A Brutal Retribution

The regular troops and volunteers then burned down the houses that had sheltered the Patriotes. After nightfall, they gave vent to terrible sacking and pillaging. The sacking of Saint-Eustache was so violent that Captain Swinburne of the 83rd Regiment would recount that it "equalled if not surpassed ... what he had witnessed at the sack of Badajos." 97 The following day Colborne and his troops invaded the neighbouring village of Saint-Benoît. The Patriotes surrendered without resistance, but this did not prevent Colborne from burning down the village as well as the village of Saint-Hermas (today Mirabel).

In the days that followed, other corps of volunteers who had arrived on the scene after the Battle of Saint-Eustache pillaged the neighbouring farms. The usual practice after taking everything they could carry was to "make the men, women and children undress, leaving them virtually naked at the doors of their burning houses." 98 One company of loyal volunteers, which had come to the area on foot, left on "French" horses, which were called "the Papineau horses." 99 Generally speaking, discipline among the volunteers left a great deal to be desired. According to one Patriote who had been taken prisoner, they "were fanatical partisans or ignorant and uncouth immigrants who believed they would be currying favour from those in authority by showing themselves to be pitiless. The regular British soldiers, on the other hand, were disciplined and showed compassion on occasion. To the greatest extent possible, they alleviated the suffering of those in their care." 100