One of two Canadian born British Officer during the War of 1812 was Charles Michael de Salaberry, born in the town on Beauport in Lower Canada (today Quebec) on the 19th of November 1778. His family having a long tradition of military service with the French and then British armies, de Salaberry joined at 14 as a gentleman volunteer in the 44th Regiment of Foot. It was too long after that a family friend, Prince Edward Augustus secured an Ensign’s commission in the 1st Battalion of the 60th Regiment of Foot. Joining the regiment in 1794, de Salaberry proved his worth, rising to the rank of Captain seeing combat in both the West Indies and the Netherlands. In 1806 he transferred into the 5th Battalion of the 60th. The 5th Battalion under Colonel Francis de Rottenburg was being raised as a dedicated light infantry unit, trained to fight using skirmish instead of traditional line tactics, clothed in green jackets instead of red coats and armed with the Baker Rifle. He took to this new way of fighting immediately, and was eventually promoted brigade major. When de Rottenburg was promoted to Brigadier General and sent to Lower Canada, he brought de Salaberry with him as his aide-du-camp.
When word of a possible war with the United States reached the governor general, General George Prevost and General de Rottenburg, de Salaberry was given the task of raising a provincial regiment of dedicated light infantry troops. On the 15th of April, 1812, the new Provincial Corps of Light Infantry was raised, although it is better known as the Canadian Voltigeurs. Lieutenant-Colonel de Salaberry and his new Voltigeurs first saw combat in November of that year, turning back an American force under General Henry Dearborn at Lacolle Mill. Fearing another invasion attempt, de Salaberry was assigned the task of maintaining the defenses along the boarder between Lower Canada and New York. When American General Wade Hampton made another invasion attempt in an effort to launch a coordinated strike against Montreal, de Salaberry and a force of all Canadian troops (a mix of militia, provincial, and native troops) managed to outsmart and maneuver the larger American force eventually turning them back in what became known as the Battle of the Chateauguey. For his victory de Salaberry was given the title of Inspecting Field Officer of Light Troops for the colonies.
Following the war de Salaberry became Justice of the Peace for several districts, eventually being elected as a Legislative Councillor for Lower Canada in 1818. In 1817 he was given the title of Companion of the order of the Bath, and upon the death of his father inherited the title of Seigneur of St. Mathias and settled into a grand home in Chambly, Quebec, his home there is a National Historic Site. He remained there until his death on the 27th of February, 1829. He had been married in May of 1812 and still today many of his decedents are still living in Canada, the last two that still bear the name de Salaberry live in British Columbia. While generally not celebrated outside of Quebec, de Salaberry was an instant folk hero in Lower Canada. The town of Salaberry-de-Valleyfield in Quebec and the Rural Municipality of de Salaberry in Manitoba are both named for the French-Canadian officer. He also has the last traditional armoury built in Canada named for him in Hull, Quebec. The last and personally most interesting note is that one of his son’s, Charles-Rene-Leonidas d’Irumberry de Salaberry would go on in 1862 to found Les Voltigeurs de Quebec, a regiment that perpetrates the legacy of his Father’s Canadian Voltigeurs and remains today as one of the Primary Reserve Regiments within the Canadian Army.
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