Lieutenant Colonel J. A. R. de Salaberry
230th (Voltigeurs Canadiens-Français) Battalion
I thought the name DeSalaberry would thrill the people of Quebec, but let us be frank and tell the story… he was practically assaulted by the parish priest… I thought the grandson of the hero of Chateauguay was entitled to some recognition and he got it. But everywhere there was a hidden hand.
(Sam Hughes, Debates, 8 April 1918, 411)
Joseph Alexandre René de Salaberry was the grandson of Charles de Salaberry, the famous War of 1812 military leader. During the American invasion of Lower Canada in 1813, Colonel de Salaberry led the Canadien militia defence of Montreal. For his victory at Chateauguay, he became a celebrated war hero in the history of Quebec.
Born on 2 July 1870 in Chambly, Quebec, J. A. R. de Salaberry was a graduate of Laval University, a lawyer and advocate with the King’s Counsel. At the outbreak of the First World War, he enlisted at Valcartier in the 2nd Battalion. Following frontline service in France, de Salaberry returned to Canada in order to recruit a French Canadian unit.
In spring 1916, he was named commanding officer of the 230th Battalion stationed in Hull, Quebec. Unable to fill its ranks with French Canadian volunteers, in late 1916, the battalion transferred to Brockville Ontario. Redesigned a Forestry Battalion, the 230th went overseas in January 1917 and proceeded to France.
During the Second World War, seventy-year old de Salaberry strongly supported the fight against Nazi Germany. Two of his sons enlisted in the Canadian Army. After the Fall of France in 1940, he wrote a highly critical letter to Vichy Minister Pierre Laval:
At the time of the last war, I was proud and happy to serve the Old County as my forefathers had done for centuries in Europe and also in New France. I took part in several battles and I would gladly have sacrificed my life rather than sacrifice one inch of the soil that I was defending. I have lived too long!
Free French leader, General Charles de Gaulle, complimented de Salaberry’s message, stating, “I was deeply moved by your sentiments of faithful loyalty to my unhappy country… I will fight to the end.”
In Canada, de Salaberry also denounced anti-conscriptionists and “isolationists” in his home province. After 72% of Quebec voters rejected the April 1942 conscription plebiscite, de Salaberry expressed his dismay in an Ottawa Citizen editorial: “The whole of Canada has done my grandfather the honor of naming him the hero of Chateauguay and has faithfully preserved his memory. The isolationists of today are the same breed as those in 1811, who when he recruited his ‘Voltigeurs’ at Lachine, stoned him and threw mud at him.”
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