War of 1812: Battle of the Chateauguay

Fighting at Chateauguay
Battle of Chateauguay. Photograph Source: Public Domain

Battle of the Chateauguay - Conflict & Date:

The Battle of the Chateauguay was fought October 26, 1813, during the War of 1812 (1812-1815).

Armies & Commanders


  • Major General Wade Hampton
  • 2,600 men


  • Lieutenant Colonel Charles de Salaberry
  • 1,530 men

Battle of the Chateauguay - Background:

With the failure of American operations in 1812, which saw the loss of Detroit and a defeat at Queenston Heights, plans to renew the offensives against Canada were made for 1813. Advancing across the Niagara frontier, American troops initially had success until being checked at the Battles of Stoney Creek and Beaver Dams in June. With the failure of these efforts, Secretary of War John Armstrong began planning for a fall campaign designed to capture Montreal. If successful, the city's occupation would lead to the collapse of the British position on Lake Ontario and would cause all of Upper Canada to fall into American hands.

Battle of the Chateauguay - The American Plan:

To take Montreal, Armstrong intended to send two forces north. One, led Major General James Wilkinson, was to depart Sackett's Harbor, NY and advance down the St. Lawrence River towards the city. The other, commanded by Major General Wade Hampton, received orders to move north from Lake Champlain with the goal of uniting with Wilkinson upon reaching Montreal. Though a sound plan, it was hampered by a deep personal feud between the two principal American commanders. Assessing his orders, Hampton initially refused to take part in the operation if it meant working with Wilkinson. To assuage his subordinate, Armstrong offered to lead the campaign in person. With this assurance, Hampton agreed to take the field.

Battle of Chateauguay - Hampton Moves Out:

In late September, Hampton shifted his command from Burlington, VT to Plattsburgh, NY with the assistance of US Navy gunboats led by Master Commandant Thomas Macdonough. Scouting the direct route north via the Richelieu River, Hampton determined that the British defenses in area were too strong for his force to penetrate and that there was insufficient water for his men. As a result, he shifted his line of advance west to the Chateauguay River. Reaching the river near Four Corners, NY, Hampton made camp after learning that Wilkinson was delayed. Increasingly frustrated by his rival's lack of action, he became concerned that the British were massing against him to the north. Finally receiving word that Wilkinson was ready, Hampton began marching north on October 18.

Battle of the Chateauguay - The British Prepare:

Alerted to the American advance, the British commander at Montreal, Major General Louis de Watteville, began shifting forces to cover the city. To the south, the leader of the British outposts in the region, Lieutenant Colonel Charles de Salaberry, began mustering militia and light infantry units to meet the threat. Composed entirely of troops recruited in Canada, Salaberry's combined force numbered around 1,500 men and consisted of Canadian Voltigeurs (light infantry), Canadian Fencibles, and various units of Select Embodied Militia. Reaching the border, Hampton was angered when 1,400 New York militiamen refused to cross into Canada. Proceeding with his regulars, his force was reduced to 2,600 men.

Battle of the Chateauguay - Salaberry's Position:

Well informed as to Hampton's progress, Salaberry assumed a position along the north bank of the Chateauguay River near present-day Ormstown, Quebec. Extending his line north along the bank of English River, he directed his men to construct a line of abatis to protect the position. To his rear, Salaberry placed the light companies of the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of Select Embodied Militia to guard Grant's Ford. Between these two lines, Salaberry deployed various elements of his command in a series of reserve lines. While he personally commanded the forces the abatis, he assigned leadership of the reserves to Lieutenant Colonel George MacDonnell.

Battle of the Chateauguay - Hampton Advances:

Reaching the vicinity of Salaberry's lines on late October 25, Hampton dispatched Colonel Robert Purdy and 1,000 men to the south shore of the river with the goal of advancing and securing Grant's Ford at dawn. This done, they could attack the Canadians from behind as Brigadier General George Izard mounted a frontal assault on the abatis. Having given Purdy his orders, Hampton received a troubling letter from Armstrong informing him that Wilkinson was now in command of the campaign. In addition, Hampton was instructed to build a large camp for winter quarters on the banks of the St. Lawrence. Interpreting the letter to mean that the attack on Montreal was cancelled for 1813, he would have withdrawn south had Purdy not already been committed.

Battle of the Chateauguay - The Americans Held:

Marching through the night, Purdy's men encountered difficult terrain and failed to reach the ford by dawn. Pushing forward, Hampton and Izard encountered Salaberry's skirmishers around 10:00 AM on October 26. Forming around 300 men from the Voltigeurs, Fencibles, and various militia formations at the abatis, Salaberry prepared to meet the American assault. As Izard's brigade moved forward, Purdy came into contact with the militia guarding the ford. Striking Brugière's company, they made some headway until being counterattacked by two companies led by Captains Daly and de Tonnancour. In the resulting fighting, Purdy was forced to fall back.

With the fighting raging south of the river, Izard began pressing Salaberry's men along the abatis. This forced the Fencibles, which had advanced forward of the abatis, to fall back. With the situation becoming precarious, Salaberry brought up his reserves and used bugle calls to fool the Americans into thinking that large numbers of enemy troops were approaching. This worked and Izard's men assumed a more defensive posture. To the south, Purdy had re-engaged the Canadian militia. In the fighting, both Brugière and Daly fell badly wounded. The loss of their captains led the militia to begin falling back. In an effort to encircle the retreating Canadians, Purdy's men emerged along the river bank and came under heavy fire from Salaberry's position. Stunned, they broke off their pursuit. Having witnessed this action, Hampton elected to end the engagement.

Battle of the Chateauguay - Aftermath:

In the fighting at the Battle of the Chateauguay, Hampton lost 23 killed, 33 wounded, and 29 missing, while Salaberry sustained 2 killed, 16 wounded, and 4 missing. Though a relatively minor engagement, the Battle of the Chateauguay had significant strategic implications as Hampton, following a council of war, elected to withdraw back to Four Corners rather than move towards the St. Lawrence. Marching south, he dispatched a messenger to Wilkinson informing him of his actions. In response, Wilkinson ordered him to advance to the river at Cornwall. Not believing this possible, Hampton sent a note to Wilkinson and moved south to Plattsburgh.

Wilkinson's advance was halted at the Battle of Crysler's Farm on November 11 when he was beaten by a smaller British force. Receiving Hampton's refusal to move to Cornwall after the battle, Wilkinson used it as an excuse to abandon his offensive and move into winter quarters at French Mills, NY. This action effectively ended the 1813 campaign season. Despite high hopes, the only American successes occurred to west where Master Commandant Oliver H. Perry won the Battle of Lake Erie and Major General William H. Harrison triumphed at the Battle of the Thames.

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Hickman, Kennedy. "War of 1812: Battle of the Chateauguay." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, thoughtco.com/battle-of-the-chateauguay-2361359. Hickman, Kennedy. (2020, August 26). War of 1812: Battle of the Chateauguay. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/battle-of-the-chateauguay-2361359 Hickman, Kennedy. "War of 1812: Battle of the Chateauguay." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/battle-of-the-chateauguay-2361359 (accessed June 8, 2023).