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Title: Robert Peel Dawson, Laprairie to his parents.
CollectionIrish Emigration Database
FilePeel Dawson, Robert/114
SenderPeel Dawson, Robert
Sender Gendermale
Sender Occupationarmy officer
Sender ReligionProtestant
OriginLa Prairie, Quebec, Canada
Recipient Gendermale-female
SourceT 850/1: Obtained from Mrs Brackenbury, Moyola Park, Castledawson, Co. Londonderry.
ArchiveThe Public Record Office, Northern Ireland.
Doc. No.8950009
Partial Date
Doc. TypeEMG
LogDocument added by JM 25:10:1993.
Word Count1378
TranscriptLaprairie, Novr [November?] 17th 1838
My dearest, dearest Parents,
Since Monday the 4th instant (the date of my last letter to you) I
have passed through scenes & encountered hardships which till then I was
totally unacquainted with. The news of the second Rebellion in Canada
reached Quebec on that day. I was on the Citadel Guard and was not
relieved till the moment that the whole Battalion of Grenadier Guards was
hurried on board a Steamer to convey us we knew not where. I had scarcely
time to change my coat. My servant had packed up a few necessaries in a
carpet bag. The steam boat was so laden with Cannon & heavy warlike
implements that we did not reach Montreal till the middle of the day on
Wednesday the 6th instant. The higher we proceeded up the river the more
apparent was the consternation and the terror which prevailed amongst the
respectable classes. They came to the side of the vessel hoping to escape
from what they conceived certain destruction. Few French Canadians
appeared. Before we disembarked we heard that Sir John Colborne was
waiting our arrival in Montreal to concentrate the force he meant to oppose
to the Rebel Town of Napierville, which was the headquarters of the
disaffected and only eleven miles from the American Frontier. The English
Troops left Montreal by different routes to assemble together the following
day at St. Johns, situated fifteen miles distant on the Southern Bank of the
River. Sir John Colborne had under his command five thousand men.
They were divided into two Brigades. Sir James McDonnell was at the head of
the Artillery, - 7th Hussars - Grenadier Guards - 71st Regt. [Regiment?] and
part of the 93d. General Clithero commanded another detachment of Artillery -
King's Dragoon Guards 15th - 24th and 73rd Regiments. We were all stirring at
day break, but a portion only of our Regiment could be conveyed at the same
time & my Company & two Others did not consequently reach Laprairie till
two o'clock. There is a rail road from Laprairie to St. Johns. The advance
Party had left by it when we arrived, we were several hours in a barn
awaiting the return of the Trains. At eight o'clock we learnt that as soon
as the first Detachment had passed, the Rebels had quickly begun to
destroy the iron work on the Rail Road and that the carriages in coming for
us, had been thrown out of their proper course and entirely destroyed. The
enemy had calculated that the empty trains would pass, and give way when
filled with soldiers. Happily for us the weight of the engine exposed and
defeated their plans so far as human life was concerned. Dispatches came
to us that we must at all events reach St. Johns that night. The men, and I
may also say the Officers, had had no food during the day - the weather
was stormy and dark. The stores were all at St. Johns, no provisions could
be procured and at twelve o'clock at night we were obliged to commence our
weary march with no other refreshment than a glass of rum served out to each
man. We were seven hours on foot, exposed to dreadful weather and wretched
roads. The rain was incessant, but we were all wet through before we
started. I certainly was overcome by fatigue, want of sleep and hunger,
when at seven o'clock we reached L'Acadie. I threw myself on the floor of a
house and nearly fainted, but three hours sleep and something to eat were
of great use to me. We had none of us changed our wet clothes the Rain still
continued. The drum beat and we again commenced a dreary march. The
excitement and the necessity of exerting ourselves for the next day's
anticipated work rallied our spirits. I felt much better when we arrived at
Longueville, six miles from Napierville. We slept there. I caught a fowl
in one of the deserted farm yards, my servant cooked it and I never relished
anything more. I passed the night in a stable and slept most soundly. At
daylight we were again on the move. We expected the Rebels to give us a
warm reception and we approached the Town with caution and secrecy. Every
one was elated, we expected victory. We were within a mile of Napierville.
The Artillery guns were pointed. Our men had there Firelocks loaded, ready
to be discharged at a single word. We were to make the first charge, my
Company and another were ordered a hundred yards in advance. I was breathless
with expectation, but never felt cooler or more composed in my life. I
knew that I was in a post of danger, but I trusted in Providence & thought
of you & the many happy years we had passed together. We slowly, but surely
proceeded nearer and I felt surprised that the roar of Artillery, the
volleys of Musketry & the stirring sounds of War were yet unheard. Hour
after hour elapsed. At last we found ourselves in the middle of a deserted
Town, the Rebels all fled. They had of course, got intimation of our
approach & had gone off in all directions. We tried to pursue them but they
were too far in advance and we only killed a few stragglers and made about
fifty prisoners. Plunder then became the Order of the Day. The town was
given up to the soldiery and on our departure the next day sacked and
partially burnt. A town on fire has a grand effect but still gives rise to
many painful feelings. After our departure from Napierville we spent
nearly a week in pursuit of the Patriots (as they style themselves) but on
our approach to every town, we found them fled and we had no other course
left than to burn their houses. Horses and everything were also obtained for
nothing & we soon assumed the appearance of a mounted Regiment. To march
over the bad roads was indeed almost impossible, the continued wet had
rendered them so heavy. We have been here four days and are billeted upon
the inhabitants according to Martial Law. Sir John Colborne says that he
will employ us when anything is to be done and has promised that we shall be
quartered for the Winter in Montreal or its neighbourhood. We furnish
seven officers to sit upon the important Court Martial which is to decide
the fate of eight hundred prisoners now confined in Montreal. The disturbances
in Canada, though put down in the Lower Province, are now raging in
the Upper. The Frontiers near Prescott are constantly crossed by the
Americans. I find my Father's present of the pistols of the greatest use. I
always carry them in my sword belt. I am very much obliged to dearest Mamma
for her extra payments into Coxe's hands. You are both so generous to me
that I can never sufficiently thank you. If I could continue to live as
cheaply as I have done the last fortnight I should find little use for
money. Everything here is left with owners & the Government Act of Confiscation
renders Appropriation lawful. What different scenes I am now engaged
in to any I ever saw in England. How I shall enjoy that dear country again
and the society of the very many kind friends I have left there. How I do
love you all. I am afraid that the Guards will be detained in Canada some
time but the happy day of meeting you must arrive at last. Sir John Colborne
has, I believe, written home for more troops. Much as I should rejoice in
seeing dearest George here, I am not so selfish as to wish the Rifle Brigade
to be sent out. The separation from two sons would, I well know, be
insupportable to you. I will write soon again & tell you everything relative
to my eventful career. In the meantime, assure yourselves of my unaltered
love and affection. You are my best friends and my anxious wish is that I
may always be worthy of you.
Remember me most tenderly to my dearest brothers.
Ever your most attached Son,
Robert Peel Dawson.