St. Lawrence/Champlain Theater

body_lawrencechamplain_warof1812_1.jpg Flowing more than 600 miles northeastward to the Atlantic from its entrance near Kingston on Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence serves as a giant drain for the Great Lakes. A notable tributary of the St. Lawrence is the Richelieu River, which flows from the 110-mile-long Lake Champlain. These prominent waterways were shaped at least in part by the retreating glaciers of the last ice age, and they in turn have helped shape human history. They played especially important roles in the major conflicts that produced the political geography we know today. Fierce battles were fought over them during the Seven Years (French and Indian) War and again during the Revolutionary War, and they were destined to play an especially important role in the War of 1812. 

American leaders recognized in the broad St. Lawrence Valley a wide open invasion route into Canada. However, U.S. attempts to seize control of the St. Lawrence were poorly led and steadfastly opposed by British regulars and both English- and French-speaking militiamen. Consequently, campaigns targeting Montreal in 1812 and 1813 failed miserably. Then in 1814 the British marched down the banks of the Richelieu River and Lake Champlain only to be turned back when their fleet was defeated in Plattsburgh Bay.

Battery Park
1 North Avenue
Burlington, Vermont 05401
(802) 864-0123 (Burlington Department of Parks and Recreation)

On a high bluff in Burlington overlooking Lake Champlain an earthen embankment was created in 1812 to protect an important War of 1812 U.S. military installation. This facility served both as a hospital and an embarkation point for failed attacks on Canada. It also participated in the defense of Burlington when three British ships attacked. Artillery here helped the warship USS President drive away the British who continued on to Shelburne Bay, south of Burlington. Today the park serves as a scenic urban green space and has a single cannon on display to recall its battle history. A plaque describes the park’s role in the War of 1812.

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Canadian War Museum
1 Vimy Place
Ottawa, Ontario K1A OM8
(819) 776-8600

Although its extensive exhibits cover many war-related topics, the Canadian War Museum has on display numerous fascinating artifacts dating from the War of 1812. The museum is located on Vimy Place at the corner of Booth Street and the Ottawa River Parkway, west of Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

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Lake Champlain Maritime Museum
4472 Basin Harbor Road
Vergennes, Vermont 05491
(802) 475-2022

The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Vergennes has on display thousands of exhibits and artifacts, many of them related to the War of 1812. The museum also offers tours of wrecked ships—some dating to the 1812 era—well preserved by the lake’s cold waters. Museum personnel can help direct visitors to various monuments in the area related to the Vergennes Otter Creek Shipyard where the U.S. Lake Champlain fleet was built.

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Chateauguay Battlefield National Historic Site
2371 Rivière Châteauguay Road
P.O. Box 250
Howick, Quebec J0S 1G0

Fought in wooded terrain along the Chateauguay River south of Montreal, the Battle of Chateauguay was one of the most historic and decisive battles ever fought on Canadian soil. Here, in 1813, an outnumbered force of mostly French-speaking militia turned back an invading American army led by General Wade Hampton. Under command of Lieutenant Colonel Charles de Salaberry, a veteran British officer, the militiamen chopped down trees to block roads and slow Hampton’s progress. Using felled trees as breastworks, the Canadians held firm for three days until the Americans eventually tired of battle and retreated back toward their base at Plattsburgh. The Chateauguay Battlefield National Historic Site is located along the Chemin de la Rivière Châteauguay southwest of Howick.

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Key Sites of St. Lawrence/Champlain Theater

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