Bataille-de-la-Châteauguay National Historic Site

Photo by Michael Kleen

This small historic site and museum commemorates and interprets the Canadian victory that thwarted an American invasion and saved Montreal.

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The Battle of the Chateauguay was fought on October 26, 1813 between American forces under the command of Maj. Gen. Wade Hampton and British, colonial, and Native American forces commanded by Lt. Col. Charles de Salaberry near Allan’s Corners, Quebec during the War of 1812. It was an embarrassing defeat for the Americans, and this, alongside another defeat at Crysler’s Farm, persuaded them to abandon plans to march on Montreal.

The American effort to capture Montreal in 1813 was known as the St. Lawrence Campaign, since it focused on militarily dominating the St. Lawrence River, at the border of the United States and British Canada. In September, Maj. Gen. James Wilkinson and 8,000 men departed from Sackets Harbor, New York and advanced east along the river, while Maj. Gen. Wade Hampton and 4,000 men advanced north from Plattsburgh on Lake Champlain. Wilkinson was defeated at the Battle of Crysler’s Farm on November 11.

Hampton advanced along a road following the Châteauguay River’s north bank, while local French Canadians fed intelligence to Lt. Col. Charles de Salaberry and his men. Salaberry erected barricades across the road and blocked a ford over the river. Hampton split his force into two wings, each with 1,000 men. One wing attempted a frontal attack, while the other swung around the river and attacked the ford.

Both attacks were unsuccessful. The Americans stood in line out in the open, while the British Canadians fired from behind breastworks and felled trees (called abatis). Hampton, who had considered withdrawing anyway, didn’t call artillery forward to pound the defensive works. The result was a lopsided defeat, with the Americans losing 23 dead, 33 wounded, and 29 missing to the British Canadian’s 2 dead, 16 wounded, and 4 missing.

The War of 1812, fought between the United States and Great Britain between 1812 and 1815, arose from a dispute over maritime trade and U.S. territorial ambitions on British Canada. The war went badly for the U.S., with British troops burning Washington, DC in August 1814. A late victory by Andrew Jackson at New Orleans led to the perception the U.S won the war, despite the Treaty of Ghent establishing peace without any territory changing hands.

Today, the battlefield is preserved as Battle of the Châteauguay National Historic Site. There is a period log cabin and interpretive center with exhibits on the War of 1812. On the second floor, there is an interactive map that illuminates showing troop dispositions at various stages of the battle. Canadian Parliament erected an obelisk on the shore of the Châteauguay River in 1895 to celebrate their victory.

Battle of the Châteauguay National Historic Site, at 2371 Chemin de la Rivière Châteauguay in Howick, Quebec, is open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm June 23 to September 3, and weekends in September. Entrance to the museum is $3.90 for adults and free for children under the age of 17. Ample free parking is available on site.

Author: Michael Kleen

Michael Kleen is an author, raconteur, and occasional traveler. He has a M.A. in History and M.S. in Education. He enjoys studying military history, folklore, and philosophy.

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