[Editor's Note: Richard J. Koke authored a series of five articles that appeared in Volumes 19 -23 of the OCHS Journal between 1990 and 1994. These articles will be presented in multiple sections over the next few years.]
Finally, A Dreary Blockhouse
Chapter 16: Homeless Canadians
Throughout June , the army was being furloughed and sent home by state units without pay or celebration, and by the end of the month the cantonment was empty of the regiments that had wintered there, and all that was left of the army under Washington's command on the Hudson was the West Point garrison, some light infantry units and four regiments of three-year men formed in two brigades that were marched over Butter Hill into the Point.
Hazen's regiment was also near its end. By June his scattered companies, including the troops at Sidman's bridge, were back at Pompton, and on the ninth Washington informed Hazen that Colonel Walter Stewart was on his way to Pompton for the final muster and was bringing discharges for all men willing to be furloughed. Those who remained, Washington ordered, were to be marched through the Clove to New Windsor with all dispatch and would then receive further orders. He wrote again a couple of weeks later and assured Hazen that every effort would be made to place the regiment on the same footing with respect to pay as the rest of the army. On June 30, Hazen was ordered to arrange his remaining men who had not taken furloughs into two companies, and after these were officered the remaining officers would have a choice, the commander-in-chief said, of either remaining with the army in an unattached state – in other words, in limbo – “or going into the country."
The reduction, however, posed a special and pathetic problem in contrast to other regiments in that the Canadian personnel were now homeless refugees. Men like Duncan could return to Pennsylvania and forget the misery they had gone through, but, with no reciprocal provision in the peace treaty allowing for their return to British Canada, the French Canadians in the regiment suddenly found themselves stateless and stranded in a country they had helped to liberate.
A petition for relief drawn up in French on behalf of the refugees at Fishkill (eighty men and women and six children) was presented to Washington in July by some of Hazen's officers, which the commander-in-chief, retaining a translation for his file, forwarded to Congress with a recommendation that “some provision” was due to those “who are exiled from their native Country and habitations.” He pointed out that they had “left their Country, their friends, their Substance, their all, in support of the Liberties of America; and have followed our fortunes thro’ the various Scenes of distressing Contest untill they find it to have terminated in the happiest manner for all but themselves.” Congress acknowledged the merit of the petition, but did nothing. The small remaining unit of the regiment hung on until November 1783 when it was disbanded at White Plains. In 1784 the State of New York granted the exiles a Refugee Tract for settlement in Clinton County on the American side of the Canadian border in the northern Champlain Valley.