Capt. Clément Gosselin

Capt. Clément Gosselin
by: Bill Harrison
John C. Gosselin

Clément Gosselin was born 12 June 1747 and baptized the same day at the church of the Sainte-Famille in the Isle d’Orléans, Quebec, the youngest child of twelve, the family of Gabriel and Geneviève (Crépeaux) Gosselin. Louis Gosselin, who also had Continental service, was Clement’s brother. The family was originally of Normandy, and had been in Canada since at least 1652 . Before the American Revolution, Clément and others of his family were prosperous farmers south of the Saint Lawrence River; Clément located in Ste.-Anne de la Pocatière parish and there married his first wife in 1770.

In 1774 the British promulgated the “Quebec Act,” a master-stroke in their relations with the French inhabitants of Canada in that the Catholic Church was preserved to them as were the old French civil laws and land tenure. If the Act did not guarantee the loyalty of the habitants, at least it kept them largely neutral during the American invasion, and they stayed that way in spite of the efforts of Benjamin Franklin, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, and Samuel Chase, a Congressional committee sent to Montreal in March 1776.

It was natural that the hierarchy of the Church in Canada should wish to preserve this status quo. When the Americans appeared, Jean-Oliver Briand, Bishop of Quebec, directed his clergy in regard to French-Canadian sympathizers,

As to the sacraments, you will not administer them, not even at the time of death, neither to men, nor to women, without a retraction and a public reparation of the scandal; those who died in their stubbornness, you shall not inter in hallowed ground without our permission…and their bodies shall not enter the church, which we order you to keep closed at all times, with the exception of the hours of offices.  You shall not receive stipends for masses to be said for the rebels. You shall not admit the rebels to any ecclesiastical function…

In spite of all this there were a number of Catholic French-Canadians who dedicated themselves to the American cause, Clément Gosselin among them. A hostile contemporary report said of him,

…he aided and abetted the Americans with all his might, aroused the passions of his neighbors, recruited men for the service of the American Congress, scoffed at and threatened the royalists,…from Sainte-Anne to Lévis, preaching rebellion everywhere, provoking the pillaging of the few loyal subjects of England and provoking their arrest, reading on the church steps, and at times forcing the King’s officers to read, the orders and proclamations of the Americans. He recruited and installed itinerant officers.

But possibly the greatest service rendered by Clément and Louis Gosselin, and Clément’s father-in-law Germain Dionne, was obtaining supplies for them, cut off as the Americans were in the Canadian winter.

General Montgomery died in the storming of the gates of Québec on 31 December, and the invasion failed, although the American retreat did not begin until May 1776. Yet even with this evident outcome, Clément accepted a Continental captain’s commission, Dionne a lieutenant’s, on 4 March 1776. Their unit was the Second Canadian Regiment (“Congress’ Own”), authorized 20 January 1776 and commanded by Colonel Moses Hazen. When the Americans retreated, however, Gosselin and Dionne remained behind, for what reasons can only be surmised, as they were in the neighborhood of Sainte-Anne as late as October 1777.

The renegades were, however, apprehended “at a point opposite Quebec and imprisoned until 1778.” Apparently without more severe punishment, they were released and “…said Gosselin and his brother [Louis] and his wife’s father [Dionne] made their way soon after to the Connecticut River through the woods with an Indian pilot and joined the Revolutionary army at White Plains, New York” where Hazen’s Regiment was then located.

The success of American arms at Saratoga in September-October 1777 and the subsequent influence of Horatio Gates in the Board of War meant that hopes for capturing Canada did not perish in spite of the initial failure. Washington did not learn of new plans to this end until sometime in January 1778; he termed it “the child of folly,” but Hazen and Lafayette, who was to command, strongly advocated a new invasion. Clément Gosselin was sent back to Canada, unquestionably as a spy and négociateur hoping to bring to fruition whatever plots he had been able to lay before his capture the previous year. Upon the recommendation of Lafayette, however, these plans were abandoned, although Gosselin went to Canada on similar missions in 1779 and 1780.

On the reorganization of the Continental Army on 1 January 1781 the First Canadian Regiment was disbanded; some, at least, of its men joined Hazen’s Regiment, to which all foreigners in Continental service were then assigned, except those in Armand’s legion. In June, Moses Hazen was commissioned Brigadier General and in September he took command of a brigade in Lafayette’s Light Infantry Division. His men were therefore present at Yorktown, and on 4 October Clément Gosselin was among the wounded there.

Gosselin returned north with his regiment, and at the time of the formation of the Society of the Cincinnati in May 1783 was with it in the Cantonment on the Hudson. Between 10 and 13 May 1783 the officers of the regiment signed their own copy of the Institution of the Society, which remains among the archives of the General Society of the Cincinnati . He retired from the service in June . At some time before November 1783, Gosselin went to Philadelphia, where he signed the Parchment Roll of the Society of the Cincinnati of Pennsylvania. This journey was undoubtedly undertaken on behalf of the now stateless Canadians, and Gosselin presented petitions asking for relief and a place of residence for them. Money was not forthcoming but eventually a tract of land on the western shore of Lake Champlain, the present towns of Champlain and Chazy in Clinton County, New York, north of Plattsburg, was given the veterans; Gosselin received one thousand acres.

Gosselin adapted to his new citizenship fully, and in 1788 was appointed the first major of the New York Militia in the County of Clinton; he was president of the first grand jury in the county in October 1788. At the first census of 1790, “Clement Gooslin” of Champlain Town, Clinton County, New York, had living with him one other male over sixteen and one female. That same year a change took place in Gosselin’s life when he was married for a third time, to Catherine Monty, daughter of his compatriot François Monty, late lieutenant in the First Canadian Regiment. At this time Gosselin seems to have returned to Canada as the baptisms of his children are recorded in various parishes there from 1791 until 1811 . On 13 March 1815 Clément Gosselin and his wife sold the property they possessed in the parish of Saint-Luc, Quebec, no doubt in preparation for his last move, a return to the United States. He died at Beekmanstown, Clinton County, New York, on 9 March 1816. His wife survived him until 1840.

Clément Gosselin’s marital history was varied. He first married Marie-Beuve Dionne, the daughter of Germain and Louise (Bernier) Dionne, at Sainte-Anne de la Pocatière, Quebec. Germain Dionne was a first lieutenant in Hazen’s Regiment from 1776 to 1783 and signed Hazen’s Roll of the Society of the Cincinnati with Gosselin . Of this marriage there were four children, including an eldest son, Clément, born 21 November 1770. The death date of Clément’s first wife has not been found. On 12 January 1787 Gosselin, described as “major, esquire, in the army of the United States of America and knight of the order of St. Cinaty,…” entered into a marriage contract with Charlotte, daughter of Ignace and Amable (Prairie) Ouimet of Longueuil, and the marriage took place on 15 January 1787 . There were two children of this marriage, Charlotte, born in 1788, who died young, and Toussaint, born 26 October 1789. The second Mme. Gosselin died 9 November 1789. Her husband was not present, and indeed seems to have spent most of this married life in the United States. On 8 November 1790 Gosselin took as his third wife Catherine, daughter of François and Marie-Josepha (Bergevin) Monty. Monty, like Gosselin, signed Hazen’s Roll of the Society of the Cincinnati. The marriage was performed by Murdock McPherson, Justice of the Peace, late a lieutenant in the Invalid Corps, and also a signer of Hazen’s Roll . The marriage was later blessed by the Rev. J. B. Durouvray, curé of Notre Dame at Saint-Hyacinthe, and there were fourteen known children, of whom only one is said to have survived. She was Marie Geneviève, later known as Jane, born 19 September 1804, who married Louis Monty. Clément Gosselin’s widow Catherine died 9 April 1840 . In 1845 Phineas Doan “what is called a local Methodist Preacher” deposed that he was the officiating minister at the funeral of Catherine Gosselin but that the day she was buried was so rainy that he did not go to the grave; Mary Richards her nurse also thought it too wet to go.  In February, and again in May, 1845 Worthington G. Smethers of Baltimore, attorney for the Montys, wrote the Commissioner of Pensions that “the said Jane (Genevieve) is the sole surviving heir of her parents.”