Sunday, January 27, 2019

Episode 081: Common Sense




In January 1776 a new political pamphlet swept across the colonies.  Common Sense first appeared in Philadelphia as an anonymous pamphlet.  The first run of 1000 copies quickly sold out and numerous reprints began to pop up all over the continent.  Later editions named the author as Thomas Paine.  Many men at the time, as well as future historians, credit the publication of Common Sense as the catalyst that finally convinced the vast majority of Americans that they had to fight for complete independence from Britain.

Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine had been born in Thetford, England in 1737.  His father was a Quaker who made a living making stays.  There is a popular myth that Paine’s father was a corset maker. This is based on a misunderstanding. In the late 1700s and 1800s stays were solid reinforcements, usually made from whalebone, that were part of a corset. Some people thought they were talking about those kinds of stays. They were not.  The stays that the Paine family made were thick ropes that were used on ships.

Paine’s mother came from a fairly well off Anglican family. It appears that the family may have distanced itself from her after she married a Quaker.

Thomas received a good education, but left school at age 13 to begin work as an apprentice stay-maker.  That was more education than most working class children received.  It would have been extremely unusual for a working class student to attend school beyond the age of 13 or 14.  Many students left school at even younger ages to begin earning money for their families.

Thomas Pain (from Wikimedia)
Paine seemed impatient with the life of a simple working class craftsman.  At age 12, about the time he realized he would soon have to leave school and start work, he tried to run away and join a privateer, only to have his father drag him off the ship and back home.  At age 17, during Seven Years War, he took a job on another ship where he served for several months, though he did not seem to much like the life of a sailor either.  He spent a few more years making stays like his father, but clearly felt trapped in that life.

Later, Paine began work as an excise officer.  There, he collected taxes primarily on alcohol and tobacco, as well as the highly unpopular cider tax.  He had to investigate possible smugglers and ensure that merchants paid all appropriate taxes to the crown.  That was an ok job as a low level civil servant.  An excise officer made about £50 per year, though after paying taxes and upkeep on a horse, required for the job, substantially less was left over.  The life of a tax collector was also a lonely one, requiring regular travel and not one that lent itself to making friends.

Nevertheless, Paine settled into his working-class wife.  He got married in 1759, and his wife quickly became pregnant.  Sadly both wife and child died in childbirth the following year.  Paine was devastated.  He would remain single for the next decade.  When he married again, it would be to the daughter of a widow that he knew.  There is good evidence that the couple never lived together as husband and wife.

Paine took up an interest in politics, gravitating to the radical whig politics led by men like John Wilkes.  Without money or family though, there was no way Paine would ever have a career in politics.  He continued working as an excise officer, growing increasingly frustrated with his life.

He turned his attention to a labor movement to improve pay for excise officers.  In 1772 he wrote a pamphlet entitled Case of the Excise Officers, calling for better wages for excise officers which he had printed and distributed all over London, mostly targeting members of Parliament.  The pamphlet pointed out that excise officers often had to take second jobs to support their families, meaning they ended up neglecting their tax duties.  Their impoverished state left a strong temptation toward neglect and corruption.

Paine spoke from personal experience, years earlier, he had lost his job for stamping goods that he had not bothered to inspect, though he got the job back a short time later.  He held a variety of other jobs while working as an excise officer.  For a time, he worked as a school teacher.

In April 1774, though, his superiors fired him again.  This time, they accused him of smuggling untaxed tobacco which he sold in a tobacco shop that he ran on the side.  Speculation though, is that his superiors wanted him gone because of his continuing labor agitation for more pay and better working conditions.  Whatever the reason, Paine was out of work for good this time. He was in his late thirties and looking to start his life over again.

To avoid being thrown into debtor’s prison, Paine sold his house to pay off his debts, separated from his wife, and moved to London.  A short time later he made the acquaintance of Benjamin Franklin, still working as an American agent in London.  Franklin recommended he move to America and start a new life there.

Pennsylvania Magazine
(from Princeton Library)
Paine moved to Philadelphia, in November, 1774.  A few months later, he began work as editor of Pennsylvania Magazine in January 1775.  The magazine covered a little of everything, politics, science, business, and poetry.  He quickly gravitated to the radical politics of the patriots.  In his first months he possibly co-wrote an article entitled African Slavery in America, condemning american slavery (exact authorship of the article is disputed).  A month later, he became one of the founding members of Philadelphia’s Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage, the first abolition organization in America.

Later that same month, word arrived in Philadelphia of the fighting at Lexington and Concord.  Paine almost immediately put aside his focus on abolition and turned to the cause of independence.  Most Americans, including most leaders still did not believe the colonies should be independent.  If they did, they kept such treasonous and unpopular ideas to themselves.  Even after shots fired in Lexington, most patriots still hoped for reform that would bring the colonies back to an acceptable place within the British Empire.  Paine, however, became an early outspoken proponent of breaking all political ties with England.

He also took positions radical for the time, including support for women’s rights and attacking the concept of aristocracy itself.  In the weeks after Lexington, he wrote several articles for his magazine that advocated for independence.  Although his radical views had their critics, the magazine grew in popularity and along with it, Paine’s reputation among patriots.  Paine, however, was never one to allow his personal success to last very long.  He started to fight with his publisher and, by the summer of 1775, quit after requesting a raise that he did not get.

Common Sense

In the fall of 1775, he began writing a pamphlet on independence which hit the streets of Philadelphia on January 9, 1776.  Although the first edition left the author anonymous, Paine’s authorship quickly became common knowledge.  Part of the appeal of Common Sense was that it did not simply repeat all the arguments over English encroachments on traditional rights.  It went much farther, attacking fundamental assumptions of monarchy and colonialism.

The work began with the common social contract notion that all government is, at best, a necessary evil to allow people to live together in a society.  But then he went on to attack directly the idea of a monarchical government run by a man who had no legitimacy to rule over others, other than being the son of the previous ruler.  Similarly, aristocracy was based not on merit but on inheritance of power.  He pointed to the biblical story of how the Jews first demanded a king and the fact that while God did not see a king as necessary, allowed his people to have one.  Paine used this as evidence that a state of equality is God’s plan, and that kings are simply the result of people’s rejection of God’s plan.

Common Sense, first edition (from America in Class)
Next, Paine attacked the absurdity of a small island ruling an entire continent.  America completely dwarfed England in size.  The idea that Americans would allow themselves to be ruled by a tiny island made no sense.  America had already developed to the point that it does not need Britain anymore. To the notion that Americans owed some debt to England for developing the colonies, he pointed out that England had always operated the colonies from self interest, and had benefited greatly from the trade for centuries.  America owed Britain nothing.
Not content with those benefits, Britain now wanted to take even more from the colonies through taxation.  When America resisted this, Britain attacked America with military force, therefore destroying any loyalty which Americans might have been inclined to give.

Because America had evolved to the point where it could operate independently, Britain had become an impediment to Americans.  He argued that an independent America could conduct much more profitable trade directly with Europe if it could get out from under British trade laws and restrictions.  Even if Britain did back down on the current crisis, these same issues would return over and over.  The only way to stop that was to become an independent nation.

Going beyond a call for independence, Paine next turned to an explanation of what sort of government should rule America.  He presented a detailed plan for a convention to create the new government, with each colony electing five representatives and each colonial legislature sending two representatives to meet and create a new continental charter, essentially a constitution, which would define the government.

Continuing on, Paine lays out details that the charter should include.  It should protect basic freedoms and property including freedom of religion.  In the new government, each State would elect a delegation of thirty representatives.  Congress would then elect a President from a particular State, selected by lottery.  Each State would hold the presidency once until all State got a chance to have a President.  Then the lottery would start over.  Congress would pass all laws by a ⅗ majority.

Finally, Paine directly attacked the idea that Britain’s military was too powerful.  He noted that America’s resources would allow it to build a larger navy than Britain’s if only Americans would step up and get it done.

He also noted that while the colonies were united at the moment, over time divisions would arise. Therefore, now was the best time to seek independence.  Otherwise, the feeling of unity might fade and prevent America from becoming a continental power.  He also noted that America’s untapped wealth from western lands could help pay for the costs of the fight for independence.   Declaring independence was also the only way to get help from Europe.  At the time, Europe viewed the rebellion as an internal British matter.  By declaring independence, America could seek help from Europe in its fight for liberty.  In other words, America should seek independence and seek it right away.

Popularity

Common Sense quickly became the most popular reading material in America, and quickly spread to England and Europe as well.  The first 1000 copies sold out right away.

Paine immediately got into a fight with his publisher.  Paine had hoped to use the profits of the first printing to buy supplies for the soldiers fighting in Quebec.  But the publisher told him there were no profits.  Paine then fired his publisher and found another.  Meanwhile the original publisher continued to print more copies for sale.  Publishers all over the continent also began reprinting the pamphlet, there were at least 25 printings in the first year.  Estimates of first year sales range from 100,000 to 500,000 copies, not bad at a time when few American newspapers had circulations over 1000.  Even if these estimates are inflated, there is no doubt the pamphlet quickly became known to just about everyone in the colonies.

Pamphlets like these were commonly read aloud to groups at taverns or other public places.  George Washington had Common Sense read aloud to the army around Boston and commented that it worked wonders convincing the men of the army to remain in support of the cause.  Washington also noted that the pamphlet had persuaded him to support independence. John Adams celebrated the publication as finally moving the American public to favoring independence.  Almost all patriot correspondents in early 1776 reference Common Sense and its impact on moving the public mind in favor of independence.

Certainly, the writing, in both style and substance had a big impact on its popularity.  But the timing of its publication probably also contributed to its success.  Paine’s attack on the monarchy came around the same time that Americans were learning that King George had declared the colonies in a state of rebellion and for them to be crushed militarily.  His notions of American military power came just months before Washington successfully drove the entire British Army out of Boston.  Paine’s ideas hit at just the right time to convince people in light of other events that America could and should be independent.

Criticism

Of course, such a controversial work was not without critics.  One of the most famous criticisms was entitled The deceiver unmasked; or, Loyalty and interest united: in answer to a pamphlet entitled Common sense.  Charles Inglis, the author, was an Irish born Anglican rector of Trinity Church in New York.

Inglis points out that government is what makes society, with all its benefits, possible.  Without government men would be reduced to a state of nature where they would constantly be at war with one another.  While conceding that no government created by men can be perfect, the British government was the best on earth, leading to the quality of life that all colonists enjoyed at the time.  Monarchy was the best form of government for a large empire, and with proper checks, was the best protection against anarchy.

Charles Inglis (from Wikimedia)
He goes on to argue that the quality of life under the Britain’s hereditary monarchy was measurably better in almost every way than governments with elected leaders. He uses Poland as an example of the misery in countries with elected leaders, not mentioning that the Polish King was elected by only a small number of aristocrats.  As a preacher, Inglis also seems to have taken deep offense at Paine’s use of the Bible to criticize monarchy, and spends several pages attacking the point.  For example, Paine noted that the first monarchical governments were run by heathens.  Inglis properly points out that early democracies were also developed by heathens.

Inglis also attacks Paine for saying that Lexington was a turning point, one that requires Americans to reject the King.  He points out that the King had not approved of the events that resulted in battle, nor did he even know about it until months afterwards.  In fact, he notes that the colonies would not exist but for British protection.  There is little doubt that some other European power would have taken control of North America absent the protection of Great Britain.  Even though the colonies had matured, removal of that protection would only invite war and invasion from powers much more tyrannical that Britain had ever been.

The suffering of the time was not the result of British tyranny, it was the result of colonial resistance, leading to the state of war that existed at the time.  The cost of such a war would be far more than any taxes the colonies ever paid.  Taxes were also far lower than the cost of maintaining an independent military to protect the continent in the future.  He then goes into great detail about the costs of building and maintaining an independent military, not only to fight Britain, but other powers should Britain decide to walk away.  Colonial taxes, he says, would be nothing compared to those costs.  Britain and her colonies had a mutually beneficial relationship.  This move toward war and independence would only destroy all that.

Instead, Inglis pleads with the people of America to come to their senses and negotiate a compromise with Britain to return to the harmonious era they had long enjoyed.

Common Sense Prevails

The attacks on Common Sense by Inglis and others seemed to fall on deaf ears.  Paine’s pamphlet clearly won the debate in the court of public opinion.  His popularity grew along with it.  Paine refused all royalties on the publication, asking that any profits be sent to support the Continental Army.  This act only increased his public image, though most publishers simply sold the pamphlet and kept the money.

Paine continued to write articles and letters through much of 1776. Some time after the Declaration of Independence, he enlisted in the Continental Army and became an aide to Gen. Nathaniel Greene.  He would continue to write inspiring propaganda for the army, including his famous 13 part series of articles entitled The Crisis which I will discuss in future episodes.

While I won’t get into all the details now, Paine continued to seek controversy.  Several of his future works, called on government to adopt socialism and provide aid to the poor.  He also directly attacked religion generally.  He eventually moved to Paris to participate in the French Revolution.  There, he served in France’s revolutionary legislature then spent some time in prison for not being sufficiently revolutionary.  He almost died during the reign of terror, but was eventually rescued and returned to America.  He found his views on most things rejected and reviled by Americans and died in relative obscurity.

But despite his future troubles, in 1776, Paine noticeably moved public opinion in favor of independence.  Common Sense is probably one of the most well known revolutionary pamphlets from the era.

- - -

Next Episode 82: Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge

Previous Episode 80: The Knox Expedition




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Further Reading
Resources to learn more about today’s topic.

Websites: 

Paine, Thomas Common Sense (full text) https://www.gutenberg.org/files/147/147-h/147-h.htm

'Common Sense' and the American Revolution, by Harvey Kaye: http://thomaspaine.org/aboutpaine/common-sense-and-the-american-revolution-by-harvey-kaye.html

Reactions to Common Sense:
http://americainclass.org/sources/makingrevolution/rebellion/text7/text7.htm

Lepore, Jill "The Sharpened Quill: Was Thomas Paine too much of a freethinker for the country he helped free?" The New Yorker, Oct 16, 2006: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2006/10/16/the-sharpened-quill

Paine, Thomas The Case of the Excise Officers, 1772: http://www.thomaspaine.org/essays/other/case-of-the-excise-officers.html

Paine, Thomas African Slavery in America, 1775: http://thomaspaine.org/deattributed/african-slavery-in-america.html

Raphael, Ray "Thomas Paine's Inflated Numbers" Journal of the American Revolution, March 20, 2013: https://allthingsliberty.com/2013/03/thomas-paines-inflated-numbers

Inglis, Charles, The Deceiver Unmasked; or, Loyalty and interest united: in answer to a pamphlet entitled Common sense:  https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/evans/N32756.0001.001

Free eBooks
(from archive.org unless noted)

Journals of Congress, Vol 1, (contains minutes of First Continental Congress and first year of the Second Continental Congress.

The Pennsylvania Magazine, Vol. 1, Philadelphia: 1775.

Conway, Moncure The Life of Thomas Paine, Vol 1 and Vol. 2, New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1908.

Conway, Moncure (ed) The Writings of Thomas Paine, Vol. 1 1774-1779,  New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1906.

Audiobook: Paine, Thomas Common Sense, 1776:

Books Worth Buying
(links to Amazon.com unless otherwise noted)*

Beck, Derek, Igniting the American Revolution 1773-1775, Naperville, Ill: Sourcebooks, 2015.

Beeman, Richard R. Our Lives, Our Fortunes and Our Sacred Honor: The Forging of American Independence, 1774-1776, New York: Basic Books, 2013.

Foner, Eric Tom Paine and Revolutionary America, New York: Oxford University Press, 1976 (Book Recommendation of the Week).

Kaye, Harvey J. Thomas Paine and the Promise of America: A History & Biography, New York: Hill and Wang, 2006.

Kean, John Tom Paine: A Political Life, London: Bloomsbury, 1995

Nelson, Craig Thomas Paine: Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Birth of Modern Nations, New York: Viking, 2006.

* This site is a registered Amazon Associate.  Please help support this site by purchasing any of these books, or any other Amazon product, via the links on this site.  If you start by clicking on a book link above and then browse to buy something completely different on Amazon, American Revolution Podcast will get credit for your purchase.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Episode 080: The Knox Expedition




At the same time Richard Montgomery and Benedict Arnold were attempting to take Quebec, the main topic of the last few episodes, George Washington remained outside Boston, mostly watching and waiting for an opportunity to do something.

Knowlton Raid

Washington was always restless, and looking for a way to break the siege.  He sought and received approval from the Continental Congress to bombard and destroy Boston if he deemed it a military necessity.  This was no small concession from Congress.  The President of Congress, John Hancock, stood to lose his mansion and all of his other property in Boston if this happened.

Washington also engaged in many small raids against the regulars.  On January 6, he sent 200 men under the command of Major Thomas Knowlton to raid the Charlestown Peninsula, where the British occupied Bunker Hill.  The purpose of the nighttime raid was to burn 14 houses that could be of use to the enemy.  The Continental raiding party shot one sentry, which immediately caused the British to fire blindly in their direction.  The party ignored the shots from Bunker Hill, set the houses on fire, captured five regulars and retreated back across the neck to Cambridge.

The main reason anyone remembers this minor raid is that the top military brass in Boston were enjoying a play written by Gen. Burgoyne called The Blockade of Boston performed by their fellow officers.  During the play a soldier rushed on stage to call on everyone to turn out because the rebels were attacking. The crowd simply laughed and assumed it was part of the play.  It took a few minutes to convince everyone this was a real attack.  All the officers had to scramble out of the theater and rush to their regiments.  Of course, by the time they were ready to go, the raid was over and the Continentals had returned to their lines.

Washington Needs Artillery

Raids were one thing, but if Washington ever hoped to take the city, he would need more artillery, not just field pieces, but large cannons and mortars that could take down fortifications and destroy navy ships.  Back in the spring of 1775, Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen had taken Fort Ticonderoga and several other forts along Lake Champlain, providing the patriots with about 200 pieces of artillery.  Since that time though, most of the weapons continued to sit unused at Ticonderoga.

At first, Congress wanted to hold them to give back to the British once this misunderstanding had been resolved.  Then, New York did not want to let the weapons go to New England.  But with the creation of the Continental Army, and the realization that this was a long-term fight, these concerns had faded.   By fall, Washington decided that he needed these weapons for use against Boston.  Getting them there, would not be easy though.

Some of these cannons weighed over 5000 pounds.  Dragging them across rivers and over mountains was going to be hard work.  The man Washington chose for the job was not an obvious choice.

Col. Henry Knox

I introduced Henry Knox back in Episode 73 when George Washington appointed him as the new Commander of Artillery in November 1775.  As Commander of Artillery, Knox’s first mission was to find some artillery to command.  Washington ordered Knox to go to Ticonderoga and bring back the cannon.

Knox always seemed to me like a really improbable choice.  The guy was 25 years old, overweight, missing a couple of fingers on one hand from a shooting accident, and had never served in combat.  He had dropped out of school at age 9 after his father’s business failed.  His father left the family and took off for the West Indies, never to be seen again.  As an adult, Knox had run a Boston bookstore, which had been a popular hangout for British officers during the occupation.

Henry Knox (from Wikimedia)
He had also just married the daughter of a prominent Tory.  Lucy Flucker Knox was the daughter of Thomas Flucker, the Royal Secretary of Massachusetts.  I’ve heard the last name pronounced fluh-ker or floo-ker.  I’m not sure what is correct, but I really hope it’s fluh-ker, only because I think it would be really hilarious if Knox could refer to his mother-in-law as “Mother Flucker.”

You may recall back in 1774, the Massachusetts Assembly met to select delegates to the First Continental Congress. Gov. Gage sent a messenger to the Assembly ordering them to dissolve immediately.  The Assembly locked their doors and proceeded to appoint a delegation while the Governor’s representative was banging on the door demanding that they stop what they were doing.  That guy banging on the door was none other than Thomas Flucker.

As a royal official, Flucker remained a staunch and prominent Tory in Massachusetts.  For many years, he had served on the Governor’s Council. His son was a regular officer in the British Army.  Flucker not only objected to his daughter’s relationship with Knox based on Knox’s patriot leanings, but also because he was a nobody shopkeeper.  He was not even a very successful shopkeeper.  Knox’s business struggled under trade restrictions, making it more difficult and expensive to import British books.  The Boston Port Act ending all trade with Boston pretty much killed his business entirely.

Flucker thought his attractive daughter could snag a British officer, perhaps even an aristocrat.  He did everything he could to dissuade Lucy from continuing a relationship with Knox.  Lucy was only 17 at the time she wanted to marry the 24 year old Knox.  Her father pointed out that this marriage meant she would likely be a poor working class wife, separated socially from her sisters and others in the family.

But you know how kids are.  Henry and Lucy continued their relationship in secret until Lucy finally convinced her father to allow the marriage.  Despite personal misgivings and arguing that she was making a terrible mistake, Flucker gave his daughter’s hand in marriage to Knox in the summer of 1774.  He even arranged for Knox to get a commission in the British Army as a captain, an offer that Knox politely refused.

Despite his Tory family connections and lack of military experience, Knox did have a few things going for him that justified Washington’s appointment.

Knox was a member of the Sons of Liberty and an outspoken patriot.  Growing up, he had been a member of of Boston’s South Side gang, which had engaged in  the annual Pope’s day riots.  He was a street rat, who knew how to fight.  At the same time, as an apprentice in a bookstore, he also learned how to cultivate customers and behave in polite society.

Advertisement for Knox's bookstore (from Wikipedia)
Knox was at the center of several key events.  He had been a prominent witness at the Boston Massacre in 1770.  Witnesses testified that he had tried to calm the patriot rioters, as well as trying to keep the regulars from firing.  There is also good evidence that Knox was one of the “indians” who dumped tea into Boston Harbor in 1773.  Knox served as a militia officer in Boston’s artillery company.  Knox carried a great many military books in his store.  He studied these books carefully. At least on paper seemed to have a good knowledge of military strategy and tactics.

At one point the British, had asked Paul Revere to spy on Knox, not yet realizing that Revere was also a patriot.  The two men would often meet in Knox’s bookstore and have fake arguments in front of British officers to keep up the guise that the two friends hated each other.

After Lexington, Knox and his new wife slipped out of Boston.  Knox did not join the patriot army with a formal enlistment or commission.  Rather, he served as a sort of civilian adviser, helping with the defenses around Roxbury.  I’m still not clear if he had any role in the battle of Bunker Hill.  Some sources indicate he directed some cannon fire for the patriots, but it does not sound like he was even on the Charlestown Peninsula during the battle.  If he did anything, it was from a distance, and he still had no formal military commission.

When Washington arrived, Knox apparently impressed the new commander with his book knowledge of artillery and military strategy.  The two men dined together on several occasions, sometimes with Lucy present as well.  Perhaps the fact that both men were Freemasons may have helped.  Knox’s young and attractive wife apparently got along well with Washington, who had a weakness for flirting with young ladies.  Knox was also well connected.  He was good friends with Gen. Nathaniel Greene as well as John Adams and a number of other influential patriots.  They all endorsed Knox as a competent and dedicated patriot.

The prior artillery commander Richard Gridley, was in his mid 60’s.  He had done a mediocre job at Bunker Hill and really did not seem interested in continuing in the job.  Citing illness, Washington was determined to replace him.  Gridley would stay on as Chief Engineer, but would give up his role as Commander of Artillery.  Gridley’s second in command even endorsed Knox to be the new commander.  So there seemed to be a consensus that convinced Washington to go ahead and appoint Knox as the new commander of artillery.

Knox’s Commission was just the sort of thing that drove experienced combat officers nuts.  While officers like Benedict Arnold were off fighting real battles, guys like Knox were hanging around with important people back where it was safe and brown nosing top military officers and political leaders with talk backed by zero military experience.  If Knox had failed as an officer, it would have been easy to see why.  But as we will soon see, Knox not only talked the talk, he could walk the walk.  He proved himself to be a highly capable officer.

Ticonderoga

In November 1775, under Washington’s orders, Knox set out in search of cannon.  He was not yet officially a commissioned officer as that would require an Act of Congress.  But little things like that did not seem to bother anyone.  Washington gave him a command and $1000 to collect artillery for use against Boston.

Knox first set out for New York City, where he met with former Patriot agitator and now militia Colonel Alexander McDougal.  Knox tried to acquire some of the New York artillery for use in Boston.  McDougal offered a few smaller pieces, but was unwilling to part with the larger guns that he wanted to use in New York against the British in New York Harbor.

Knox then set out for Ticonderoga to collect what he could get there.  You may recall that the patriots had captured about 200 pieces when they took Ticonderoga and the surrounding forts.  But only about half of those were serviceable.  Some of the serviceable ones were now in use by Montgomery and Arnold in their attempt to take Quebec.  That whole invasion was still the focus of everyone’s attention in December.  So Knox had to pick from among what was left at the fort.

On his way out to Ticonderoga, Knox spent a night in a home with a British prisoner of war, Lt. John Andre, who Montgomery had captured at Fort St. Jean a few weeks earlier.  The men apparently had an enjoyable conversation, and under other circumstances, probably would have led to a good friendship.  Knox did not discuss any details of his mission with Andre, but the two Freemasons had an enjoyable night.  Years later, Gen. Knox would head the court martial that condemned Major Andre to death.

Knox Route (from Salina Baker)
Based on a letter from Washington, Gen. Schuyler handed over all the Ticonderoga artillery to Knox, still a civilian, to carry back to Cambridge.  From the inventory, Knox selected fifty-nine pieces, forty-three heavy cannon, six cohorns, eight mortars, and two howitzers.  In total, he had about sixty tons worth of weaponry to drag back to Boston.  The largest pieces weighed as much as 5000 pounds.

Knox optimistically thought he could drag all this equipment 300 miles, across lakes and over mountains in a little over two weeks.  But it would not be that easy.  In early December, he set out on the first leg, moving the guns by boat down Lake Champlain to Fort George.  One of the boats commanded by his brother, hit a rock and sank.  Fortunately, all the men survived and the equipment salvaged, but just getting the equipment to Fort George took until December 15.

By this time, the temperature had fallen below freezing.  Knox would not attempt to use boats to move the guns down the Hudson River.  Instead, he would use sleds to carry the guns along the banks of the Hudson over the ice and snow to below Albany, then across Massachusetts.  There were two problems with that plan, he had no sleds, and there was no ice and snow.  December 1775 in inland New York was unusually warm and dry, without enough snow to pull the sleds overland.  By Christmas Eve, the region finally saw a decent snowfall.  But the party still did not have enough sleds.

Gen. Schuyler had fired the military contractor who was building the sleds, because the contractor wanted too much money.  Somehow they found other local carpenters to build the sleds, assembling 42 sleds to carry the guns.  Knox's team then scoured the area for animals and teamsters to drive the sleds.  Knox had also hoped to use oxen to pull the heavy equipment, but could not find enough of them.  He would have to use horses for many of the sleds.

The Noble Train

Knox continued to have problems with the weather.  By January, there was snow, but too much snow.  Drifts of two to three feet made it nearly impossible for the horses to make much headway.  Some days they could only travel a few miles. They hit additional problems with river crossings.  Their route would require crossing the Hudson River multiple times.

Although it was freezing, it had not been cold long enough for a thick layer of ice to form over the rivers they needed to cross.  The ice simply was not thick enough to hold the heavy sleds.  The men tried to thicken the ice by drilling holes in it.  This forced water, under pressure below the ice to flow up over the existing ice and freeze.  The work further slowed the progress.

The Noble Train of Artillery (from Wikimedia)
As the train progressed, Knox decided to leave the men on their own.  Knox was not a hardened military officer.  He enjoyed good company in a warm home rather than sitting in a cold miserable tent at night.  He had his men continue on there own and rode off to spend the evening with Gen. Schuyler.  While having dinner with Schuyler, a messenger reported that one of the largest cannon had broken through the ice and was sitting at the bottom of the Hudson River near Albany, NY.

Knox realized he could not delegate his leadership.  He rejoined the train, directly supervising the movement of the remaining guns across the river.  Rather than abandon the lost cannon, Knox recruited locals from Albany to recover the gun.  There are not a lot of specifics about how they did it, but they somehow got ropes around the drowned cannon and pulled it out of the river and onto a new sled.  In thanks to the people of Albany, Knox christened the cannon the “Albany,” a name it would use for the remainder of its service in the war.

After this incident, Knox stayed with the train for most of the rest of the journey to ensure no more problems.  This probably meant harder going for him as he did not spend much time visiting with people along the way.  Unfortunately, it also meant that he gave up on his regular diary entries, meaning we know a lot less about this final leg of the journey across Massachusetts.

But the team managed to get the guns over the mountains of western Massachusetts.  Knox made no attempt to keep his mission a secret.  Instead he showed off his weapons to interested crowds in the towns and villages he passed along the way.  Friendly locals often provided food and shelter for his men as they made the difficult journey.  At Westfield, he reportedly fired one of the larger guns to impress the locals.

He hit his next challenge at Springfield when his train reached the Connecticut River.  The New Yorkers he had hired to bring the guns that far were exhausted and wanted to go home.  They had only agreed to go as far as Springfield, and were ready to be done.  It had gotten warm again.  Most of the snow melted and the sleds would not work.  Knox had to pay off his men and wait for the weather to change again.  A few days later, it did.  Now that they were in central Massachusetts, there were plenty of friendly locals willing to help continue the mission. Knox was able to hire a new crew of Massachusetts men, along with new teams of oxen to carry the guns the rest of the way.

Arrival in Cambridge

As the train got closer to Cambridge, Knox once again abandoned his team and rode ahead.  By now at least, they had passed over all the most difficult hurdles.  He arrived in Cambridge on January 24, 1776 to inform Washington that the guns would arrive in a few days. Although some records dispute the exact date.

He also learned that Congress had granted him his commission as Colonel in the Continental Army.  I guess that’s good since it would have been a shame if they had denied it and he would have had to carry all those cannons back to Ticonderoga.  But fortunately, that was not a problem.

The next day, the train arrived in Framingham.  There, John Adams and Elbridge Gerry inspected the guns along with other locals excited to see the new force of artillery that would soon be pointed at the regulars in Boston.

A few days later, on January 27, the Noble Train, as Knox had called it, arrived in Cambridge, making Knox the toast of the army.  Knox had proven himself a capable leader of men, not yet in combat, but at least as a logistical officer.

It had taken him nearly six weeks to get the artillery back to Cambridge, far longer than the two and a half that he had planned.  Even so, everyone hailed the mission a great success.  He even brought in the expedition under budget and could return some of the advance money he took for the mission.

On February 1, he and Lucy dined with George and Martha Washington.  Martha had joined her husband in Cambridge a few weeks earlier.  Martha and Lucy would go on to become close friends as their husbands worked together over the next few years in the fight for liberty.

Over the next few weeks, Col. Knox would oversee the deployment of his new guns in Roxbury and other areas around Boston.  He would also take command of the artillery regiment.

Knox was also pleased to learn that while he was away, the Patriots had captured the British ship Nancy which included in is stash of arms, over 3000 cannonballs.  Now, in addition to the guns, the Patriots had some ammunition as well.  Now if they could only find some gunpowder, they would be in business.

- - -

Next Episode 81: Common Sense

Previous Episode 79: The Battle of Quebec, 1775


Click here to donate
American Revolution Podcast is distributed 100% free of charge. If you can chip in to help defray my costs, I'd appreciate whatever you can give.  Also, see the very bottom of this page to see how you can support this podcast by making purchases you would make anyway on Amazon.  Thanks, Mike Troy


Visit http://www.amrevpodcast.com for a list of all episodes.

Visit https://pod.amrevpodcast.com for free downloads of all podcast episodes.

Further Reading
Resources to learn more about today’s topic.

Websites:

Burgoyne's Play "The Blockade of Boston" https://scholarscompass.vcu.edu/etd/1151

Guns of Ticonderoga: http://ticonderogahistoricalsociety.org/guns-of-ticonderoga

The Knox Trail: http://www.hudsonrivervalley.org/themes/knoxtrail.html

License, Carl Henry Knox and the Noble Train of Artillery, 2017: https://robertallisonhistory.wordpress.com/2017/03/21/henry-knox-and-the-noble-train-of-artillery-by-carl-licence

Perry, Clay "Big Guns For Washington" American Heritage Magazine, April 1955 Vol. 6 Iss. 3 http://www.americanheritage.com/content/big-guns-washington

Free eBooks
(from archive.org unless noted)

Brooks, Noah Henry Knox, a Soldier of the Revolution, New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1900.

Drake, Francis The Life and Correspondence of Henry Knox, Boston: Samuel B. Drake, 1873.

Books Worth Buying
(links to Amazon.com unless otherwise noted)*

Beck, Derek The War Before Independence: 1775-1776, Naperville, Ill: Sourcebooks, 2016.

Philbrick, Nathaniel Bunker Hill: A City, A Siege, A Revolution, New York: Penguin Books, 2013.

Puls, Mark Henry Knox: Visionary General of the American Revolution, New York: St. Martin's Press, 2010 (Book Recommendation of the Week).

* This site is a registered Amazon Associate.  Please help support this site by purchasing any of these books, or any other Amazon product, via the links on this site.  If you start by clicking on a book link above and then browse to buy something completely different on Amazon, American Revolution Podcast will get credit for your purchase.


Sunday, January 13, 2019

Episode 079: The Battle of Quebec




When we left off last week, General Montgomery and Colonel Arnold had finally combined their forces just upriver from Quebec City.  Their combined force of around 1100 was smaller than each individual force had been at the outset of their marches a few months earlier.  Disease and illness related to exposure were big reasons for the loss of men.  Many of their forces had simply gone home.  Montgomery lost about half of his remaining army after he took Montreal.  Arnold had lost about one-third of his force when one of his brigades had given up in the wilderness and simply turned around and went back to Boston.

Even worse, most of the men who had held out this long looked forward to the end of the year, when their enlistments ended and they could go home.  In less than a month, the army might dissolve away without a shot fired.  They could not count on George Washington to send reinforcements, he was facing his own end of year deadline when the Continental Army around Boston turned into a group of 15,000 civilians.  Montgomery and Arnold though, were not men who would sit around long, especially with the looming deadline.

Assault on Quebec, 1775 (from Wikimedia)
By December 6, the Continental Army was back surrounding Quebec.  Montgomery again offered terms if the city surrendered, but they refused.  Next the Continentals tried to communicate directly with the inhabitants by shooting arrows with notes attached into the city.  After a few days, Montgomery began using his artillery on the city.  But with only a few small cannons, it was not enough to do any real damage, especially after the British used their own artillery to take out the largest Continental battery.  The only effective tool that intimidated the defenders was Morgan’s Rifle companies.  They acted as snipers, taking out anyone who stood on the walls of the city long enough to become a target.

Inside the city, Governor General Guy Carleton felt secure.  His Highlander regiment and navy sailors whipped up the citizenry into an effective militia force.  Carleton now had about 1800 men ready to defend the city against about 1200 attackers who would have to charge entrenched lines and artillery.  He would not make the mistake the French had made during the French and Indian War, and leave the safety of the city walls.  Even with a superior force, he was content to remain behind his walls and force the enemy to attack.

Unable to get the city to surrender, unable to mount an artillery barrage and storm the walls, and unable to field an army long enough for a siege, Montgomery found himself left only with a longshot: wait for a stormy night when the enemy was not ready, and then storm the walls with scaling ladders and take the city.

The Attack Begins

Knowing they had to make an attack before the end of the month, Montgomery and Arnold waited for a stormy night, hoping it might give them enough cover to get over the walls and into the city.  After a few tense days of waiting, a heavy snow began to fall on December 27.  As the army prepared to attack, the snow suddenly stopped.  After conferring with his officers, Montgomery called off the assault.

Uppertown Gate at Quebec (from Wikimedia)
That was actually a good decision.  A Continental deserter had alerted the defenders to the planned attack.  They were ready and waiting.  After Montgomery saw reinforcements on the wall right where he had planned to attack, he changed his plan.

Quebec city consisted of two parts.  The upper town on the west side faced the Plains of Abraham.  This was where any large army would have to attack.  Therefore, the defenders had their highest walls and most of their artillery in this section.  Behind the uppertown was the lower town, where most of the civilian population lived.  This area had walls, not quite as high as those in upper town, but most of lower town was surrounded by the St. Lawrence and St. Charles Rivers.  There was no room to put a large military force on the narrow strip of land between the walls and the rivers.

Quebec 1775 (from British Battles)
General Montgomery had originally planned a direct assault from the Plains of Abraham against the Upper town.  After calling off the December 27 attack, Montgomery decided he would only send a small force against the upper town as a feint.  While less than 200 men launched a cannon and rocket attack against main gate, Arnold would take a force to the north, move along the wall, and attack the lower town from the north side.  Montgomery would move along the southern wall and attack the lower town from the south side.  The forces would meet in the middle and then slowly work their way through town, past a series of barricades, until they reached the upper town. From there the combined force could either storm the upper town walls or compel a surrender.

Finally, on the night of December 30, another storm rolled in.  Montgomery put his plan in motion at around 5AM on the morning of December 31.

As Arnold and Montgomery both moved into position, the diversion force launched an assault against the main gate on the western side of the city.  They hoped to set the gates on fire, diverting attention from the main attacks on the other side of town.  They also launched rockets against the main gate.  The rockets were not only an attempt to divert the enemy’s attention, they were the signal for Arnold and Montgomery go begin their attacks at the same time.

Montgomery’s Attack

Gen. Montgomery led his men along a narrow and rocky path along the south side of the city.  They reached the outer barricades and found them unmanned.  They moved across the field toward the first buildings, where they found the defenders.  The British had established a line of defense using sailors and militia to occupy several houses with both muskets and cannon containing grapeshot.  Grapeshot essentially turns a cannon into a giant shotgun, scattering dozens of metal balls all over a field of fire.  It is designed to take out an entire line of soldiers.

Death of Montgomery (from Yale Art Gallery)
Montgomery led the advance force directly against the enemy line.  The defenders held their fire until Montgomery and his men were within 50 yards of their lines, then opened fire all at once with devastating effects.  Most of the attackers fell to the ground, dead or wounded.  Gen. Montgomery who had been out in front, leading the charge, was hit in at least three places and died instantly, the first Continental Army general to give his life.

Montgomery would become a hero to the patriot cause, lauded for his bravery and sacrifice.  He would never learn that the Continental Congress had already promoted him to major general weeks earlier.  He died before the news reached him.  A decade later, when Philadelphia County created a new county out of its western half, the State named it Montgomery County in the General’s honor.  Montgomery Alabama and a host of other localities are named for this fallen hero.

Despite his heroics, that cold morning, Montgomery's corpse lay dead on the field and his men needed a new leader.  The few men in the advance force who were not hit, quickly ran back toward the outer barricade and fled the field.  Among the survivors was Captain Aaron Burr, who had left Arnold to take a commission and serve as Montgomery’s aide de camp.

With Montgomery dead, command of the southern attack fell to Lt. Col. Donald Campbell who was bringing up the second line of attackers.  Had Campbell renewed the attack, he might have succeeded.  The militia defending against the southern assault were ready to run away.  Their regular officers had to keep them on the lines at gunpoint.  A second charge might have been enough to chase them away.  Then again, a second attack might have to suffer a second deadly volley like the one that took out Montgomery.  Campbell decided not to take that gamble.  He turned around his men and retreated back down the same narrow trail they had taken to get there.  The southern assault was over.

Arnold’s Attack

At the same time Gen. Montgomery was moving along the south side of the city to begin his attack, Col. Arnold was moving his force along a similar narrow path on the north side of the city, following along the bank of the St. Charles River.  Arnold led the column which initially escaped the notice of the defenders.  However, after part of the force had passed by a section of the wall, the defenders noticed the attackers slipping by and opened fire.  The defenders killed a few Continentals who continued to rush past, but now the element of surprise was gone.  Arnold had brought with him a small field cannon to use against the enemy in his main assault.  He hoped to blast at the enemy while Captain Daniel Morgan and his riflemen slipped around to the side where they could open a second line of fire.  But with the column under fire while still getting into position, the cannon got stuck in the mud.  Its crew left it behind and continued forward without it.

Quebec Troop movements (from Wikimedia)
Without a cannon, Arnold decided a frontal attack was his best option.  Like Montgomery, Arnold charged an embedded line of soldiers armed with muskets and cannon.  Like Montgomery, Arnold led the charge and was shot in the first volley.  Unlike Montgomery, Arnold only took a shot in his leg and would survive.  Still, he could not continue and turned over command to Morgan.  Unlike Montgomery’s second in command, Morgan charged forward inspiring his men to attack.  He led the assault, with his attackers scaling ladders up a wall in the face of enemy fire.  They scattered the defenders and took about 100 prisoners.

As the patriots swarmed into the streets of the lower town they saw the second barricade, unmanned and open, leading into the upper town.  Morgan attempted to advance his men toward the barricade, but they would not go.  Only a few dozen of them had advanced past the first barricade.  The rest said they needed to wait for the larger force before simply running into the part of town that probably contained over 1000 defenders.  Reinforcements were on the way, but seemed to be getting lost on the docks and in the streets of Quebec.  Remember, it was still night, in the middle of a snowstorm, and in an unfamiliar town.

Before Morgan could get a large enough force, the British defenders in upper town sent 30 highlanders to put some backbone into the 200 militia who were supposed to be defending the second barricade.  Morgan’s attackers now found themselves stuck in street fighting with defenders picking them off from the upper floors of houses as they marched through the streets.

The defenders quickly realized that the attack on the main gate had been a feint and that  Montgomery’s attack from the south was over.  They could focus all their attention on Morgan’s soldiers now scattered all over lower town.  The defenders circled around and recaptured the first barricade that Morgan’s men had taken.  Now the patriots were caught in the city between the first and second barricades, with nowhere to go.

House to house fighting continued for hours as soldiers began to take refuge in houses.  As morning broke, the patriots found themselves trapped, outnumbered, and running out of ammunition.  Morgan tried to order a retreat, but most of his men refused to leave the safety of the houses.  They would have had to run a gauntlet of fire down the street, only to face a wall of hundreds of defenders to break out of the city again.

Surrender

It was now daylight and the few hundred patriots trapped in the city were surrounded by much larger numbers of mostly sailors and militia.  Eventually, almost all of them surrendered, except Morgan.  The British trapped Morgan in a house and surrounded him in a back room.  He refused to give up though, slashing with his sword at anyone who tried to come near him.  Eventually, a Catholic priest came into the house, and Morgan finally, reluctantly, turned over his sword to the priest.

By late morning, the fighting was over.  As usual, casualty reports differ.  The patriots suffered about 50 dead and another 40 wounded.  Well over 400 were taken prisoner, almost all of the attack force led by Arnold and Morgan.  The defenders suffered very little.  Official reports claim only 5 killed and 14 wounded, but other estimates indicate that 40 or 50 died or suffered serious injuries.

Aftermath

With nearly half of the patriot force now killed, wounded, or captured, Carlton had nearly a three to one advantage over his enemy.  Even so, he would not venture of out of the city to finish off the remaining Continentals.

Repulse of Continentals in Lower Town (from Wikimedia)
With Gen. Montgomery’s death, Col. Arnold took command of the remaining force of about 800 men still surrounding Quebec, including several hundred Canadians and Indians who had joined the patriot side.  Arnold had no intention of retreating or even withdrawing. His men, however, had different ideas.  Most of their enlistments expired on January 1, 1776.  Following this loss, more than 100 simply started to head home.

Arnold, still in a field hospital having his wounded leg treated, sent a messenger to Gen. Wooster back in Montreal asking that he stop them and force them to return to their posts.  Arnold also called for more reinforcements so that they could mount another attack on the city.  Wooster did nothing, and Arnold’s force soon fell to under 600.  Wooster had no extra troops.  He only had about 600 men himself, what he judged barely enough to keep Montreal under control.  He feared Indian attacks or a possible French uprising if the bulk of his troops left the city.

Eventually, word got back to Gen. Schuyler in Albany, to Gen. Washington at Boston, and to the Congress in Philadelphia.  All were stunned by the loss, as well as the death of Gen. Montgomery.  None of them, however, had reinforcements to send to Arnold.  Congress called on Pennsylvania and New Jersey to raise more regiments to send to Quebec, but that would take months.  Washington was watching his own army around Boston dissolve as enlistments ended.  Schuyler was still worried about British agents organizing the Iroquois against the patriot forces in New York.  He did get Col. Seth Warner to collect a few hundred Green Mountain Boys to send to Quebec.  That was nowhere near enough to launch another attack though, and the first reinforcements did not arrive for nearly a month.

After six weeks, Congress  voted to send a three man commission, headed by Benjamin Franklin, up to Canada to make whatever political or military decisions they deemed helpful to the cause.  Rather than an army of reinforcements, Arnold would get a civilian oversight board to question everything he was doing.

For most of the winter, Arnold got no real military support at all.  As his leg wound healed, his men maintained their siege, even though it seemed obvious to Arnold that the British could probably march out of the city and destroy his force with relative ease.  British General Carleton, though, was playing his hand conservatively.  He only had to hold out until spring, when the British Navy would send an expected relief force down the St. Lawrence river to secure Quebec, retake Montreal, and probably begin an invasion of New York.  Carleton was content to remain inside the city walls and let the patriot rabble sit outside the walls during an extremely cold and miserable winter.

While Arnold never got the reinforcements he wanted, Congress recognized his bravery and leadership ability.  In January, Congress promoted him to brigadier general.

Despite his bravery in battle, Arnold still wasn’t playing nice with most of his fellow officers.  Having taken over the remnants of Montgomery’s army, Major John Brown and Col. James Easton fell under his command once again.  Arnold felt both men had slandered his reputation in the political wrangling after the fall of Fort Ticonderoga the prior year.  Brown came to Gen. Arnold saying that Montgomery had promised him a promotion before his death.  Arnold basically responded oh well, it’s a shame he is dead, because I’m sure not giving you one.  Arnold accused both men of looting the baggage of captured British officers at Montreal.  Brown demanded a court martial to defend his name, but Arnold refused to give him one.

Arnold also criticized Col. Seth Warner, another enemy from the fight for credit over Ticonderoga.  Warner had allowed his troops to inoculate themselves against smallpox, against orders.  Since inoculation usually made one sick with a weak version of smallpox for several weeks, and the men had only signed up for three months of duty, most of them were on sick duty for almost the entire time they were stationed at Quebec.  Arnold also complained about lack of support from his superior, Gen. Wooster, who failed to send him reinforcements or resources.  Wooster, you may recall was the man Captain Arnold had threatened to shoot a few days after Lexington when Wooster refused to give his company ammunition to march to Cambridge.

Gen. Arnold had secured a reputation as a brave fighter, and fearless leader in battle under harsh conditions in the field.  But at the same time, he seemed to do his best to make enemies among his fellow officers, and hold grudges forever.

- - -

Next  Episode 80: The Knox Expedition

Previous Episode 78: Advancing on Quebec

Click here to donate
American Revolution Podcast is distributed 100% free of charge. If you can chip in to help defray my costs, I'd appreciate whatever you can give.  Also, see the very bottom of this page to see how you can support this podcast by making purchases you would make anyway on Amazon.  Thanks, Mike Troy


Visit http://www.amrevpodcast.com for a list of all episodes.

Visit https://pod.amrevpodcast.com for free downloads of all podcast episodes.

Further Reading

Websites

Why Benedict Arnold Did It, by Willard Randall, American Heritage: Sept/Oct 1990, Volume 41,  Issue 6: http://www.americanheritage.com/content/why-benedict-arnold-did-it

Aaron Burr: http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/biographies/aaron-burr-jr

Daniel Morgan: https://www.nps.gov/cowp/learn/historyculture/daniel-morgan.htm

List of Places Named for Richard Montgomery: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_places_named_for_Richard_Montgomery

Free eBooks
(from archive.org unless noted)


Codman, John Arnold’s Expedition To Quebec,  New York, MacMillan Co., 1901.

Dearborn, Henry Journal of Captain Henry Dearborn in the Quebec expedition, 1775, Cambridge: University Press, 1886.

Force, Peter American Archives, Series 4, Vol 2, Washington: Peter Force, 1837.
An accurate and interesting account of the hardships and sufferings of that band of heroes, who traversed the wilderness in the campaign against Quebec in 1775, by John J. Henry (1812).

Hill, George Benedict Arnold: A Biography, Boston: E.O. Libby & Co. 1858.

Kingsford, William The History of Canada, Vol. 5,  Toronto: Roswell & Hutchinson, 1887

Kingsford, William The History of Canada, Vol. 6,  Toronto: Roswell & Hutchinson, 1887

Meigs, Return Journal of the expedition against Quebec: under command of Col. Benedict Arnold, in the year 1775, (Charles Bushnell, ed) New York: (Private Publisher) 1864.

Melvin, Andrew (ed) The journal of James Melvin, private soldier in Arnold's expedition against Quebec in the year 1775,  Portland, ME: Hubbard W. Bryant, 1902.

Smith, Justin Our Struggle for the Fourteenth Colony: Canada, and the American Revolution, Vol. 2, New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1907.

Stocking, Abner An interesting journal of Abner Stocking of Chatham, Connecticut, detailing the distressing events of the expedition against Quebec, under the command of Col. Arnold in the year 1775, Catskill, NY: Eagle Office, 1810 (reprint 1921).

Thayer, Simeon & Edwin Stone The invasion of Canada in 1775: including the Journal of Captain Simeon Thayer, describing the perils and sufferings of the army under Colonel Benedict Arnold, in its march through the wilderness to Quebec, Providence: Knowles Anthony & Co. 1867.

Winsor, Justin (ed) Arnold's expedition against Quebec. 1775-1776: The Diary of Ebenezer Wild, Cambridge: John Wilson & Son, 1886.

Withington, Lothrop (ed) Caleb Haskell's diary. May 5, 1775-May 30, 1776. A revolutionary soldier's record before Boston and with Arnold's Quebec expedition, Newburyport: W.H. Huse, 1881.

Würtele, Fred C. Blockade of Quebec in 1775-1776 by the American revolutionists (les Bastonnais) Vol 1) Quebec: Daily Telegraph Job Printing House, 1905.

Würtele, Fred C. Blockade of Quebec in 1775-1776 by the American revolutionists (les Bastonnais) Vol 2) Quebec: Daily Telegraph Job Printing House, 1906.

Books Worth Buying
(links to Amazon.com unless otherwise noted)*

Anderson, Mark The Battle for the Fourteenth Colony: America’s War of Liberation in Canada, 1774–1776, University Press of New England, 2013.

Beck, Derek The War Before Independence: 1775-1776, Naperville, Ill: Sourcebooks, 2016.

Desjardin, Thomas A. Through a Howling Wilderness: Benedict Arnold's March to Quebec, 1775, New York: St. Martin's Press, 2005

Hatch, Robert Thrust for Canada, New York: Houghton-Mifflin, 1979.

Lefkowitz, Arthur S. Benedict Arnold's Army: The 1775 American Invasion of Canada During the Revolutionary War, El Dorado Hills, CA: Savas Beatie, 2008.

Martin, James Benedict Arnold: Revolutionary Hero, New York: NYU Press, 1997.

Phillips, Kevin 1775: A Good Year for Revolution, New York: Viking Penguin, 2012.

Randall, Willard Benedict Arnold: Patriot and Traitor, William Morrow & Co. 1990.

* This site is a registered Amazon Associate.  Please help support this site by purchasing any of these books, or any other Amazon product, via the links on this site.  If you start by clicking on a book link above and then browse to buy something completely different on Amazon, American Revolution Podcast will get credit for your purchase.










Sunday, January 6, 2019

Episode 078: Advancing on Quebec




Back in Episode 72, Continental General Philip Schuyler and his second-in-command General Richard Montgomery slowly and deliberately took control of Lake Champlain, Fort Chambly, Fort St. Jean, and finally the city of Montreal. Opposing them in all of this was British Major General Guy Carleton. Carleton is the last of the major generals in North America that I have neglected to introduce. So, I thought now would be as good a time as any to get to know General Carlton.

Guy Carleton

Carleton did not come from an aristocratic family.  He was born to a respectable common family in Northern Ireland in 1724.  His father died when he was 14 and his mother married a minister.  He received little benefits or education.  As Protestant though, the army offered him a potential career as an officer.

In 1742, following the outbreak of the War of Austrian Succession, the 17 year old Carleton acquired a commission as an ensign in the British Army.  His unit participated in the Battle of Culloden where the Duke of Cumberland ruthlessly put down the Jacobite Uprising in Scotland.  Shortly after the battle, Carleton received a promotion to lieutenant.

Battle of Culloden 1746 (from Wikimedia)
Around this same time, he became friends with fellow officer James Wolfe.  Wolfe was only a young major at the time, but as the son of a general, his friendship helped Carleton to make connections with more senior officers.

After the war ended, career advancement became much more difficult.  Even so, in 1751, Carleton joined the 1st Foot Guards and soon got a promotion to captain.  Wolfe also got him to serve as guide to Charles Lenox, who would later become Duke of Richmond and Secretary of State for Southern Affairs.  If you did not come from a good family, the only path up the chain of command was to gain the favor of those in high places.  Richmond’s influence helped to propel Carleton’s career forward.

With the outbreak of the Seven Years War, Carleton moved up to lieutenant colonel. He served in the defense of Hanover against the French.  Unfortunately, his command did not do particularly well. Without good family connections and without notoriety in battle, chances for upward mobility began to wane.  Perhaps more significantly, Carleton made disparaging comments about the Hanoverian soldiers fighting with the British.  Word of this got back to George II, still Elector of Hanover, did not take well to one of his officers speaking critically about his fellow Hanoverians.

When now General Wolfe asked to bring Carleton to America for the Siege of Louisbourg, the King refused the commission.  A year later, now Major General Wolfe once again requested bringing his friend Carleton to serve as quartermaster for his army during the Siege of Quebec.  Once again, the King refused.  However, he finally relented after Lord Richmond got several influential officials to convince the King to change his mind.

Col. Carleton served with distinction at Quebec, but received a head wound and returned to Britain after the battle for recovery.  He recovered in time to serve in the West Indies during the end of the war, including a stint in Cuba where he commanded a young Captain Richard Montgomery.

After the war, in 1766, Carleton’s friend and patron Lord Richmond became Secretary of State for the Southern Department, which included North America.  He got Carleton transferred back to Quebec as military commander and also as Lt. Governor of Canada.  A prominent political position with no family background was unusual, and I think speaks to the impression he made on several highly influential men in government.  Of course, it was also probably helpful that King George II was dead by this time and could no longer hold a grudge against the young officer.

Sir Guy Carleton
(from Wikimedia)
When the Governor of Canada resigned in 1768, Carleton became  Captain General and Governor-in-Chief of Quebec province.  He apparently ran the colony well and was reasonably well liked.  In 1770 he returned to London, leaving his Lt. Gov. Hector Theophilus de Cramahé in charge.  Despite his name and French family background Cramahé was born in Ireland and had also served as a career officer in the British Army.

Carleton ended up spending several years in Britain, during which time he received a promotion to major general, lobbied for passage of the Quebec Act (one of the Coercive Acts), and married a 19 year old noble woman (he was 48 at the time).

He and his wife returned to Quebec in late 1774 in time to react to the outbreak of war in the spring of 1775.  When Benedict Arnold attacked St. Jean in May, Carleton immediately deployed troops, almost capturing Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys as a result.

Retreating to Quebec

Carleton had few soldiers though.  Before the war, he only had four regiments of regulars to control the entire province.  Following Lexington and Concord, North American Commander, General Thomas Gage ordered him to send two of those regiments to Boston, leaving Carleton with less than 800 regulars.

Carleton had committed almost all of his regulars to defending Fort St. Jean, just north of Lake Champlain.  As I discussed in Episode 72, his former subordinate, now Continental General Richard Montgomery laid siege to St. Jean in the fall of 1775, finally taking the fort in early November.  Carleton was in Montreal when St. Jean fell, and was nearly captured when Montgomery’s forces took the city a few days later.

Carleton attempted to move his small fleet downriver to Quebec.  With the wind against him, he soon found his fleet under attack by Col. James Easton’s artillery.  Easton sent word to Carleton that he was prepared to blow his fleet out of the water unless he surrendered.  Unable to get the winds on his side, Carleton agreed to surrender his fleet on November 15.  Easton had pulled off a bluff.  He had nowhere near enough cannon to destroy the ships.  If Carleton had attempted to push past the battery, he almost certainly would have brought the ships safely back to Quebec.

Although Carleton had surrendered his fleet, he opted not to surrender himself.  On the night of November 16, he dressed himself as a French peasant, got into a canoe, and quietly paddled past the patriot camp.  A few miles downstream, he found the home of a friendly local and caught a few hours sleep.  The next morning, he found a squad of patriots at the door demanding quarters.  While they argued with the owner, Carleton, still dressed as French civilian, simply walked out the door and began walking downstream.  He soon hailed a British ship, the Fell, and caught a ride back to Quebec. Meanwhile his second in command surrendered his fleet, with the crew was taken prisoner.

Arnold Emerges From the Wilderness

Two weeks ago, I described Arnold’s amazing march across the Maine wilderness to Quebec.  When word of his feat reached the colonies, Patriots everywhere celebrated.  They compared his march to Hannibal’s famous march across the Alps to attack Rome.

American forces advance on Quebec
(from Wikimedia)
Col. Roger Enos, who had abandoned Arnold and returned to Cambridge faced a court martial for abandoning the mission.  Fortunately for him the only witnesses in Cambridge were the officers who retreated with him. They all testified that his decision was perfectly reasonable and that they all would have died otherwise.  The fact that those who did not give up and made it through seems to contradict that notion, but the court acquitted Col. Enos.  Despite the acquittal, Enos resigned his commission a short time later, and spent the remainder of the war as an inconsequential militia officer in what is today Vermont.

On November 3, the same day Montgomery took Fort St. Jean, Arnold and most of his scattered force were within about 30 miles of Quebec.  Many of the nearly 650 soldiers were still scattered.  The wilderness march had left the men in terrible condition.  Some of the men had eaten their moccasins and were marching through snow barefoot. They needed time to eat and recover.  They also found that water had damaged most of their ammunition, so that they only had about five rounds per man.

Even so, Arnold’s force made its way toward Quebec, setting up camp on the other side of the river on November 8.  Had he arrived a few days earlier, he might have taken the city without a fight.  Gov. Carleton would have been down in Montreal.  Almost his entire army had been captured at St. Jean, and was by this time marching south as prisoners of war.

Loyalists Arrive at Quebec

Lt. Gov. Cramahé was in charge at Quebec.  His defense force consisted of a few hundred British sailors from the Navy ships at Quebec, along with some crew members collected from merchant vessels.  The French inhabitants of Quebec had zero interest in joining a militia to defend the city. They demanded Cramahé negotiate a surrender that would protect their property.

Allan Maclean
(from Wikimedia)
On November 8, though the same day Arnold’s men began to encamp across the river from Quebec, a ship, the Lizard, arrived from Newfoundland carrying guns, money, militia uniforms and about 100 volunteers under the command of Captain Malcolm Fraser, a retired British officer who had participated in the capture of Quebec during the French and Indian War.   A few days later, more support would arrive under the command of Lt. Col. Allen Maclean, another veteran officer of the British Army.  Mclean had raised a regiment of Scottish Highlander immigrants who had settled in Canada and New York since the end of the French and Indian War. Most were experienced combat veterans who formed into a regiment known as the Royal Highland Emigrants.

Cramahé, who days before had been contemplating how he would explain to officials in London how he had lost Quebec, happily turned over military command of the city to Maclean.  The new commander at once set to work building up defenses, and forcing any locals capable of fighting into a militia.  Within days, he had a force over over 1100 defenders, including about 200 from his Emigrants Regiment, along with about 50 sailors or artificers.  The bulk of the defenders were militia, about 90 more local Scottish volunteers, 300 militia from British settlers and another 480 from French settlers.

Maclean immediately set about turning his defenders into a military unit.  He did not have to worry about an immediate attack.  Arnold’s smaller force across the river was still recovering from its march.  On top of that, a terrible rainstorm made any assault impossible for several days.  Maclean took the time to drill his men, convince the civilians that the patriots would sack and loot the city if allowed inside, and required every capable man to do his duty.

Arnold Reaches Quebec

By November 13, the weather had calmed enough for Colonel Arnold to begin his assault.  Arnold had assembled about 40 canoes, meaning he would need multiple crossing to get his 650 men across the river.  He moved his men across overnight, but by morning only had 500 men across.

Arnold used the same path used by General Wolfe years earlier to lead his invading army up the cliffs to the Plains of Abraham.  There, he held a council of war to assault the city immediately.  Captain Morgan supported such an assault, but most of the other officers opposed the idea.  They did not have all of their men across the river most of their scaling ladders had not come across the river yet.  Without ladders or cannon, there was no way to get through or over the city walls.  They had also had several sentries detect their river crossing and were sure the defenders would be ready for them.

In fact, the defenders were not ready.  The main gate was unlocked and guarded by a single sentry.  Had they attacked that night, they probably would have been able to enter the city before anyone could put up a defense.  Instead, the Continentals took over farms and other building around the city and awaited reinforcements.

Quebec 1775 (from British Battles)
In the morning, Arnold marched his army out onto the Plains of Abraham.  The element of surprise was long gone.  The defenders had assembled on the city walls.  Arnold had hoped to tempt the to come out onto the fields and fight them.  Maclean and others, however, remembered that was how the French Commander Montcalm had lost the city to Wolfe and the British in the last war.  They wisely opted to stay behind their walls where the enemy could not reach them.

Around sundown, Arnold sent an officer with a letter for Cramahé offering terms of surrender.  Maclean, however, had no interest in allowing anyone to approach the city to discuss any surrender.  He had his men fire a cannon at the approaching officer who was accompanied by a flag of truce and a drummer.  The party fled back to safety.  The next morning, they tried again, only to be met with the same response.  Finally Arnold sent a woman with the letter.  By some accounts the woman was Jemima Warner, the same teenaged widow who had lost her husband on the march through the wilderness.  This time, the defenders allowed her to approach the city without firing on her.  She got the note to Col. Maclean, who promptly tossed the note into the fire and the woman into a prison cell.

He released the woman a few days later.  She returned to the patriot lines.  If it was Warner who delivered the message the release did her no good.  A few days later, a defender shot Warner in the head while she was delivering supplies to the soldiers on the front lines besieging Quebec.  She died instantly.

On November 16, Cramahé held a council of war to discuss whether Quebec should hold out or surrender.  Maclean attended the council and shut down any talk of surrender.  He pointed out that the defenders outnumbered the attackers by two to one.  Even of Montgomery’s force arrived and outnumbered them, they had the better defensive position behind walls and artillery.  They had enough food in the city to get through the winter and they expected a relief force from London in the spring if necessary.  Also, the enemy had not been able to cut off the city from outside resources.  They were still receiving food and fuel on the other side of town.  In the end, the council unanimously agreed to defend Quebec.

Two days later, on Nov. 18 Arnold gave up the siege and moved his soldiers about 20 miles upstream, in the direction of Montreal.  Arnold’s men were almost out of ammunition.  Until they received more supplies and reinforcements, they had no hope of taking Quebec.  As his men marched upstream, they watched the Fell sail past them toward Quebec.  It arrived carrying Gov. Carlton back to the city.

A frustrated Arnold wrote in a letter to Washington, that had he arrived only ten days earlier he would have taken the city.  That seems right.  Had Arnold assaulted the city before the Highlanders arrived, they almost certainly would have capitulated.  Taking Quebec probably would have been enough to get much of the local population to support the patriot cause.  Most of the locals just didn’t want to get caught on the losing side.  Since the sabotaged maps probably delayed Arnold by several weeks, Canada may owe its independence from the US to one loyalist mapmaker in New England.

Montgomery in Montreal

After the breaking the British force at St. Jean, Montgomery had an easy time taking Montreal as the few remaining defenders simply fled for Quebec.  Unfortunately for Montgomery, he promised some of his men that he would release them early from their enlistment once they captured Montreal.  The men’s enlistments ended at the end of December anyway.

Once Montreal fell, those soldiers, along with most of the rest of his army, demanded to be released from service.  They had taken Montreal as promised.  It was a cold and miserable winter and most of them were sick.  They were ready to go home.  Montgomery, however, knew that if they did not take Quebec that winter, the British would almost certainly send a relief force in the spring, which would not only retake Quebec, but would also likely move down to Montreal, St. Jean, and possibly keep going into New York.

Montgomery prepares for invasion of Canada
(from Wikimedia)
After several weeks, Montgomery convinced at least a portion of his army to stay, though nearly half packed up and went home.  Most of those leaving were New Englanders, including the Green Mountain Boys.  After Montreal, most of Montgomery’s reduced army consisted of a few hundred New Yorkers and a few Connecticut companies headed by Gen. Wooster as well as about 200 Canadian militia who had joined the cause.  Even most of these soldiers made clear to Montgomery that would stick it out another month, but when their enlistments ended on December 31, they would be heading home.  If Montgomery was going to take Quebec, he had a deadline.

Even Montgomery himself considered quitting.  After several of his officers attacked him for being too friendly with captured British officers and treating them too well, Montgomery told them he would resign his command since they did not like his leadership.  At this, the men immediately backtracked and apologized.  Even so, he sent word to Gen. Schuyler back at Ticonderoga that he was strongly considering resigning at the end the year.  Schuyler, after seeing half of Montgomery’s army pass through Ticonderoga on their way home, passed along Montgomery’s letter about leaving the army and included a letter of his own that said he was considering it as well.

Montgomery though, would see the current expedition to its end.  On November 28, he left a small force in Montreal, then moved to meet up with Arnold’s force closer to Quebec.  He advanced with about 300 soldiers and another 200 Canadian militia.  When they met up with Arnold’s depleted force on December 2, the combined force would total about 1100 men, plus a few field artillery pieces.  Arnold’s men were further heartened after Montgomery provided them with more food, ammunition, and winter clothing.

Meanwhile back in Quebec, Carleton took hope by the 1300 fighters that the Highlanders had put together as a defense force.  Carleton took things a step further and forced many more civilians to join in the defense or leave the city.  As a result, he soon hand a fighting force of about 1800 defenders.

Although outnumbered and attacking an entrenched enemy, Montgomery and Arnold were ready to begin their combined assault on Quebec.

- - -

Next  Episode 79: The Battle of Quebec, 1775

Previous Episode 77: Dunmore Proclamation and the Southern War


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Further Reading

Websites: 

Arnold Marches on Quebec: http://www.cbc.ca/history/EPCONTENTSE1EP5CH3PA4LE.html

Randall, Willard "March On Quebec" American Heritage Fall 2008, Volume 58,  Issue 5:
http://www.americanheritage.com/content/march-quebec

Randall, Willard "Why Benedict Arnold Did It" American Heritage: Sept/Oct 1990, Volume 41,  Issue 6: http://www.americanheritage.com/content/why-benedict-arnold-did-it

Aaron Burr: http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/biographies/aaron-burr-jr

Daniel Morgan: https://www.nps.gov/cowp/learn/historyculture/daniel-morgan.htm

VIDEO: Thomas Desjardin author of "Through a Howling Wilderness" discusses the invasion of Quebec.  C-Span, March 22, 2006: https://www.c-span.org/video/?191887-1/through-howling-wilderness

Free eBooks
(from archive.org unless noted)

Codman, John Arnold’s Expedition To Quebec,  New York, MacMillan Co., 1901.

Dearborn, Henry Journal of Captain Henry Dearborn in the Quebec expedition, 1775, Cambridge: University Press, 1886.

Force, Peter American Archives, Series 4, Vol 2, Washington: Peter Force, 1837.

Henry, John J. An accurate and interesting account of the hardships and sufferings of that band of heroes, who traversed the wilderness in the campaign against Quebec in 1775,  Lancaster: William Greer, 1812.

Hill, George Benedict Arnold: A Biography, Boston: E.O. Libby & Co. 1858.

Kingsford, William The History of Canada, Vol. 5,  Toronto: Roswell & Hutchinson, 1887

Meigs, Return Journal of the expedition against Quebec: under command of Col. Benedict Arnold, in the year 1775, (Charles Bushnell, ed) New York: (Private Publisher) 1864.

Melvin, Andrew (ed) The journal of James Melvin, private soldier in Arnold's expedition against Quebec in the year 1775,  Portland, ME: Hubbard W. Bryant, 1902.

Smith, Justin Our Struggle for the Fourteenth Colony: Canada, and the American Revolution, Vol. 2, New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1907.

Stocking, Abner An interesting journal of Abner Stocking of Chatham, Connecticut, detailing the distressing events of the expedition against Quebec, under the command of Col. Arnold in the year 1775, Catskill, NY: Eagle Office, 1810 (reprint 1921).

Thayer, Simeon & Edwin Stone The invasion of Canada in 1775: including the Journal of Captain Simeon Thayer, describing the perils and sufferings of the army under Colonel Benedict Arnold, in its march through the wilderness to Quebec, Providence: Knowles Anthony & Co. 1867.

Winsor, Justin (ed) Arnold's expedition against Quebec. 1775-1776: The Diary of Ebenezer Wild, Cambridge: John Wilson & Son, 1886.

Withington, Lothrop (ed) Caleb Haskell's diary. May 5, 1775-May 30, 1776. A revolutionary soldier's record before Boston and with Arnold's Quebec expedition, Newburyport: W.H. Huse, 1881.

Würtele, Fred C. Blockade of Quebec in 1775-1776 by the American revolutionists (les Bastonnais) Vol 1) Quebec: Daily Telegraph Job Printing House, 1905.

Würtele, Fred C. Blockade of Quebec in 1775-1776 by the American revolutionists (les Bastonnais) Vol 2) Quebec: Daily Telegraph Job Printing House, 1906.

Books Worth Buying
(links to Amazon.com unless otherwise noted)*

Anderson, Mark The Battle for the Fourteenth Colony: America’s War of Liberation in Canada, 1774–1776, University Press of New England, 2013.

Beck, Derek The War Before Independence: 1775-1776, Naperville, Ill: Sourcebooks, 2016.

Darley, Stephen Voices from a Wilderness Expedition: The Journals and Men of Benedict Arnold's Expedition to Quebec in 1775, Bloomington, IN: Authorhouse,  2011

Desjardin, Thomas A. Through a Howling Wilderness: Benedict Arnold's March to Quebec, 1775, New York: St. Martin's Press, 2005 (Book Recommendation of the Week).

Hatch, Robert Thrust for Canada, New York: Houghton-Mifflin, 1979.

Lefkowitz, Arthur S. Benedict Arnold's Army: The 1775 American Invasion of Canada During the Revolutionary War, El Dorado Hills, CA: Savas Beatie, 2008.

Martin, James Benedict Arnold: Revolutionary Hero, New York: NYU Press, 1997.

Phillips, Kevin 1775: A Good Year for Revolution, New York: Viking Penguin, 2012.

Randall, Willard Benedict Arnold: Patriot and Traitor, William Morrow & Co. 1990.

* This site is a registered Amazon Associate.  Please help support this site by purchasing any of these books, or any other Amazon product, via the links on this site.  If you start by clicking on a book link above and then browse to buy something completely different on Amazon, American Revolution Podcast will get credit for your purchase.