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Battle of Montgomery's Tavern
Part of the Upper Canada Rebellion
Montgomery's Tavern.jpg
Sketch of the battle based on a contemporary English engraving.
Date December 7, 1837
Location Toronto, Ontario
Result Decisive British victory
Belligerents
Republican rebels United Kingdom United Kingdom
United Kingdom Canadian Loyalists
Commanders
Anthony Van Egmond James Fitzgibbon
Strength
210 militia 1,000 regulars and militia
1 gun
Casualties and losses
3 dead
5 wounded
1 dead
5 wounded

The Battle of Montgomery's Tavern was an incident that sparked the Upper Canada Rebellion on December 7, 1837. The abortive revolutionary insurrection inspired by William Lyon Mackenzie was crushed by British authorities and Canadian volunteer units near a tavern on Yonge Street, Toronto.

Contents

Prelude

When the Lower Canada Rebellion broke out in the Fall of 1837, Sir Francis Bond Head sent the British troops stationed in York to help suppress it. With the regular troops gone, William Lyon Mackenzie and his followers seized a Toronto armoury and organized an armed march down Yonge Street, beginning at Montgomery's Tavern (on Yonge St just north of Eglinton Avenue - the present-day site of Postal Station K) on December 4, 1837.

Colonel Robert Moodie attempted to lead a force of loyalists through the rebel roadblock to warn Governor Bond Head in Toronto. Moodie fired his pistol, apparently in an attempt to clear the way. A number of the rebels returned fire, killing him.

On the same day, December 5, Mackenzie's approximately 500 rebels marched upon York's city hall in an effort to seize the arms and ammunition that were stored there. They were met by a truce party, to whom Mackenzie explained the rebels' demands.

Later that afternoon, Mackenzie led his troops farther down Yonge Street towards the city, where their advance was stopped by a party of 27 loyalist volunteers, led by William Botsford Jarvis. The loyalist men fired a volley then dropped to reload their guns. Mackenzie's men ran towards them, believing they had killed the loyalists. They met the loyalist fire unprepared.

Montgomery's Tavern

The rebels dispersed, losing hundreds of deserters. That night, reinforcements for the loyalists arrived from Hamilton. By the next day, these forces were 1,500 strong (among the volunteers was future Prime Minister of Canada and Father of Confederation Sir John A. Macdonald).

The rebels, under the command of Anthony Van Egmond, had regrouped at Montgomery's Tavern. One hundred and fifty were posted in the woods behind the tavern and another 60 took up positions behind a line of rail fencing. The majority of Mackenzie's supporters, numbering about 300, were gathered around the tavern proper. These were largely unarmed and would offer little resistance when pressed.

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On December 7, Colonel James Fitzgibbon marched an estimated 1,000 regulars and militiamen up Yonge Street and attacked Mackenzie's force at Montgomery's Tavern, putting the building under artillery fire. When Fitzgibbon advanced his infantry, both parties of rebels abandoned their posts and retreated in disarray to the tavern, causing those assembled there to panic and flee. Within 20 minutes, the rebels were gone. Loyalist forces then looted the tavern and burned it to the ground, before marching back to York.

Just west of the old site of Montgomery's Tavern, now Postal Station K, is Marshall McLuhan Catholic Secondary School. The school's teams are named the "McLuhan Rebels" in honour of William Lyon Mackenzie and Montgomery's tavern.

Site Today

The site of the tavern is now occupied by the two storey Art Deco Canada Post Postal Station K (designed by Murray Brown 1936). The building bears the royal cypher EviiiR, for Edward VIII, King of Canada for eleven months in 1936, one of a few buildings to bear this mark in Toronto.

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