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or commands, it shall not be from any negligence of duty or
infirmity of purpose on my part."

In Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography full jus-
tice is done to the character and career of General Montgomery
— that brave and noble Irishman who fought and died for Amer-
ican liberty and whose place in the hearts of Americans is next
to that of Washington himself. It thus describes his storming of
Quebec in the midst of snow and ice, his heroic death before its
walls, the great sorrow which it occasioned^ and the universal
and heartfelt manner in which it was expressed :

"His little army of scarcely 300 men joined that of Benedict
Arnold, consisting of about 600 men, before Quebec early in
December, and for his past services Montgomery was made
Major-General on December 9. The term of enlistment of his
men was about to expire, the smallpox was prevalent in the camp,
and, with the winter before them, a prolonged siege was impos-
sible, and therefore the immediate capture of Quebec became
a necessity. Montgomery called a council of war at which it was




decided to carry the city by assault, and to him was intrusted the
advance on the southern part of the lower town.

"The attack was made early in the morning of December
31, 1775, during a heavy snowstorm, Montgomery himself leading
his men from Wolfe's Cove, along the side of the cliff beneath
Cape Diamond, to a point where a fortified block-house stood
protected by a stockade. The first barrier was soon carried, and
Montgomery, exclaiming, 'Men of New York, you will not fear
to follow where your General leads,' pushed forward, when with
his two aids he was killed by the first and only discharge of Brit-
ish artillery.

"His soldiers, discouraged by his fall, retreated, and the
enemy, able to concentrate their attention on the forces under
Colonel Arnold, soon drove the Americans from the city, be-
sides capturing 400 of his men. Enemies and friends paid tribute
to Montgomery's valor. The governor, lieutenant-governor, the
council of Quebec, and all the principal officers of the garrison
buried him with the honors of war.

"At the news of his death, 'the city of Philadelphia was in
tears ; every person seemed to have lost his nearest friend.' Con-
gress proclaimed for him their 'grateful remembrance, respect,
and high veneration; and desiring to transmit to future ages a
truly worthy example of patriotism, conduct, boldness of enter-
prise, insuperable perseverance and contempt of danger and
death,' they reared a marble monument in the front of St. Paul's.
Church, New York City, in honor 'of the patriotic conduct, enter-
prise, and perseverence of Major-General Richard Montgomery."

"In the British Parliament Edmund Burke contrasted the
condition of the 8,000 men, starved, disgraced, and shut up within
the single town of Boston, with the movements of the hero who
in one campaign conquered two-thirds of Canada. To which
Lord North replied: 'I cannot join in lamenting the death of
Montgomery as a public loss. Curse on his virtues ! they've un-
done his country. He was brave, he was able, he was humane, he
was generous; but still he was only a brave, able, humane, and
generous rebel.' 'The term of rebel,' retorted Fox, 'is no certain
mark of disgrace. The great assertors of liberty, the saviors of
their country, the benefactors of mankind in all ages, have been
called rebels.'

"High on the rocks over Cape Diamond, along which this
brave officer led his troops on that fatal winter morning, has been
placed the inscription: 'Here Major-General Montgomery fell,
December 31st, 1775.' He is described, when about to start from
Saratoga on his Canadian campaign, as tall, of fine military prea-


ence, of graceful address, with a bright, magnetic face, winning
manners, and the bearing oS a prince; and it was here that he
parted with his wife after her two brief years of happiness with
her soldier, as she always afterward called him.

"Many of the letters that he wrote to her during the winter
months of 1775 have been preserved, and in one of the last he
writes : 'I long to see you in your new home,' referring to Mont-
gomery Place, a mansion that he had projected before nis depart-
ure on the property purchased by him near Barrytown, and that
was completed during the followmg spring.

"In 1818, bv an Act of Honor passed by the New York
Legislature in behalf of Mrs. Montgomery, Sir John Sherbrooke,
Governor-General of Canada, was requested to allow her hus-
band's remains to be disinterred and conveyed to New York.
This being granted, De Witt Qinton, then Governor of the State,
appointed her nephew, Lewis, son of Edward Livingston, to take
charge of the body while it was on its way. As the funeral
cortege moved down the Hudson, nearing the home that he had
left in the prime of life to fight for his adopted country, Mrs.
Montgomery took her place on the broad veranda of the man-
sion and requested that she be left alone as the body passed. She
was found unconscious, stretched upon the floor, where she had
fallen, overcome with emotion. General Montgomery's remains
found their last resting place in St. Paul's Chapel, in New York
City, near the monument that was ordered in France by Benjamin

Mrs. Montgomery survived her chivalrous husband fifty-
two years, and in all that long lapse of time his beloved form was
ever before her eyes. Her life was an age of sorrow, but she
bore it with patience and resignation as her share in the great
sacrifices of the mighty struggle for her country's redemption,
and she stands out to-day as the most heroic figure of even that
heroic age. Her noble form as she stood upon the broad veranda,
her bosom heaving with the pent-up love of five and forty years,
and watched the body of her soldier-lover ^ass down the beau-
teous stream — when she swooned and fell msensible in the in-
tensity of her emotions — presents a picture that will live forever
in the hearts of true Americans. Her life was given, as truly as
that of her husband, to the noble cause for which he died.

Michael Doheny, in his History of the American Revolution,
gives a graphic description of the storming of Quebec and pays a
loving tribute to the heroism of his countryman, Montgomery.
Without fear of tiring the patience of our readers we give them
the benefit of his glowing words :

"The besiegers resolved to risk the storming of the garrison


at every hazard. That attempt was made at 5 o'clock in the morn-
ing on the last day of the year, their forces being divided into four
parties, the two principal of which were led in person by Mont-
gomery and Arnold. A heavy snowstorm enveloped besiegers
and besieged, amid the fury of which the devoted bands and
their gallant leaders groped their way to the destined points of
attack. Montgomery chose that around Cape Diamond, by the
banks of the river, which was guarded by an outpost. The path-
way leading to this post was narrow and difficult, being under the
steep precipice and covered by large masses of ice, washed in upon
it by the over-gorged river. Along this the storming party ad-
vanced with extreme difficulty in single file, and the General him-
self, leading the way, had more than once to halt for those who
followed. Reaching the outposts, its guards, after a few random
shots, fled to the battery; but being in advance of his men, the
General again halted to give time to his followers to collect, and
as soon as about two hundred were collected he rushed forward,
animating them by his voice and example, when one of the sen-
tinels Avho had fled, astonished at the delay, returned to his post,
and slowly applying a match to a gun mounted there, fired it with-
out any immediate design. This single and chance shot decided
the fate of the assault. Its first victim was General Montgomery.
He fell dead where he stood, and two young and gallant officers,
who shared his peril and daring, shared also his untimely fate.
Colonel Campbell, on whom devolved the command, hesitated to
advance, and the troops, whom no danger could deter when fol-
lowing their beloved General, seeing him lying dead, retreated
their steps with confusion and consternation.

"Arnold, to whom this disaster was unknown, approached
the opposite battery, along the suburb of St. Roques, about the
same time. He, too, found all in readiness to meet him, and in
assaulting the first battery received a wound which obliged him to
retire to hospital. The battery was, however, taken, and Captain
Morgan, of the Virginia riflemen, who were leading the assault,
was called on by a unanimous shout to assume the command and
rush forward. That dauntless officer accepted with eagerness the
post of danger and of honor ; and at the same moment Lieutenant
Anderson, issuing from the gate with a view of attacking the
Americans, challenged Captain Morgan, and received a ball
through his head from Morgan's hand in reply. His troops fell
back and closed the gate. The besiegers, instantly scaling the
wall, saw inside a large force, with their guns fixed to the earth,
ready to receive any who descended on their bayonets, and at the
same time a most destructive fire was poured upon them from
windows and port-holes, beneath which they retired into the stone


houses outside the barriers, where the dawning day discovered
them endeavoring to answer, but ineffectually, the terrible fire
irom the barrier and surrounding posts. To appear even an in-
stant outside their precarious shelter was instant death, and so de-
pressed were the men by defeat, disaster, and cold that they re-
fused to attempt a retreat in face of the murderous barrier. Mean-
time, troops issuing from another gate made their rear guard
prisoners and completely surrounded them. But even in this sit-
uation the resolution which still upheld the American leaders
prompted the desperate attempt of cutting their way, sword in
hand, through the town backwards. While preparing, however,
for this last enterprise, they were completely encompassed and
surrendered prisoners of war. Many officers of this detachment
were killed, and all the rest, including the intrepid Morgan, ex-
cept the few who accompanied Arnold, were taken prisoners.

"Thus ended this assault upon Quebec, which many have de-
scribed as rash and desperate, but which all admit to be one of
the most gallant upon record. Its failure supplies the readiest
proof that it was ill-advised and unmilitary, but if the random
shot discharged by a trembling hand at a forsaken post had not
deprived the army of its General, success might have changed the
reasoning, and generated a host of critics stout to assert that the
enterprise was as wisely and surely planned as it was daring and

"Upon Arnold's camp the new year opened with gloomy pros-
pects ; yet, himself badly wounded, the army dispirited by defeat
and suffering, his bravest chiefs dead or captured, and the winter
closing around him with its frozen terrors — he did not hesitate to
prosecute, boldly, the blockade. And the distress to which he re-
duced the garrison, which once or twice barely escaped falling
into his hands, ere he was superseded in command, proves that his
energy was indomitable and his operations those of a consummate
military genius.

"But in all that surrounded it of gloom and horror, in this
season of snow and storms, nothing pressed so heavily on the
American army as the fate of their too gallant general. No
thought had they for calculating harshness in judging the enter-
prise which cost his life. And indeed if want of foresight, to any
extent, dimmed the luster of that stupendous undertaking, it was
amply redeemed by his personal contempt for danger and in his
chivalrous fall. Nor does it well become the nation on whose
armies victory smiled to insult his memory on this ground ; for,
had he lived to divide their strength, or share in the encounter,
history may be compelled to restrict the praises which British
valor justly claims from the triumph of that eventful day. Nor


was the voice of unkind criticism much heeded by the generous
ear. No man fell in, or, perhaps, survived the war, save one, to
whose virtue and courage so large a tribute of homage was of-
fered — of hearty admiration by his enemies, of deepest mourning
by his adopted country. His monument, the first voted by Con-
gress, attests the estimation in which that country held his emi-
nent services, his purity and his genius. But, perhaps, the most
solid testimony to his worth and valor was the cheer which echoed
through the British Senate when. the baffled minister 'cursed his
virtues for having undone his country.'

"We have dwelt on this closing scene of Montgomerys' bright
career longer than our prescribed limits, in justice, admit of, hn-
gering fondly over details of personal heroism. We have done
so because the storming of Quebec, although unsuccessful, ap-
pears an exploit of unparallelel daring and magnitude, and be-
cause the genius that planned it and fell in its execution was the
greatest sacrifice that was offered to liberty. And, good reader,
we have had another, perhaps a more powerful reason — Richard
Montgomery was an Irishman."

Julian Hawthorne, Washington Irving, Lossing, Armstrong,
and, in fact, all fair historians unite in praise of Montgomery not
only as a brave soldier and able general, but also as a citizen and
a man.

"While Washington was standing before Boston," writes
Hawthorne, "affairs in the North indicated the expediency of at-
tempting to win Canada. Washington's plan was to send Benedict
Arnold in command of an expedition by the Kennebec route,
while Richard Montgomery, a young Irishman who was deserv-
edly loved and respected, was to advance upon St. John's and
Montreal. He was to act with Schuyler, but the latter, owing to
illness or hesitation, was of little use in the campaign, retiring to
Albany before the first blow was struck. Montgomery was never
wanted where and when he was needed most ; he had a genius for
strategy and perfect courage; and he had the tact and self-com-
mand to exert authority over a body of men who would yield
obedience only at their own good pleasure. Yet Montgomery was
a warrior from principle, not choice ; he was happily married and
wished only to live at home on his farm, with his loving wife and
his books. 'But you will never have cause to blush for your Mont-
gomery,' he assured her, at parting. They never met again ; but
before he died, he had achieved an immortal name."

"At the time of receiving his commission," writes Irving,
"Montgomery was about thirty-nine years of age and the beau
ideal of a soldier. His form was well-proportioned and vigorous ;
his countenance expressive and prepossessing; he was cool and


discriminating in council, energetic and fearless in action. His
principles commanded the respect of friends and foes, and he was
noted for winning the affections of the soldiery."

As an instance of the love his men bore him Irving describes
Montgomery's visit to Captain Lamb, of New York, who com-
manded one of the batteries before Quebec. Just as he arrived at
the battery a shot from the fortress dismounted one of the guns
and disabled many of the men. A second shot, immediately fol-
lowing, was almost as destructive. "This is warm work, sir,"
said Montgomery to Captain Lamb. "It is, indeed, and certainly
no place for you, sir." "Why so. Captain?" "Because there are
enough of us here to be killed, without the loss of you, which
would be irreparable."

John Armstrong concludes his deeply appreciative Life of
Montgomery with the following glowing eulogy: "In this brief
story of a short and useful life, we find all the elements which
enter into the composition of a great man and distinguished sol-
dier; 'a happy physical organization, combining strength and ac-
tivity, and enabling its possessor to encounter laborious days and
sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, all changes of weather, and
every variation of climate.' To these corporeal advantages was
added a mind, cool, discriminating, energetic, and fearless; thor-
oughly acquainted with mankind, not uninstructed in the litera-
ture and science of the day, and habitually directed by a high and
imchangeable moral sense. That a man so constituted should
have won the golden opinions of friends and foes is not extraor-
dinary. The most eloquent men of the British Senate became
his panegyrists; and the American Congress hastened to testify
for him 'their grateful remembrance, profound respect, and high
veneration.' A monument to his memory was accordingly erected,
on which might justly be inscribed the impressive lines of the

"Brief, brave, and glorious was his young career;

His mourners were two hosts, his friends and foes;

And fitly may the stranger, lingering here,

Pray for his gallant spirit's bright repose ;

For he was Freedom's champion, one of those.

The few in number, who had not o'erstept

The charter to chastise, which she bestows

On such as wield her weapons ; he had kept

The whiteness of his soul, and thus men o'er him wept."

Like Michael Doheny, we have lingered lovingly over the
memory of Montgomery because his name is one of the brightest
in history and sheds equal luster on Ireland and America. After


his death the American cause never prospered in Canada. The
great depression which it caused amongst the remnant of the
American forces, their exposure, without proper food or cloth-
ing, to all the rigors of that awful winter, and the consequent
rapid spread of sickness through their ranks, rendered them an
easy prey to the increased army of England.

Congress did much in the way of sending forward reinforce-
ments and supplies, and thousands of brave men eagerly marched
to the aid of their brothers in Canada, but they were compelled
to fall back before the overwhelming force which time had en-
abled England to bring against them.

In all that was done in Canada to win the people to the
American cause Irishmen took a most prominent part. Of the
four Commissioners sent there by Congress to advocate the prin-
ciples of liberty and independence, two were Irish-Americans
and Catholics — Charles Carroll, of Carrollton, and his cousin,
the Rev. John Carroll, afterwards Archbishop of Baltimore. The
latter, owing to his influence among the Catholics, did the greatest
part of all that was accomplished, and earned, through his work,
the life-long friendship of Benjamin Franklin, who was also one
of the Commissioners.

In the army, too, the Irish element prevailed far more than
any other race. On the death of General Thomas, General John
Sullivan was appointed commander-in-chief of the American
army in Canada, and under him were Brigadier-General William
Thompson and Colonels Maxwell, Irving, and Wayne. As we
have already recorded, three of these — Thompson, Maxwell, and
Irving — were born in Ireland, and two — Sullivan and Wayne —
were the sons of Irishmen. The great majority of the rank and
file were men of the Irish race, as were also the minor officers,
among the latter being Lieutenant Andrew Irving, a brother of
the Colonel, and Lieutenant Francis Nichols, both natives of

In Canada, as elsewhere, throughout the entire Revolution,
the Irish people did their full duty to the land of their adoption
and were always found in the forefront of the fight for its freedom
and independence.



In the decade between 1765 and 1775, New York had much
the same experience as Boston as far as local excitement went.
When the Stamp Act was repealed great demonstrations of joy
took place, statues were erected to George the Third, and his
Minister, Pitt, and even the Sons of Liberty, after feasting at a
banquet where twenty-eight loyal toasts were drunk, resolved
to discontinue their meetings. As their final act, they erected a
mast, afterwards called the Liberty Pole, a little to the northeast
of the present City Hall, which they inscribed "to His Most Gra-
cious Majesty George the Third, Mr. Pitt, and Liberty."

Within a month, however, the jubilation of the people re-
ceived a fatal check. When intelligence of the Stamp Act riots
reached England, Parliament passed the Mutiny Act, which pro-
A^ded for the quartering of troops in America at the expense of
the colonists themselves. The troops came, angry feelings were
soon engendered between them and the people, and thirty-six
days after the Liberty Pole was erected with so much loyalty,
it was cut down by the insolent soldiery. The Sons of Liberty
were again aroused and a new pole was erected, only to meet
the same fate as its predecessor. This was repeated three times
during the next four years, and only the fifth pole was allowed
to stand, when the British soldiers were ordered to Boston, on
March 24, 1770, and even this was destroyed when they returned
again some six years later.

The last conflict over the Liberty Pole occurred on Golden
Hill, now Cliff street, between Fulton street and Maiden lane, in
January, 1770, and almost assumed the proportions of a pitched
battle. In this, as in all other skirmishes, the soldiers were badly
worsted and many of them were disarmed. Lossing relates that
Colonel Michael Smith, who died in New York in April, 1846,
at the age of ninet>'-six years, was engaged in the affray, where
the first blood of the Revolution was spilled. "He w'as one of
those," writes Lossing, "who disarmed the soldiers. I have
seen the musket which he seized at the time and which, as a
soldier, he bore through the war that soon followed. It is a very
heavy Tower gun and is preserved by his family as a very pre-
cious heirloom."



_ Although we have no evidence to prove that Colonel Michael
Smith was of Irish origin, his name is almost a guarantee that
he belonged to that race, and the same may be said in reference
to hundreds of others who were prominent in New York at the
opening of the Revolution. At first, the organization known as
the Sons of Liberty was rather narrow-minded in its principles
and "No Popery" designs appeared upon its banners, but as time
wore on and the true American patriots assumed control, a more
liberal feeling prevailed and no bar was raised on account of re-

William Mooney, the Founder of Tammany Hall, about
whose Irish origin there is no doubt, was one of the prominent
members of the Sons of Liberty in New York, and his ancestry,
like the rest, might have remained unknown but for the fact that
he rose to prominence in after life and lived far into the nine-
teenth century, when it was no longer a disgrace to be Irish or
Catholic and when the men of our race had become prominent
and powerful in the affairs of the metropolis.

Mr. James Mooney, of the Bureau of American Ethnology,
in addition to his many other good works in behalf of his race
and creed, has closely studied the history of his illustrious kins-
man, William Mooney, and to him we are indebted for much val-
uable information concerning him.

The National Cyclopedia of American Biography has a long
article on Mooney, from which we take the following facts:
William Mooney, first Grand Sachem of the Tammany Society,
New York, was an Irishman by descent, but was born in Amer-
ica. When he first became known it was as a leader among the
Sons of Liberty. He joined the Whigs after the war ended and
the Sons of Liberty disbanded, and went into business as an up-
holsterer. He was alive as late as 1831, being at that time the
only survivor of the original members of the Tammany Society,
of whom he was the first to sign the constitution. In an address
delivered on the occasion of the forty-second anniversary of the
Tammany Society, the following language was used in refer-
ence to its first Grand Sachem : "This venerable man must have
been a Democrat; for surely if unwearied zeal, untiring perse-
verance, and a holy devotion to the cause of national liberty did
ever make up one entire character in man, it is to be found in
him." As an organizer of the Tammany Society he intended
to counteract the aristocratic tendencies of the Cincinnati order.

Online LibraryJames HaltiganThe Irish in the American revolution, and their early influence in the colonies → online text (page 39 of 67)