Mes racines / my roots

Henri Césaire Saint-Pierre

Adéline Albina Lesieur

Napoléon Mallette

Louis Émery Beaulieu

Guillaume Saint-Pierre

Joseph Bélanger

Geneviève Saint-Pierre

Jeanne Beaulieu Casgrain

Jean Casgrain

Simone Aubry Beaulieu

Marcel Malépart

Jaque Masson

Édouard Trudeau

Rolland Labrosse

Jacques Cousineau

"Mes racines"


à la page

Henri Césaire Saint-Pierre's Biography


Many of the documents that I've had the pleasure to consult were loaned to me by Suzanne Bélanger Montel, Janice Saint-Pierre Westfall and Odile Malépart, all great grand-daughters of Henri Césaire Saint-Pierre,or furnished by Mike Brown, creator of the website on the regiment of volunteers of the 76th New York, as well as by Ed Rauss. I have equally benefited enormously from the help of Louiselle Saint-Laurent and of Éliane Labastrou.

Translation by Janice Saint-Pierre Westfall of

Henri Césaire Saint-Pierre

Jacques Beaulieu

To Mrs Éliane Labastrou,
without whom this text never would have been written and
whose book about Île Bizard was held in such high regard by all of the Saint-Pierres

Part One: 1842-1876

  1. Childhood and Family
  2. Henri Césaire Saint-Pierre was born in Rigaud on 13th September 1842, son of Joseph Saint-Pierre and Domithilde Denis Saint-Denis. (1)

    His father Joseph was born on Île Bizard on 16th March 1802. He had married, on 8th February 1825 in La Pointe Claire, Domithilde Denis Saint-Denis. Like Domithilde, he could neither read nor write nor sign his name at the time of the marriage.

    Joseph was a farmer. The Saint-Pierres lived on Île Bizard until about 1835. They then established themselves in the parish of Saint-Hermas until about 1840. It was during that time that the troubles of 1837-38 started and that the village took up arms.

    Joseph took part in the insurrection of the patriots, and was one of the survivors of a small group under doctor Jean-Olivier Chénier at Saint-Eustache on 14th December 1837 which faced the British Army even though it was severely outnumbered, an action that his son, Henri Césaire was very proud of, as we will see.

    After Saint-Hermas we find the family residing in Rigaud until about 1843, after which the family returned to live on Île Bizard. These comings and goings allow us to suppose that Joseph did not own land and worked for other farmers according to their needs. He died on Île Bizard August 4, 1845 at the age of 43.

    Domithilde found herself a widow with 9 children, 7 girls and 2 boys, aged from 19 years to less than 3 months. She stayed on Île Bizard where she and her older girls had to work to feed and house the family. The family diminished quickly enough as 5 of the girl were married between 1848 and 1853; Marie Aglaé, 25 September 1848; Marcelline, 3 October 1848; Odile, 9 April 1850; Rose de Lima, 27 January 1851; Domithilde, 21 November 1853.

    The census of Île Bizard, done in 1841, shows us that the mother of Henri Césaire was a day labourer, that his brother, Olivier was a voyageur and away from home, that his sisters, Domithilde, Aurélie and Zéphirine lived with their mother just as he did and he was a student.

  3. His Studies
  4. His sister, Odile married a merchant, Cyrille Labrosse Raymond, on 9 April 1850. This couple only managed to have one daughter who survived childhood. This lack of a son practically made them adopt Henri Césaire. As the afore mentioned was a very good student, Cyrille Labrosse Raymond had him do the classic course at Collège de Montréal run by the Messieurs de Saint-Sulpice, which he would not have been able to do otherwise.

    Henri Césaire thus became a boarder at the Collège de Montréalwhere he began his studies in 1855. The land of the college, which was then called Petit Séminaire, was bordered by the Saint-Pierre River, St Paul Street, Inspecteur Street. (2)

    In 1851, the political situation between England and the American Union, then at war against the South caused Westminister to hurry 5,000 troops to Montréal.Henri Césaire and his fellow students were let go 27 December 1851 so that the building of the Petit Séminaire could serve as barracks. 23 January 1862, Henri Césaire and his fellow students of the Petit Séminaire found themselves in the building of the Grand Séminaire, on Sherbrooke Street, where he finished his classic course in July 1862. When he completed his studies successfully, he resolved to become a lawyer although he dreamed of a military career and wanted very much to join the Union Army.

    At that time, as today, the bar decides who to have as a member and therefore he can practice his profession as a lawyer. In order to do this, the candidate had to succeed in his internship, to spend an apprenticeship in one or more law offices, as well as pass a series of exams administered by the bar. The bar also administered a series of exams to choose those who were admissible to study law in a law office.

    Henri Césaire passed his exams. In order to perfect his knowledge of English, it was decided to send him to study law initially with the law firm of James Agnew in Kingston, Ontario. He began his study of law in the autumn of 1862.

  5. Soldier of the 76th New York Volunteers
  6. The war of secession had been raging in the U.S. Since April 1861. Henri Césaire, who for a long time wanted to be a part of the Union Army, took advantage of his vacation in the summer of 1863, to visit Buffalo, New York. 21 August 1863, he joined for 3 years as a simple soldier under the alias of Louis Henry, 21 years old, law student, born in Paris, France. He had blue eyes, brown hair, dark complexion and was 5' 9 1/4” in height. (3)

    He was sent to the 76th New York Volunteer Rgt, which had suffered great losses at the Battle of Gettysburg. He joined the regiment 6 September 1863 and was assigned to Company F. The 76th V. Regiment was part of the Army of the Potomac, commanded by Major General Meade, and more precisely of the 1st Division, 1st Army Corps, this last, under the command of Major General John Newton.

    Towards the end of November 1863, Meade took on the Mine Run Campaign. His objective was to attack the Southern Army on its right flank, south of the River Rapidan. In order to do this he divided his army into 3 columns; the first was made up of the 5th Army Corps, under the direction of Sykes backed up by 2 of the divisions of the 1st Corps, including the 76th New York. The second column was formed by the 3rd Army Corps commanded by French backed up by the 6th Corps commanded by Sedwick; the 3rd column was made up of the Second Army Corps commanded by Warren. The strategy required that these 3 columns cross the Rapidan at the same time in 3 different places. The 1st column had to cross the Rapidan by the Culpepper Mine Bridge. The second by the Jacobs bridge and the 3rd by the Germana Bridge, and this, without attracting the attention of the enemy, at dawn. The Army started moving at 6 am on 26 November 1863. The leading unit of the 3rd column, as well as those of the 1st column, arrived at the assigned bridges between 9 and 10 am. But those of the second column did not arrive at Jacob's bridge until noon; the effect of surprise was already lost. It has to be said that the roads were muddy, the earth soaked and the second column had gotten lost. The 3 columns started to cross but night fell before all of the troops had crossed. The last units of the first column to cross were those composing the 1st Army Corps, and among these, was the 76th New York. It was at this time that Henri Césaire was taken prisoner 26 November, intercepted by enemy soldiers south of the Rapidan, near Kelly's Ford. The battle had not even begun.

    Henri Césaire had only been part of the Regiment for a few months and he had not yet received the “baptism of fire”. The Battle of Mine Run started without him 27 November 1863. After a few days of unsuccessful fighting, Meade's troops withdrew during the night of 1 December. The campaign was over.

  7. Prisoner of the South
  8. 8 December 1863, Henri Césaire, prisoner-of-war, was incarcerated at Belle-Ile, near Richmond, Virginia. There were already 6,300 prisoners there. There were only enough tents for less than half that number. The others slept under the stars in the cold, wind and rain on a wet and muddy ground. The rations were very meager. This camp, which had been reopened in May '63, was closed again in March 1864. The prisoners were transferred beginning 7 February, 1864, in groups of 400 to Andersonville, Georgia. It was 10 February 1864 when Henri Césaire was sent there. This camp had been built at the beginning of 1864 to receive POWs who were in or around Richmond. During its 14 months of existence, 45,000 POWs were imprisoned there and of these, close to 13,000 died of illness, lack of sanitation, malnutrition, overcrowding, or exposure to the elements. At the end of June, there were 26,000 prisoners there. In August, the population surpassed 32,000. It was decided to transfer as many as possible POWs elsewhere as the Union troops approached. Also, Henri Césaire was incarcerated for 2 weeks in the prison yard of the community prison in Savannah, Georgia. He was transferred at the end of August 1864 to the Race Ground de Charleston Raceground in Charleston, North Carolina. There he met a nun from France who with other nuns, took care of the sick. Thanks to her, he was able to contact a Frenchman and a Canadian who were working for the Confederates. He implored them to help him escape. But, after a few weeks in this camp, before a plan could be put in action, he was transferred elsewhere due to the smallpox and yellow fever outbreaks at Raceground. (4)

    These epidemics effectively forced the Confederates to begin transferring prisoners to the new prison camp at Florence, South Carolina beginning in mid-September, while the stockade required to imprison the prisoners was still incomplete. 14 September, more than 5,000 POWs from Charleston were transferred to Florence, without the stockade to hold them in. About 1,500 prisoners, including Henri Césaire, escaped about 20 September. He was recaptured along with 41 others at the Great Pee Dee River railway bridge. But this group succeeded in escaping from the place where they'd been temporarily incarcerated. Henri Césaire was recaptured again, near Marion, North Carolina after several days and returned to Florence where the stockade had finally been completed on 2 October 1864. (5)

    This prison operated for about 5 months, form Sep 1864 to February 1865. On 12 October 1864, 12,362 prisoners were there dying at the rate of 20-30 a day. Three quarters of the prisoners had no blanket, and several were very lightly dressed. They were all starving. At the end of October, the non-American prisoners were invited to join the Confederate Army but they all refused. A second invitation was made shortly afterwards; this offer consisted of working at the Charleston Arsenal while remaining a POW under guard. No commitment or oath of allegiance was required. An Irishman named Paul Clareton who was part of his detachment, accepted and convinced him to do the same and this was how they were able to leave the death camp.

  9. Charleston
  10. Henri Césaire,a law student, had passed himself off as a wheelright; he had to make wheels for the cannon and military wagons at the arsenal; Paul Clareton, a baker, had passed himself off as a carpenter; he had to make the boxes for the cartridges. Their subterfuge would be discovered on their first day at the arsenal. Failing a quick, escape, they would be be in for it. Having arrived in Charleston, they were placed near the arsenal. They received a tent, some provisions and a bit of money. They were told to hire one of the blacks who lived near the arsenal to prepare their food as they would be working all day. A black woman, who spoke Creole agreed. They said that they were sick the next day Henri Césaire spoke French to the black woman so as not to be understood by the guards and he asked her to find ASAP the contact he had made at the Charleston Raceground earlier. Thanks to her, he was able to contact the Frenchman who found the Canadian and the escape took place that very evening. They were hidden for a few days in the home of a Confederate, then under the flags, a house close to the arsenal and held by a black slave. They then hid in the lower town, destroyed by the Union attacks. They stayed there until the confederate troops left the city 17 February 1865. They reported to Major General John Porter Hatch as soon as he arrived in charge of the occupation troops. He named Henri Césaire a sergeant in the Provosts Guard, a section of the occupation force charged with disarming the locals. He remained at this post until the end of the war and even afterwards because he wanted on the one hand to help his saviors to profit from the after war and on the other hand to realize his dream to become an officer in the American Army. On this last point, he could count on the support of Major General Hatch.

    His friend Paul Clareton on the other hand, believed that it was his duty to go see his parents now that he woud been demobilized. Henri Césaire refused but his friend, as soon as he was demobilized at the end of May, went to Île Bizard to see Henri Césaire's mother. He told her her whole story and she immediately had him send a letter begging him to come home. Henri Césaire could not resist his mother's tears and had to put his project aside. Sadly, he became very ill beginning in June and it was not until October that he was able to take a steamboat to New York. He found himself in the hospital again for a few weeks. A period of convalescence was required, as he was not in a fit state for travel, especially as he would arrive in winter. It was not until 3 November 1865 that he arrived at Île Bizard still sick and weak. His mother was wild with happiness.

  11. His Internship and his First Years as a Lawyer.
  12. In Spring 1866, still dreaming of a military career in the American Army, he wished to return to Charleston, but his mother, his sister Odile and her husband Cyrille Labrosse Raymond, (the one who had paid for his education), as well as Guillaume Gamelin Gaucher,then County Deputy of Jacques-Cartier( this county included Île Bizard) insisted that he resume his study of the Law begun in Kingston. Henri Césaire had to concede: his military career was over.

    When Cyrille Labrosse Raymond died at Île Bizard on March 25, 1866, Henri Césaire HC had just restarted his internship in the office of the Honourable George Étienne Cartier, M.P.P., Attorney General for East Canada, that is the office of Cartier, Pominville & Bétournay, at 32 Notre Dame Street. The following year, he was hired as Clerk in the office of the Honourable John Joseph Caldwell Abbott, M.P.P., Q.C., at 47 St-Jean Street. In 1868, he moved to the office of Barnard & Pagnolo (Edmund Barnard and Siméon Pagnolo), 20 St-James Street, moving the following year to 126 St James Street. Where he remained a year after becoming a lawyer having been admitted to the Bar the 12th of July, 1870. He lived at 136 Wellington in 1866, at 43 St Vincent in 1867, at 101 Vitré in 1869, and at 45 St-Urban in 1870.

    In 1873, he was practicing Law in the office of Moreau, Ouimet & St Pierre, at 63 St Gabriel Street (with Pierre Moreau as well as the Honourable Gédéon Ouimet, M.P.P., Minister of Public Education). This practice became Ouimet, St Pierre & Augé in 1874, Olivier M. Augé having joined them. Henri Césaire moved that year to 59 German. (6)

  13. His Marriage and his Trial
  14. 7 September 1874, he married Marie Adéline Albina Lesieur, daughter of the merchant Louis Adolphe Lesieur and of Marie Elisabeth Loranger. She was only 14 years and 8 months old at this time. He would be 32 years old six days later. Among those present were mentioned or signed in addition to the couple and the parents of the bride, the Honourable Thomas Jean Jacques Loranger, Judge of the Superior Court of the Province of Québec, Onésime Loranger, Lawyer, an A. Loranger, an E. Loranger, a Robillard, and two Lesieur as well as Urgel A. Denis. The couple moved to 184 St Hubert. His law office became Ouimet & St Pierre, still at 63 St. Gabriel in 1875. A lot happened that year. In fact, since measles was ravaging Montreal, the City Council thought of making vaccinations obligatory. Henri Césaire opposed this firmly in his eloquent speeches given at public assemblies; he was obviously not the only one; the doctors J. Émery Coderre and Adolphe Dagenais, the medical student Elzéar Paquin, as well as the lawyer Charles Thibault, opposed this attack of individual liberty and freedom of choice. Large groups were convinced to oppose the adoption of this resolution and they were advised to let their disagreement be known by their presence at the city council meeting of 9 August at the Bonsecours Market. A huge crowd showed up and unfortunately, the situation quickly got out of hand. Rocks were thrown in the marketplace hitting people in the room. All of the windows of the market, including those of Louis Adolphe Lesieur's store (father-in-law of Henri Césaire) were broken and the meeting could not be held. The forces of order looked for a ringleader; they decided to accuse Henri Césaire of inciting the mob. The judge, Thomas K. Ramsey strongly suggested to the Grand Jury during their swearing in on 24 September 1875 that there were grounds for the accusation. They agreed with him on 12 October.The trial took place on 21 October before Ramsey. The Honourable Ouimet, Q.C., the partner of Henri Césaire, as well as Kerr, L. O. Loranger and MacMaster acted for the defense. He was found not guilty by the jury without them taking any time to deliberate. (7)

For the continuation, press HERE.


1 - Les dates trouvées dans les sections qui suivent sont basées sur la lecture des actes correspondants. La plupart sont transcrits et digitalisés ICI.

2 - Les informations trouvés dans cette section sont basées sur Le Collège de Montréal 1767-1967 par le père Olivier Maurault, P.A., p.s.s.; deuxième édition, revue et mise à jour par Antonio Dansereau, p.s.s.; Montréal, 1967

3 - Les documents concernant son enrôlement et sa disparition sont transcrits et digitalisés ICI.

4 - Son odyssée dans plusieurs camps de prisonniers, et son temps à Charleston est raconté par Henri Césaire lui-même dans une lettre à son fils, transcrite ICI et digitalisée ICI.

5 - Cet incident a été décrit par Henri Césaire lui-même dans une lettre au Washington Tribune publiée le 10 janvier 1895 transcrite. ICI.

6 - Les différentes adresses de ses domiciles ainsi que le nom des différents bureaux d'avocats dont il fit partie et leurs adresses proviennent du Lovell disponible sur le site de La Bibliothèque Nationale du Québec.

7 - Cet incident a été décrit dans un article du journal La Patrie de 1926 transcrit ICI; le procès lui-même a été rapporté dans le journal La Minerve; ce dernier ainsi que certaines déclarations s'y rapportant sont transcrits ICI.

Jacques Beaulieu
Révisé le 22 juillet 2019
Ce site a été visité 27597288 fois
depuis le 9 mai 2004