Thursday 23 February 2012

The Plot Thickens - Jacques Catudal and the Rebellion of 1837-1838

Some time ago I posted a bit about how Jacques Catudal (1794-1873) moved his family from St-Jean-Baptiste de Rouville to Napierville seemingly to get away from his family. The move happened sometime between 1827 and 1829. After the move there was no further involvement between Jacques and the other Catudals, except for a very short contact period with Jacques’ brother HonorĂ© some 20 years later. By no contact I mean that Jacques did not appear on any baptism, marriage or burial record as a witness for any of his siblings or cousins and they did not appear on any of his or his children’s records after the move.

Jacques created a story that he passed on to his children and their children and that was that he had been born in France and that a close relative, presumably his brother, Georges Cadoudal had been tried and convicted of treason and had faced the gallows. The rest of the family had been given the options to either face the same fate or leave France. They chose the latter and came to Canada.

In my book The Families Catudal I tell the story of why I believed that Jacques moved away and made up this elaborate story – in short here: During the Rebellion of 1837/38 Jacques' family seem to have been heavily involved as Patriots of the movement; in fact, Jacques’ brother Gabriel was killed at the battle of St-Charles on 25 November 1837 (the books say it was Jacques brother Louis who was killed but the priest presiding over the burial of the fallen man mixed up the names of the two brothers and it was actually Louis’ and Jacques’ brother Gabriel who was killed – I have very strong circumstantial proof to substantiate this claim and if you want the proof just e-mail me at and I’ll be happy to show you). Jacques on the other hand was a Loyalist and fought on the side of the English during the Rebellion. I thought that was reason enough for the split in family relations but recently I found out a bit more...

Recently I had the good fortune to come into contact with Richard Brown who is the retired Head of History and Citizenship at Manshead School (England) who has among other accomplishments written many books one of which caught my eye and that was My Three Rebellions: Canada 1837-1838, South Wales 1839 and Victoria, Australia 1854. I contacted Richard and we corresponded back and forth. I told him about my research regarding distant family members and how they fought on opposing sides. He sent me a link for the site Les Patriotes de 1837@1838, Les RĂ©bellions de Bas-Canada. Richard told me that he recognized the name Catudal and the link is where he had come across that name in association with the Rebellion.

The site has some java problems!!!  You can do a search for the name Catudal on the site and it will come back with the results but if you try to see any of the documents then, if your system is like mine, it brings back an error and I have to do a CTRL ALT DEL to kill my browser session before I can use my browser after that or I have to reboot, so be careful – I have written to the admin of the site but he has not replied. Anyhow, it isn’t necessary to retrieve the documents in order to see the big picture.

The break between Jacques and the rest of the Catudal family probably did not happen between the years 1827 and 1829 but rather most likely after July of 1836 and definitely over a difference in political ideologies. You see, Jacques Catudal was a Patriot and not only attended Patriot meetings, he was an organizer. As late as 1836 he is shown as having started a petition with others encouraging people to join the movement. He actively participated in meetings as can be seen in July of 1836 by him moving a motion and seconding another in one of the meetings.

That means that Jacques Catudal, for whatever reason switched sides mid-Rebellion. He was a turncoat! That sure would have been quite a blow to the rest of the family and it may not have been only Jacques' wish to distance himself from the Catudal clan but just as much the wish of the rest of the family that he stay away.

Richard Brown told me that it wasn't completely unknown for Patriots to change sides. Richard wrote "It’s one of the great imponderables of the rebellions in Lower Canada why many people who had been Patriotes in the mid-1830s chose not to support the rebels and, as in Jacques’ case, actively supported the authorities."