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The Rebellion of Upper and Lower Canada in 1837-1838


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In researching this piece of our history, it dawned on me that no medals were awarded to British and/or Canadian Militias who participated in putting down the rebellion. I found it odd since they awarded the General Service Medal for the Fenian raids of 1866, 1870 and the Red River Expedition. Does anyone know why no medal was awarded?

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Who were the rebels? That sounds too early for Fenians (pre-potato famine)-- was it an Indian uprising?

Rick, they were Canadians revolting against British rule. The Rebellion called "The Patriot Rebellion" took place in Upper and Lower Canada and was put down quite quickly by the British and Militias.

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Maybe that was considered embarassing politically...

that and aside from Indian subcontinent campaigns, there were no general issue campaign medals between Waterloo and the late 1840s anyway, so by the time anybody might have thought of it, it was retroactive, "water under the bridge" "all best forgotten" etc.

Were people hanged for this? Communities divided, cross-border political refugees and so on?

Things were tense along the Pacific border of the U.S. and Canada during the 1840s and 1850s ("54-40 or Fight" being one mostly forgotten U.S. Presidential campaign slogan, referring to the desired border line) so perhaps this was considered... awkward dwelling on a past best swept under the carpet when Canadian provincial unity might need to be called upon.

We had some MINOR scuffling down here locally in 1787, "Shay's Rebellion." Shots fired, courthouses seized-- but aside from the odd sniper death, no serious casualties. Those involved faded back into their communities and the very few arrested and tried WERE sentenced to death but I think all were reprieved. All glossed over in the Washington administration. Having been sparked by excessive taxation of Continental veterans whose service to their country led to late and paper pay and the greedy demands of at home politicians for hard money tax payments, all rather embarassing to the new Republic.

Maybe the same sort of Eyes Best Averted up there?

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Maybe that was considered embarassing politically...

Were people hanged for this? Communities divided, cross-border political refugees and so on?

Maybe the same sort of Eyes Best Averted up there?

Got it in one, Rick!

Men (a few) were hanged or transported to Australia. Others fled to the US. In fact, Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King in the 1930's proudly showed King George the reward poster published by the King's grandfather in an effort to capture William Lyon Mackenzie, King's granfer. King kept it on his living room wall!

In Upper Canada (Ontario) the rebellion was over the attempt to get responsible government: a governor who'd have to resign if he did not have the confidence of the assembly. After some months of increasingly radical speeches, a number of rurals armed mostly with homemade pikes marched on Toronto. They met the local militia on the outskirst, each party fired one volley and both sides fled. The rebels were hunted down over the next few months and tried.

In Lower Canada the unrest was also fuelled by the fact that the governor and cabinet were English Protestants and the populace mostly French Catholic. Several nasty pitched battles between "habitant" rebels and British troops led to perhaps a hundred caualties and the next year there was even an abortive invasion from the US which led to a last battle "The Battle of the Windmill". Several hundred men tarnsported.

Hardly the stuff of martial glory, though key to Canada's political success. Are you bored yet? :P Even most Canadians can't get excited about this one. "We don't publisize nasty LITTLE local rebellions by people who look like us."

Peter

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It should be remembered that the Canada General Service Medal wasn't authorized until the 1890s. And it took incredible lobbying by the Canadian government to get the North West Canada Medal in 1885, H.M.'s Government replying that it was not customary to issue medals for "local uprisings".

The rebellions were followed by a period where the rebels, aided and abetted by Americans who wanted to replay the War of 1812, raided into Canada.

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Thanks for the input Guys. To touch up on casualties:

British/Loyalists: 30 killed

Habitant/Patriotes forces: A little over 310 killed

Three major battles (skirmishes by Civil war and European standards) were fought at St-Denis (Rebellion victory), St-Charles (British victory) and St-Eustache (British victory) in 1837. I live quite close to St-Eustache and went last week to take some photos for an article I am writing on another website.

In 1838, further revolts occurred and insurgents came in from mainly the US (canadian residents, not US citizens). A major battle occurred at Odelltown on the Qu?bec - New York border in which the Canadian Militias were able to beat the Insurgents. Several other skirmishes occurred and once the rebellion was crushed, a few hundreds were exhiled to Australia and Tasmania and I believe a dozen were hanged at the Montreal Prison. That ended the Rebellion but it paved the way for political reforms and the eventual setup of Canada in 1867. As a sidenote, after the Rebellion of 1837, General Colborne, the British Commander feared another revolt and asked Britain for reinforcements. He was sent two regiments, but not just any regiments: The Grenadier Guards and the Coldstream Guards. It was irronic that during 1838, all the fighting against Rebel forces were done by local Militias, hence Canadian against Canadian. Our first Civil War.

Ed, were you able to locate that article in the JOMSA?

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Danny

In a very good popular history of Australia - "The Barren Shore" - the author talks briefly of the exiled rebels and what a tough time they had there because, apparently, the average transportee was a patriot! The habitants were bullied and browbeaten and in a few cases beaten up for being rebels by the thieves, forgers and other british criminals. Queer world!

Another footnote: the current Law Society of Upper Canada building in Toronto is surronded by a lovely wrought iron fence dating from the 1840's or so. It's 10' tall, spiked on top and the entrances are enclosed in little cages with a V-shaped gate which restricts entry to one person at a time. All a good 30 yards from the building. Locals have told me "It was to keep the cows out." but it looks like a riot barrier to me!

My tuppence. Wher, if i may ask, are you publishing the article? I have a friend who's fascinated by the rebellions.

Peter

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Danny,

I have really enjoyed this post and would be keen to see the finished article, whilst I knew of the Fienian raids I had not heard of this, a quick scour of books also came up empty. It is fascinating the little bits (which weren?t so little at the time) of history that slip from our collective consciousness.

As I say please let us know when your article is finished..

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Danny

In a very good popular history of Australia - "The Barren Shore" - the author talks briefly of the exiled rebels and what a tough time they had there because, apparently, the average transportee was a patriot! The habitants were bullied and browbeaten and in a few cases beaten up for being rebels by the thieves, forgers and other british criminals. Queer world!

Another footnote: the current Law Society of Upper Canada building in Toronto is surronded by a lovely wrought iron fence dating from the 1840's or so. It's 10' tall, spiked on top and the entrances are enclosed in little cages with a V-shaped gate which restricts entry to one person at a time. All a good 30 yards from the building. Locals have told me "It was to keep the cows out." but it looks like a riot barrier to me!

My tuppence. Wher, if i may ask, are you publishing the article? I have a friend who's fascinated by the rebellions.

Peter

Hi Peter

I will be publishing it online at Armchair General's website. I've already got a few listed on that website on Canadian military involvement in world conflicts.

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Danny,

I have really enjoyed this post and would be keen to see the finished article, whilst I knew of the Fienian raids I had not heard of this, a quick scour of books also came up empty. It is fascinating the little bits (which weren?t so little at the time) of history that slip from our collective consciousness.

As I say please let us know when your article is finished..

Hi Stephen

There isn't that many books out but two that stand up:

1. Redcoats and Patriots by Senior, Elinor Kyte

2. (French) Histoire des Patriotes by G?rard Filteau.

Here is a reference: http://www.edunetconnect.com/cat/rebellions/

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Well, the online JOMSA index (1985-2000) has come up empty. Now on to old-fashioned pre-1985 searching . . . sigh . . . .

Thanks for your efforts Ed. I hope that will give us an answer on why no medal was awarded. After all, they awarded one for the Fenian Raids and the NW Rebellion under Riel. Just curious.

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NOT a commercial plug, but Chris Dixon has listed:

(Medal ID: 31254)

Upper Canada Preserved, Silver Medal for Merit

Upper Canada Preserved, Silver Medal for Merit 51mm dia, the edge impressed with number '50' and fitted with rings for suspension. SCARCE

Recipient: - ()

These medal were originally struck for the Loyal and Patriotic Society of Upper Canada as a reward for gallant service during the War of 1812-14 but were never issued as such.NEF ?750

Is this of any interest? (And, yes, off topic, but I thought it might have been of some interest. This MAY be the medal I am remembering from the JOMSA article, too. Will look . . . .)

Edited by Ed_Haynes
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NOT a commercial plug, but Chris Dixon has listed:

Is this of any interest? (And, yes, off topic, but I thought it might have been of some interest. This MAY be the medal I am remembering from the JOMSA article, too. Will look . . . .)

Can you point me to his website please? Thanks

Disregard, found his website.

Edited by Danny
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