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Birth of a Canadian Hero

For the week of Monday November 18, 2013

On November 19, 1778, Charles-Michel d’Irumberry de Salaberry was born in Beauport, Lower Canada (present-day Quebec). Famous for his role in the War of 1812 when he led Canadian volunteers into battle, de Salaberry helped protect Canada from American invasion.

Charles-Michel d'Irumberry de Salaberry
© Parks Canada
Charles de Salaberry joined the British army as a young man of only 14 years. His father, Michel, was a friend of Prince Edward, the fourth son of King George III (and father of Queen Victoria). The privileged status of his father meant that Charles de Salaberry could join the army as an officer.

After serving in the Caribbean, England, Ireland, and the Netherlands, de Salaberry returned permanently to Canada in 1810. In the spring of 1812, he organized a volunteer corps of Canadians called the Voltigeurs Canadiens. When war with the United States broke out in June 1812, de Salaberry was already commanding approximately 300 Canadian volunteers.

The Voltigeurs fought in many battles throughout the War of 1812. Their most famous contribution came in October 1813 at the Battle of Chateauguay, when they withstood an attack by a much larger American force. De Salaberry tricked the enemy into believing there were many more Canadians than there actually were, which persuaded the Americans to retreat. 

De Salaberry House.
© Parks Canada / 2002.

Following the battle, de Salaberry discovered that he was not even mentioned in the report detailing the victory. Governor-in-Chief of British North America Sir George Prevost had taken all the credit. Exhausted and bitter, de Salaberry tried to retire from the army, but the prince convinced him not to resign. After the war, de Salaberry was finally recognized for his victory at Chateauguay.

De Salaberry left the army once the war was over and built a home in Chambly, Lower Canada. He lived there with his wife Marie-Ann-Julie, with whom he had four sons and three daughters. In Chambly, he entered the world of business and politics serving, for example, in the legislative council of Lower Canada and as a justice of the peace. He died at the age of 50 on February 27, 1829.

Charles de Salaberry was designated a National Historic Person in 1934, and a plaque at his childhood home in Beauport commemorates his accomplishments. The Battle of Chateauguay  and the De Salaberry House in Chambly , Quebec, are national historic sites.

It is the bicentennial of the War of 1812! For information on this, please visit Commemorating the War of 1812 on the Parks Canada website. To learn more about Charles de Salaberry, read Salaberry Blocks American Thrust Against Montréal. For stories about the war, see This Means War!, The Battle of Beaver Dams, and A Warrior's Death.

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