The Revolt of Pontiac and the American Invasion

The German Presence

A German Legacy

Detail of a map of Quebec City in 1780

Caption: Detail of a map of Quebec City in 1780

In the years that followed, the British increased this German presence. In May 1780 the number of German soldiers went from 3,600 to 4,300 with the arrival of troops from Hesse-Cassel, and at the end of 1782 their number reached approximately 5,000. The reinforcements from Brunswick made it possible to re-establish the dragoons and grenadiers, and to increase the number of infantry regiments to five. When peace was restored, the troops returned home, but many German soldiers chose to settle in Canada. The German names that many Quebeckers bear today go back to these ancestors. The Wilhelmys, for example, are descendants of a soldier in the Hesse-Hanau Chasseurs. In addition, many hard-to-pronounce German names were gallicized: Maher became Maheu, Beyer became Payeur, and Schumpff became Jomphre.

These German soldiers introduced to Canada a beautiful tradition: the Christmas tree. At Christmas 1781 Baroness von Riedesel, the wife of the General, gave a party at their Sorel residence, and the guests were pleasantly surprised to see a magnificent fir tree bearing candles and decorated with a variety of fruits. People liked the idea and it caught on. We therefore owe this custom to the German soldiers who came to defend this country more than two centuries ago.