Joseph-Marie Morin – American Revolution Patriot

My cousins who are descended from Leona Bassett Kline may find this story interesting.  Joseph-Marie Morin was Leona’s 3rd great-grandfather, making him the 5th great-grandfather of my generation.   

Joseph-Marie seems to us an unusual name for a male.  However, hyphenated names were popular in France in the 18th century.  The name Marie was given to boys in honor of Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Joseph-Marie Morin, son of Andre and Marie-Jeanne (Dube) Morin  was baptized April 5, 1732 at Ste. Anne-de-la-Pocatiere, Kamouraska, Québec, Canada. Ste-Anne-de-la-Pocatiere is located on the south side of the St. Lawrence River 140 km (84 miles) northeast of Quebec City. He was a French speaking peasant farmer.  He married Marie-Louise Brigitte Saucier on June 27, 1757 at St. Louis, Kamouraska, Québec.  They had several children, including our ancestress, Marie-Louise, born in February, 1765. Joseph-Marie died in 1796 and Marie-Louise in 1802.  This basic information was gleaned from microfilm copies of Canadian Catholic church records.  When Canadian census records became available on the internet I found Joseph-Marie Morin listed in the 1762 census of the militia companies of Kamouraska, so I knew he had been a member of the local militia.

Baptismal record of Joseph-Marie Morin.
Baptismal record of Joseph-Marie Morin.

 In the 40 years I have been researching my ancestry, I never thought there was a possibility I had an ancestor who had participated in the American Revolution.  My earliest immigrant ancestors are Peter Klein and George May, who with their families, arrived at the port of New York on October 16, 1839 on the ship Ariosto from Antwerp, Belgium.  They had been residents of Sonderbach and Kirschhausen, villages near Heppenheim, Hesse, Germany.

Immediately upon delving into my ancestry I learned from my Grandmother, Leona Bassett Kline, that her mother, Josephine Bergeron Bassett, was French-Canadian.  Her ancestors had arrived on the shores of what would become Canada while the pilgrims were settling what would become Massachusetts.  All very interesting, but how do we have an ancestor involved in the American Revolution?  And how was it that I only recently discovered this information?

The genealogies of most French-Canadian families have been well documented, beginning with works by Cyprien Tanguey in 1871.  Consequently, present-day family researchers are able to connect to these genealogies and instantly extend their lineage back to the founders of Acadia (present-day Nova-Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island).  A thorough genealogist studies the history of the areas where their ancestors lived to “put flesh on their bones”.  However, I am unable to read French, which is the language of most histories of the French in Canada.  Consequently, my information on those ancestors consists primarily of their baptisms, marriages, and burials as recorded in the Catholic church records of their villages.

When I was doing my research, the Canadian Catholic church records, and Tanguey’s seven volume Dictionnaire généalogique des Familles Canadiennes depuis la fondation de la colonie jusqu’à nos jours (Genealogical Dictionary of Canadian Families from the Founding of the Colony to Our Time) were available on microfilm at Mormon Family History Libraries.  Now they are available digitally at the web site.  (Research is very easy now compared to even ten years ago.)

Recently I was perusing French-Canadian items available online and ran across the Index to French Canadian Revolutionary War Patriots, 2014 by Michael P. Gabriel and Debbie Duay.  There I found the name Joseph-Marie Morin with his wife Marie-Louise Brigitte.   The names were right, the time and place was right, could it be my ancestor?  I immediately ordered the book and started searching the web for information on the Canadian expedition during the Revolutionary War.  This is the story I uncovered.

In 1775 the Continental Congress sent an expedition to Canada to protect the colonies northern frontier from British attack, and to persuade the French Canadians to join the revolution.  General Montgomery captured Montreal in November.  George Washington sent Benedict Arnold, revolutionary general and later traitor, on an expedition to capture Quebec.  He lead his 1,000 man army through the wilderness of present-day northern Maine.  By the time Arnold reached the Plains of Abraham, outside Quebec City, his force had been reduced by illness, lack of supplies, and desertions.  Arnold was forced to wait a month near Quebec City for General Montgomery’s army to arrive as reinforcements.  December was certainly not a good time to attack a well-armed fort.  But the enlistment of many of Arnold’s men ran out at the end of the year, and British reinforcements would be able to make it down the St. Lawrence River after the spring thaw.  Arnold believed he could not wait, and so on December 31, 1775, in the middle of a blizzard, the two armies attacked Quebec City.  General Montgomery and several of his officers were killed by the first volley from the fort.  General Arnold was wounded during the battle and carried off the field.  With one general dead and the other incapacitated, the rebel army retreated.

Fewer than 100 Americans were killed or injured, but 400 were captured. Refusing to accept defeat, Arnold camped below the city and again waited for re-enforcements.  A few hundred did arrive over the next several months.  But, due to a small pox epidemic, his army was still undermanned in the spring.   In March, Arnold was ordered to Montreal.  General John Thomas took command of the American army outside Quebec.  But when British re-enforcements made it up the St. Lawrence after the spring thaw in May 1776, General Thomas ordered his army to withdraw.  He died from small pox during the retreat.  The Battle of Quebec was the first major defeat for the colonists during the revolution.

From study of American history many years ago, I had a vague knowledge of the Battle of Quebec.  Today information about the British and the Americans involved is readily available on the internet.  However, none of these sites give any details about the involvement of the French settlers known as “les habitants.”

In October 1774, the Philadelphia Congress sent an address to the Canadians inviting them to join in driving the British from the continent, and asking them not to oppose the American military.  When the Americans did invade, the British military attempted to enroll the habitants but met with resistance.  The majority of habitants either supported the Americans or remained neutral.  In an attempt to keep the French habitants loyal to the crown, the British government passed the Quebec Act which allowed the hatitants to govern themselves under the old French civil laws and exempted them from the detested Test Oath which required them to denounce the Roman Catholic religion.  Additionally, the poor farm population, recently conquered by the British, could contribute only two things to the American’s cause: food for the invading army and a friendly countryside though which to travel.   And the habitants did both.

Following the departure of the invading army, the British authorities established a “commission of inquiry” which visited each parish, questioned the habitants and filed a report.  The British authorities did not publicize the report titled Rapport de L’Archiviste de la Province de Québec and it remained in the archives of Quebec.  It was published in French in 1928, but not in English until 2005.

The commission visited Kamouraska, the village of the Morin family, on Tuesday, July 16, 1776.  This is the report for Kamouraska:

   The named Ayot(te) was appointed Capt. for the service of Congress. He was one of the most infamous rebels in this province. He aided and assisted the enemies of the government in any way he could, stirred the people, recruited for the Congress, & etc. 

   Last fall, Capt. Alexandre Dionne behaved as a zealous subject of the government. He marched to Pointe Levy with several young men according to the orders that he had received to help the town [Quebec], but was unable to cross [the St Lawrence River] because all the canoes had already been removed by the town’s people. This winter he marched under the orders of Mr Beaujeu at the head of more than 30 men from his parish. Since that time, he has had the weakness to carry out the rebels orders and had his subordinate officers and sergeants do the same in obedience to Bazil Dube. In their service, he had signal fires tended and guarded, sent the search party for Mr Riverin’s mare on the orders of Bazil Dube, and had two letters delivered to pilots on the lower coast. In short, he has done all that he was asked. He is even accused of having pledged a loyalty oath to the said Bazil Dube. All these reasons considered, we have dismissed him, as well as his subordinates.

   We cashiered Benjamin Michaud, Capt. of the Second Company, for having fires built and guarded in his district, for having made several orders for corvees for the rebels, and for allowing the letters to pass [through his district].

   We cashiered Michel L’aine, lieut. only for having delivered two letters to les sieurs Riou and Beaulieu, pilots. Capt Alexandre Dionne had his sergeant, Joseph Morau, hand-deliver them with a recommendation to have the letters forwarded to the next captain. The said Michel L’aine immediately asked one of his men to carry out the order. This sole weakness excepted, he always behaved as a loyal subject of the government and had previously served under Mr Beaujeu’s command.

   On orders of Ferre, the above-mentioned Capt. Alexandre Dionne once ordered a cart through his son and, on another occasion, drove one himself.

   Names of those who enlisted with the rebels for 40 pounds per month:   14 names including Joseph Morin

The British were amazingly lenient to the habitants who had assisted the American invaders.  The main punishment was the loss of their rank in the militia, and public humiliation.  At each village the habitants were required to “cheer” the King.  The British were lenient because they needed the habitants to remain loyal to the crown.  Imprisonments and executions would have encouraged them to join the revolting colonists to the south.

With this information and documented proof of each generation, descendants of Joseph-Marie Morin are eligible to join the Daughters of the Revolution and the Sons of the Revolution.