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 (Available Jan 20, 2019)

Previous Episode 78: Advancing on Quebec

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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.