After the failed Rebellion of 1837 in Upper Canada, its leader, William Lyon Mackenzie, retreated to Navy Island, in the Niagara River, accompanied by some 200 followers. The Caroline, an American ship based at Fort Schlosser in New York State, was chartered to bring supplies to the rebels. On 29 December 1837, a force of the Upper Canada militia led by Commander Andrew Drew of the Royal Navy found the Caroline moored at Schlosser. In the quick skirmish that followed, an American was killed. The Caroline, set on fire and adrift, capsized before reaching the falls and sank. The incident aggravated the already tense relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States.
The 1869–70 uprising in the Red River Colony (also known as the Red River Resistance) was sparked by the transfer of the vast territory of Rupert's Land to the new nation of Canada. The colony of farmers and hunters, many of them Métis, occupied a corner of Rupert's Land and feared for their culture and land rights under Canadian control.5
The Aroostook War was a confrontation between British and Maine authorities in disputed territory known as Madawaska. During the Napoleonic Wars, Britain was in dire need of wood and the region’s pine forests became an important commodity. Claimed by both Maine and New Brunswick, Madawaska became fertile ground for confrontations between the two. The war peaked in 1838‒39 when the governor of Maine, John Fairfield, sent a group, led by Rufus McIntyre, to stop “provincials” from entering territory that Fairfield believed was Maine’s. McIntyre was captured and accused of invading the colony. The conflict ended in 1842 with the Webster-Ashburton Treaty, which divided the territory along the Saint John River.
The Association des Frères-Chasseurs was a secret society that aimed to free Canada from British rule. It was founded by Patriote exiles following their defeat in 1837. The association took several cues from the Masons, including a variety of rituals, oaths, hand signs and passwords. Commanded by Dr. Robert Nelson, the association quickly spread throughout the American borderland and Lower Canada. The association played a major role in the second phase of the Canadian rebellion, planning and leading the failed invasion of Lower Canada in November 1838. The Frères-Chasseurs and Hunters’ Lodges were part of the same general association with similar aims, practices and rituals. While one was organized by American sympathizers, the other was organized by Lower Canadian Patriotes.
Drafted in January 1834 by Louis-Joseph Papineau, leader of the Parti patriote, and Augustin-Norbert Morin, the 92 Resolutions were a list of grievances and demands made by the Parti patriote with regards to the state of the colonial political system. They were drafted following a long political struggle against the governor general and Château Clique and the Patriotes’ inability to produce any significant reforms. The document critiqued the division of authority in the colony and demanded a government that was responsible to the Legislative Assembly. The imperial government responded with the Russell Resolutions, which rejected their demands, preparing the way for the Canadian Rebellion.
The Vindicator was a short-lived weekly English-language newspaper published in Montréal from 1828 to 1837. It was founded by Daniel Tracey, an Irish immigrant who arrived in Montréal in 1825. Tracey was a staunch Irish nationalist, and his newspaper was the voice for Irish members of the Patriotes in Montréal. He supported the Parti patriote, and, similar to Ludger Duvernay’s editorial direction for La Minerve, he favoured the party’s more radical reformist ideology. Following Tracey’s death in 1832, Edmund Bailey O’Callaghan took over the newspaper and continued Tracey’s editorial line. Though The Vindicator lasted less than a decade, it played a major role in promoting Irish involvement in the Patriote cause.
Upper and Lower Canada were thrown into turmoil from 1837–38, when insurgents mounted rebellions in each colony against the Crown and the political status quo. The revolt in Lower Canada was the more serious and violent of the two. However, both events inspired the pivotal Durham Report, which in turn led to the union of the two colonies (see Act of Union) and the arrival of responsible government — critical events on the road to Canadian nationhood.1
French Canadian militants in Lower Canada took up arms against the British Crown in a pair of insurrections in 1837 and 1838. The twin rebellions, which killed more than 300 people, followed years of tensions between the colony's anglophone minority and the growing, nationalistic aspirations of its francophone majority.2
The Battle of the Windmill was one of a series of raids launched along the Canada/US border in the summer and fall of 1838 by the Hunters’ Lodges, secret societies established by Canadian rebels who had taken refuge in the northern United States after the failed rebellions of 1837. Several thousand Americans also joined these societies, whose goal was to push the United Kingdom and the United States into war so as to liberate the Canadian provinces from British tyranny. The Battle of the Windmill was fought from 12 to 16 November 1838 near Prescott, in Upper Canada, and ended in a defeat for the invaders from the US. One month later, the Battle of Windsor put an end to the American incursions and Canadian rebellions.
In December 1837 and January 1838, in the wake of heavy defeats at the hands of British and Loyalist forces, Upper and Lower Canadian rebels fled to the United States where they sought financial and military assistance. Though the American public was aware that there had been an armed conflict in the Canadas, and many were even initially very supportive, the presence of Canadian rebels on American soil along with growing tensions with Great Britain amid the Caroline Affair forced many to question American involvement. The rebels appeared at a very divisive moment in American history, forcing many to consider the social, political, diplomatic or economic ramifications of the rebellions on the Early American Republic. Though the rebels received support in the borderland, most believed that the United States should remain neutral.
At 8 PM Monday, December 3, 1837 William Lyon Mackenzie set out by horse down Yonge Street to scout the route for his attack on Toronto. At the top of Gallows Hill (below St Clair) he met Tory alderman John Powell, himself on patrol from the city. Mackenzie and his men took Powell prisoner.