-Denis, there remained only one rebel stronghold in Lower Canada: the county of Two Mountains, to the north-west of Montreal.
British troops assembled at Saint Eustache, northwest of Montreal, to battle armed rebels on December 14, 1837. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
British troops assembled at Saint Eustache, northwest of Montreal, to battle armed rebels on December 14, 1837. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
On December 14 1837, General John Colborne led an expedition to the village of Saint-Eustache.

A young woman, Émélie Berthelot, watched his arrival.

"At ten o'clock in the morning, on a Thursday... a cold, clear beautiful day... the English troops marched down the King's Road, fifteen hundred strong, infantry, artillery, cavalry, the officers in full dress regalia. (...) The entire parade filed by at a leisurely pace, with a kind of defiance."

For most of the Patriotes, resistance against such a force seemed impossible. They retreated.

One of the Patriote leaders, Dr. Jean-Olivier Chénier, was determined to fight back. He and a few dozen men occupied the village church.
Patriote rebels and British troops fought in a church in the village of Saint-Eustache on December 14, 1837. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
Patriote rebels and British troops fought in a church in the village of Saint-Eustache on December 14, 1837. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
General Colborne ordered his artillery to fire on the Patriote stronghold. The parish priest, Jacques Paquin, who was opposed to the rebellion, witnessed the cannonade.

"All the cannons began firing together, battering the church with astonishing rapidity. The masonry was extremely solid and resisted a tremendous number of cannonballs as they were fired off, one after the other."

The church held out against the cannon fire for two hours. At dusk, General Colborne ordered a detachment of the Royal Scots to dislodge the Patriotes from their fortress at all costs. Lieutenant Lysons was among them.

"We got round to the back of the church and found a small door leading into the sacristy which we battered in (...).
We then turned to our left and went into the main body of the church (...) here the rebels began firing down our heads. We could not get up to them for the staircases were broken down, so Ormsby lighted a fire behind the altar and got his men out."

Before leaving the church, the soldiers set fire to the altar cloth. The Patriotes feared being roasted alive and so one by one had to flee.

Father Paquin witnessed the last moments of the battle.

"Realizing that all hope was lost, Dr. Chenier saw that he could no longer defend himself from inside the church, for it had completely succumbed to the flames.
He gathered up several of his men and jumped out of the windows with them, on the convent side. He was trying to escape, but he could not get out of the cemetery, and was soon struck by a bullet and collapsed. He died almost immediately."

Seventy Patriotes and 3 soldiers died.

In the days that followed, soldiers and volunteers terrorized the county of Two Mountains. Saint-Eustache and Saint-Benoît were looted and burned. In Saint-Joachim, Sainte-Scholastique and Sainte-Thérèse, the army burned the houses of the rebellion's leaders.

Some of the rebels tried to make it to the American border. But hundreds were taken prisoner. Dr.
Wolfred Nelson and the journalist Jean-Philippe Boucher-Belleville were among them.

Louis-Joseph Papineau, exiled in the United States, wrote to his wife Julie, who had taken refuge in Saint-Hyacinthe with their children:

"My dear and cherished wife - In my (...) flight I escaped so many and such close dangers, felt such tormenting anguish at the sight of the misfortunes of my country, my family, my friends (...) I sometimes think, in spite of the immense disasters suffered, that Providence will one day shine on us, liberating our unfortunate country, and uniting our family once again."

Julie replied to him:

When your letter arrived telling us that our future is as uncertain as the present (...) I was utterly disheartened.
Now that martial law has been reinstated and the troops to be deployed throughout the countryside have arrived, I am terribly afraid that we are to have our share of troubles, just as we had for a good part of the winter."

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