New Reference Resources about the 1838 Upper Canadian Rebellion/Patriot War

By: John C. Carter

Volume 18, Issue 11, November 2023


In 1885, Canadian historian and author Charles Pelham Mulvany reflected back upon momentous events of 1837 and 1838 in Upper Canada. He wrote that;

“The Mackenzie rising, in 1837, must be carefully distinguished from other movements, from the Lower Canadian insurrection, and from the filibustering raids of American ‘sympathizers’ [Patriot War] which followed.”1

Mulvany’s specific beliefs and suppositions were not always agreed upon by other historians of the period. Nor were they by those writing later about these events. However, his statement is an interesting proposition for those interested in the Upper Canadian Rebellions of 1837 and 1838 to consider, reflect upon, and to ponder.

The Ontario Historical Society (O.H.S.) and Previous 1838 Rebellion/Patriot War Reference Publications

The Ontario Historical Society has a long interest in these events:

a) Between 1905 and 1940, numerous articles about the rebellions were published in the Ontario Historical Society Papers and Records. Subsequently, Ontario History has also included various rebellion related articles in its volumes up to present times;

b) In addition, the OHS held a symposium in 1987, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the 1837 rebellion;

c) In 1988, the proceedings from this conference were published by the OHS; and

d) In 2009, I had the pleasure to guest edit “Consequences of Rebellious Acts.” This special themed issue of Ontario History featured six articles, dealing with aspects of the 1837-1838 Upper Canadian rebellions. This volume became one of the most popular OH issues ever produced.

New Research Published by the Ontario Historical Society:

Some fourteen years later, I again have the honour to guest edit another rebellion-themed issue of Ontario History. It contains my introduction to the volume and nine articles about the rebellions/Patriot War. They were written by authors living in Australia, the United States, and Canada.

New research and interesting interpretations of various topics related to the rebellions are included in these offerings. It is a truly international undertaking! These articles are presented in an approximately chronically dated order, from earliest to latest, and include numerous illustrations, photographs, and period images that compliment the text.

Contents of the Issue:

In the opening article, Ontario historian, author, and Collingwood resident Chris Raible, utilizes various resources to tell the story of William Alves, a participant in the 1837 rebellion. It then deals with the aftermath of his arrest and conviction, and as one of the prisoners’ box makers.

Next, Robert Beasecker, curator of Rare Books and Distinguished Collections at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, MI, uses original documents in the form of never before published letters. These documents are in the archival collection of that institution. He interprets the fascinating tale of Michigander W.W. Dodge. Events dealt with include Dodge’s involvement with and his capture, at the schooner Anne incident, his incarceration, and subsequent details of his life after he escaped from the Citadel in Quebec City.

Then Bruce D. Aikin, a New Fane, NY resident, retired chemist, amateur historian, and volunteer at the Niagara County Historical Society, Lockport, NY, investigates rebellion events and topics from Niagara County, NY. In this regional study of the 1838 Patriot War, he details early episodes of cross-border hostilities in that vicinity, as well as various personalities who were involved.

This piece is followed by OH historian and adjunct professor Dr. Josh Steedman’s presentation of a United States reflection and thoughts on the 1838 Patriot War. His thesis is illustrated through extensive research and assessment of period newspapers, which provide and illustrate an American perspective of these events. He lives in Bowling Green, OH.

Next, Gatineau, QC, Parks Canada historian Dr. Stephen Smith, contributes a Canadian view of activities associated with the 1838 Upper Canadian Rebellion and its aftermath. In his study and review of original Patriot sponsored and supported newspapers, the author reports actions and events chronicled and described from a highly one-sided perspective and unusual resource.

American genealogists Cozy Venable Palmer of Dallas, TX, and Michael Kehoe of Richmond, UT, follow up by providing a genealogical study of their relative John Berry, a Patriot who was captured at the Battle of the Windmill (Prescott, ON). In addition, the authors were able to identify a large number of family directly connected with Berry.

Then, Berowa, New South Wales, Australia, retired teacher and historian Terrance Patterson, offers a biographical account of Hiram Sharp (a relative of his wife Margaret). He explains how Sharp, who also was captured at the Battle of the Windmill, was one of the few North American political prisoners to remain in Australia after he was pardoned.

Retired Ontario educator, historian, and author Ian Hundey, adds an investigation of various chapters in the complex life of James Milne Aitchison, a Patriot captured at the Battle of Windsor. He utilizes and relies on a vast body of research on Aitchison, which he has conducted since 1973. The article includes material from never before published family letters, kindly provided by Angus Horne, a Scottish relative of Aitchison. Hundey lives in Kitchener, ON.

My concluding article presents the intriguing story of Chauncey Sheldon, a Patriot combatant who also was captured at the Battle of Windsor. It includes his transportation to Van Dieman’s Land, and his trials and tribulations as a prisoner in that Tasmania penal colony. Subsequent to these experiences, following his pardon, his experiences in Michigan are explained.


I do trust that you will treasure and value this special rebellion themed edition of Ontario History. It was a great opportunity and experience for me to be the guest editor and a contributor to this new source of information and original research, which is focused on the Upper Canadian Rebellions/Patriot War. Do enjoy reading all the articles in “The 1838 Upper Canadian Rebellion/Patriot War and its Aftermath.” It carries on a wonderful tradition begun many years ago by the OHS, and also mirrors an interest of TI Life founder Paul Malo in this topic, material that as Editor, he published in the February and May 2008 issues. Paul would be pleased to see the progress and advances made in the study of this area of historical research and writing, since his first mention of it in TI Life 15 years ago! The current Editor, Susan Smith, should also be acknowledged for continuing to publish various articles associated with this topic in TI Life.

[An additional note - be sure to stay tuned for more details about another forthcoming rebellion/patriot war resource document, which will be added to the website of the Ontario Historical Society in due course.**

For further information about how to acquire and purchase this special rebellion issue of Ontario History, please contact O.H.S. Project Manager and Librarian Sarah McCabe, by emailing her at]


*See Charles Pelham Mulvany, History of Toronto and County of York (Toronto: C. Blackett Robinson, 1885), v. 1, p 119, for his ideas.
**A comprehensive bibliography of published material containing more than 36,580 entries is currently being compiled by John Carter and Chris Raible. This expansive document is scheduled to be posted on the OHS website sometime in mid 2024. It will provide a read only/free access to this rebellion related bibliography, which has been collated and compiled over the past 20 years by Dr. Carter and Mr. Raible.

By Dr. John C. Carter

Dr. John C. Carter is a Sauble Beach/East York, Ontario based museologist, historian and author. He has researched and published articles about the 1838 Upper Canadian Rebellion/Patriot War for over 40 years. This is the twentieth article that he has written about the 1838 Upper Canadian Rebellion/Patriot War, which frequently appeared online in Thousand Islands Life Magazine, since 2010. Dr. Carter can be contacted at

[Editor's Note: Below are the articles written by Dr. Carter for TILife. Remarkable in their own right, but even more interesting are the comments and reactions of North Country families who upon discovering these articles were reconnected with long lost relatives on the other side of the world - in Tasmania! Be sure to click here and here to see that complete list and link to learn more.]

Posted in: Volume 18, Issue 11, November 2023, History, People, Places, News article

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