A Decade of Turbulence

Canadians Abroad

The French Canadian Position

Musician First Class Calixa Lavallée, 4th Rhode Island Regiment, circa 1862

Caption: Musician First Class Calixa Lavallée, 4th Rhode Island Regiment, circa 1862

The patriotism of French Canadians was very different. They saw Canada as their only true native land and as altogether distinct from Great Britain; like their descendants today, they considered France their mother country. They were also familiar with the northeastern United States, tens of thousands of them having gone to work in New England. When the American Civil War broke out thousands of French Canadians volunteered to fight for the Union Army. 135 One of them, who signed on as a musician in the 4th Rhode Island Regiment and was injured in the Battle of Antietam in 1862, is known to all Canadians: Calixa Lavallée, who would later compose the music for the national anthem, "O Canada."

Other French Canadians, though far less numerous, joined the Confederate Army, particularly in Louisiana. A few even sought adventure further south, as far afield as Mexico. France had invaded Mexico - which Napoleon III had called a "generous intervention" - to establish a vassal empire in America. 136 Two French Canadians who were to make their mark in the world of literature took part in the war. Narcisse-Henri-Edouard Faucher de Saint-Maurice, an unconditional Francophile, campaigned with the French army as a sub-lieutenant in 1864-65. He was injured and received the Mexican Medal and the Cross of the Military Order of Guadeloupe. He later wrote a great deal about his campaigns. During the same period, Honoré Beaugrand, future mayor of Montreal and author of the celebrated legend "La Chasse-galerie," was a young sergeant of the redoubtable Corps de Contre-guérillas of the French army. Faucher de Saint-Maurice and Beaugrand were not the only Canadian military men in Mexico; a staff officer in the Mexican republican army reported that other, less famous, Canadians had also served with the republicans.