This Week in History


Salaberry Blocks American Thrust against Montréal

This story was initially published in 1998

On October 26, 1813, an American invasion of Canada was stopped cold at the Châteauguay River, Quebec, when a small Canadian force under Lieutenant-Colonel Charles-Michel d'Irumberry de Salaberry prevented 3,000 invaders from laying siege to Montréal. Although the Canadians were outnumbered, they held their ground and forced the Americans to retreat. Montréal was saved!

Charles-Michel d'Irumberry de Salaberry
Charles-Michel d'Irumberry
de Salaberry

© Musée du Château Ramezay, Montréal
At this time, Great Britain was at war with France. When the United States continued trading with France, ships of the British Royal Navy tried to stop them, and frequently searched American vessels for British deserters. This interference angered the Americans – they had been independent since 1783! The American "war hawks" also believed that it was their fate to control all of North America. Since Britain's best troops were already tied up in Europe, it seemed as if an American conquest of Canada would be quick and easy. On June 17, 1812, the United States declared war on Great Britain.

On October 21, 1813, American Major-General Wade Hampton crossed the border into Canada with a force of 3,000 men. He was hoping to join another American force, and together they would capture Montréal. However, the American forces underestimated the will of the colonial militia. Lieutenant-Colonel de Salaberry had a barricade and troops waiting where he expected Hampton to cross the Châteauguay River. Salaberry used an illusion to trick the Americans into thinking that there were many more than the 300 militia men actually on the front line. After four hours of fighting, Hampton lost faith and retreated. The failure of the Americans at Châteauguay left the St. Lawrence River under British control throughout the winter. Not only was Montréal saved, but the success of the French- and English-Canadian militiamen revealed a new sense of community. 

Battle of the Châteauguay National Historic Site of Canada
Battle of the Châteauguay
National Historic Site of Canada

© Parks Canada

On Christmas Eve, 1814, Great Britain and the United States signed the Treaty of Ghent, ending the war. No boundary or policy changes resulted, and both sides continued to build defensive fortifications for another half-century.

Battle of the Châteauguay National Historic Site commemorates one of the most significant battles of the War of 1812. Charles-Michel d'Irumberry de Salaberry is commemorated by a Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada plaque at Beauport, Quebec, his birth place.

This year is the bicentennial of the War of 1812. For more stories about the war, read This Means War!, Victory at Fort Detroit! and Action at the Canard River in the This Week in History archives. Commemorative events will take place at the Battle of the Châteauguay National Historic Site and all over Canada. For more information on the War of 1812, visit Commemorating the War of 1812 on the Parks Canada website. 

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