Many thanks to Mr. Paul Lessard for the permission to report about his research.
BELGRADE and AUGUSTA, Maine – Franco-Americans can prepare for the Maine Bicentennial celebrations 2020, by creating and planning events to highlight historic, and cultural contributions and to showcase the state’s 400 years of French history.
As a matter of fact, a perfect example to the potential programs is my recommendation to spotlight the historic research documented by Paul Lessard, of Belgrade, ME, who has collected detailed information about Private Charles Bourget, who was a French-Canadian immigrant who fought in the American Revolutionary War.
Lessard explained how he engaged in this research. “My interest in Charles Bourget came from when I was a student at University of Maine Augusta (UMA), in the early 1970’s, while I worked at the Maine State Museum in a work/study job. I was asked to prepare a sales description for a toy to be sold at the museum store. It was a cardboard cut-out of Fort Western, in Augusta.”
One of the books he read was Kenneth Roberts “March to Quebec”, which was a compilation of some of the journals from the men who were involved in Benedict Arnold’s March to Quebec, in 1775. The army organized their bateaux and supplies at Fort Western. Only one man enlisted to serve in the march while the army was at Fort Western. He was assigned to serve in Captain Henry Dearborn’s company. His name was mentioned by Dearborn as Charles Burget.
“Since I am Franco-American I knew that (the name) may have sounded right, but it was spelled wrong because Dearborn also said that Burget, as he described him, was ‘a native of Canady’, another spelling error. I decided that one day I would look into Charles Burget, or Bourget as I knew it to be, to learn who he was and where he came from.”
“It took more than 40 years before I finally did it!,” he said. Moreover, to his great surprise, Lessard discovered that Bourget was a distant relative, through an inquiry with the Lessard Family Association. Kudos to Lessard’s research, because his documentation rooted out several name mis-spellings. A history timeline is a chronological example about how one French-Canadian immigrant, at Fort Western, in Maine, participated in the creation of our nation.
This timeline was sent to me by Lessard, to document Private Charles Bourget’s Revolutionary War history and service, with some history links I found in on line reference sources.
Private Charles Bourget was born in 1753 and he died in 1825. He was an English-speaking French-Canadian immigrant who came to Maine from Quebec City. He was the only man to enlist at Fort Western (in Augusta) to serve under the command of Captain Henry Dearborn. (Dearborn was an American soldier and statesman who served under Benedict Arnold in the American Revolutionary War and fought in the expedition to Quebec. His journal provides an important record about the campaign. After being captured and exchanged, he served in George Washington‘s Continental Army, and was present at the British surrender at Yorktown.)
In September, 1775, Private Bourget enlisted at Fort Western on the Kennebec River, but Captain Henry Dearborn erroneously wrote his name as “Burget”.
December, 1775- Private Bourget ws captured at the Battle of Quebec. He remained in Canada as a prisoner of war but his name was documented as Charles “Burzett”. He was released in 1777.
1777- Private Bourget participated in the Battle of Saratoga, in New York. He also re-enlisted with the 3rd New Hampshire Regiment, at Albany, NY. (The Battle of Saratoga was considered a turning point in the Revolutionary War, because the British surrender opened the door to the Franco-American alliance and the French entry into the war to support the colonists.)
1777-1778- Private Bourget wintered at Valley Forge with the 3rd New Hampshire Regiment, under the command of Captain Michael McClary.
June 1778– He participated in the Battle of Monmouth, in New Jersey.
1778-1779– He wintered at Danbury and Redding, in Connecticut.
January, 1780– He re-enlisted at Danbury, Connecticut, with the 2nd Continental Light Dragoons, often cited as “Sheldon’s Horse” after Colonel Elisha Sheldon, to serve until the end of the Revolutionary War, on the New York and Connecticut Lines, in the 2nd Troop, under Captain Elijah Wadsworth.
July, 1783– He was honorably discharged after eight years of service. He settled on a farm in German, New York.
1803 – Charles “Burzette”, married his wife, Eunice.
1818– He filed for and received his military pension; affidavits submitted by 2nd Light Dragoons’ Paymaster, Captain Elijah Janes and Major Benjamin Tallmadge, who wrote Bourget’s name as “Bourgett”.
Some of the key resources in Lessard’s research came from the Danbury Historical Society, the military archives for Revolutionary War veterans such as the ones from the State of New Hampshire (since he was assigned to Henry Dearborn’s unit), seeing the original muster roll from the 2nd Light Dragoons based in Wethersfield, Connecticut, and several others.
Lessard has more information about Private Charles Bourget. I’ve encouraged him to present his material to genealogy and historical societies, especially during 2020, Maine’s Bicentennial Celebration year.
Maine 2020: Leading the Way website for more information about the bicentennial