By : Dennis Stein
In November of 1813, as part of the American campaign near the end of the war of 1812, one of the pivotal battles in Canada's early history took place on muddy fields east of present day Morrisburg. The real target of the American invasion was Montreal, and those in Washington believed that Canada would be taken easily...
Two separate American militia corps were involved. One, commanded by Wade Hampton and numbering around 4000, planned to move on Montreal at Chateauguay. The other much larger force was commanded by James Wilkinson, numbering close to 8000, and moving down the St.Lawrence river from Sacket's Harbor on the edge of Lake Ontario. These two officers resented one another, and refused to work together, probably the first military mistake in the Amercan battle plan. The troops were cold and hungry, as well as under supplied, making any siege attempt impossible once they reached their objective. So with a lack of real military planning, and without sufficient rations or armament, the Americans made their move.
Fortunately for Canada, Colonel Charles Michel d'Irumberry de Salaberry was in command of a much smaller, but better trained army. They met with Hampton's forces at Chateauguay in October of 1813, defeating them despite being outnumbered, and driving them back to their U.S. base, where they eventually disbanded.
Wilckinson's group moving down the river was an entirely different matter. Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Wanton Morrison commanded a corps of 1200, and with the aid of gunboats from another detachment, they nipped at Wilkinson's American force as they travelled down the St.Lawrence. Unaware of the defeat of his loathed counterpart, Wilkinson landed his troops east of the Galop Rapids on the Canadian side, in preparation to travrse the larger rapids between present day Morrisburg and Cornwall. Morrison now took up a position on the ploughed fields of a farm with a collection of British and Canadian regulars, militia, small artillery and at least 30 Mohawk warriors, and waited for the Americans. Despite their superior numbers, the American troops were suffering from cold, hunger and disease, which had dwindled their ranks. Close to 4000 now attacked Morrison's corps of 1200. They proved to be no match for the Canadians, and after three hours of intense fighting, the U.S. troops fled the field back to the American side of the river, leaving 400 casualties behind. The Canadians paid for their victory in blood, however, with 200 casualties, mostly French. Of the 270 Canadian regulars under Morrison, two thirds were french speaking soldiers from Quebec.
The battle at Crysler's farm stands as one of the most important conflicts ever for Upper and Lower Canada, uniting French, English, British, and Indian peoples to defend our young country against foreign invaders. It is a proud part of Parks Canada's Upper Canada Village, east of Morrisburg on Hwy.2.