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Picturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present online

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well as privates, had dispersed in various directions among the
farm and tippling houses of the vicinity. We well knew the signal
for rallying. This was no other than a "snow storm." About 12
o'clock, P.M., the heaven was overcast. We repaired to quarters.
By 2 o'clock we were accoutred and began our march. The storm was
outrageous, and the cold wind extremely biting. In this northern
country the snow is blown horizontally into the faces of the
travellers on most occasions - this was our case.

When we came to Craig's house, near Palace Gate, a horrible roar
of cannon took place, and a ringing of all the bells of the city,
which are very numerous, and of all sizes. Arnold, leading the
forlorn hope, advanced, perhaps, one hundred yards, before the
main body. After these followed Lamb's artillerists. Morgan's
company led in the secondary part of the column of infantry.
Smith's followed, headed by Steele, the Captain from particular
causes being absent. Hendrick's company succeeded and the eastern
men so far as known to me, followed in due order. The snow was
deeper than in the fields, because of the nature of the ground.
The path made by Arnold, Lamb, and Morgan was almost
imperceptible, because of the falling snow. Covering the locks of
our guns, with the lappets of our coats, holding down our heads
(for it was impossible to bear up our faces against the imperious
storm of wind and snow), we ran, along the foot of the hill in
single file. Along the first of our run, from Palace Gate, for
several hundred paces, there stood a range of insulated buildings,
which seemed to be store-houses, we passed these quickly in single
file, pretty wide apart. The interstices were from thirty to fifty
yards. In these intervals, we received a tremendous fire of
musketry from the ramparts above us. Here we lost some brave men,
when powerless to return the salutes we received, as the enemy was
covered by his impregnable defences. They were even sightless to
us, we could see nothing but the blaze from the muzzles of their
muskets.

A number of vessels of various sizes lay along the beach, moored
by their hawsers or cables to the houses. Passing after my leader,
Lieutenant Steele, at a great rate, one of those ropes took me
under the chin, and cast me head long down, a declivity of at
least fifteen feet. The place appeared to be either a dry-dock or
a saw-pit. My descent was terrible, gun and all was involved in a
great depth of snow. Most unluckily, however, one of my knees
received a violent contusion on a piece of scraggy ice, which was
covered by the snow. On like occasions, we can scarcely expect, in
the hurry of attack, that our intimates should attend to any other
than their own concern. Mine went from me, regardless of my fate.
Scrambling out of the cavity, without assistance, divesting my
person and gun of the snow, and limping into the line, I attempted
to assume a station and preserve it. These were none of my
friends - they knew me not. I had not gone twenty yards, in my
hobbling gait, before I was thrown out, and compelled to await the
arrival of a chasm in the line, when a new place might be
obtained. Men in affairs such as this, seem in the main, to lose
the compassionate feeling, and are averse from being dislodged
from their original stations. We proceeded rapidly, exposed to a
long line of fire from the garrison, for now we were unprotected
by any buildings. The fire had slackened in a small degree. The
enemy had been partly called off to resist the General, and
strengthen the party opposed to Arnold in our front. Now we saw
Colonel Arnold returning, wounded in the leg, and supported by two
gentlemen; a parson, Spring, was one, and, in my belief, a Mr.
Ogden, the other. Arnold called on the troops, in a cheering
voice, as we passed, urging us forward, yet it was observable
among the soldiery, with whom it was my misfortune to be now
placed, that the Colonel's retiring damped their spirits. A cant
term "We are sold," was repeatedly heard in many parts throughout
the line. Thus proceeding, enfiladed by an animated but lessened
fire, we came to the first barrier, where Arnold had been wounded
in the onset. This contest had lasted but a few minutes, and was
somewhat severe, but the energy of our men prevailed. The
embrasures were entered when the enemy were discharging their
guns. The guard, consisting of thirty persons, were, either taken
or fled, leaving their arms behind them. At this time it was
discovered that our guns were useless, because of the dampness.
The snow which lodged in our fleecy coats was melted by the warmth
of our bodies. Thence came that disaster. Many of the party,
knowing the circumstance, threw aside their own, and seized the
British arms. These were not only elegant, but were such as
befitted the hand of a real soldier. It was said, that ten
thousand stand of such arms had been received from England, in the
previous summer, for arming the Canadian militia. These people
were loath to bear them in opposition to our rights. From the
first barrier to the second, there was a circular course along the
sides of houses, and partly through a street, probably of three
hundred yards or more. This second barrier was erected across and
near the mouth of a narrow street, adjacent to the foot of the
hill, which opened into a larger, leading soon into the main body
of the Lower Town. Here it was, that the most serious contention
took place: this became the bone of strife. The admirable
Montgomery, by this time, (though it was unknown to us) was no
more; yet, we expected momentarily to join him. The firing on that
side of the fortress ceased, his division fell under the command
of a Colonel Campbell, of the New York line, a worthless chief,
who retreated, without making an effort, in pursuance of the
general's original plans. The inevitable consequence was, that the
whole of the forces on that side of the city, and those who were
opposed to the dastardly persons employed to make the false
attacks, embodied and came down to oppose our division. Here was
sharp-shooting. We were on the disadvantageous side of the
barrier, for such a purpose. Confined in a narrow street, hardly
more than twenty feet wide, and on the lower ground, scarcely a
ball, well aimed or otherwise, but must take effect upon us.
Morgan, Hendricks, Steele, Humphrey's, and a crowd of every class
of the army, had gathered into the narrow pass, attempting to
surmount the barrier, which was about twelve or more feet high,
and so strongly constructed, that nothing but artillery, could
effectuate its destruction. There was a construction, fifteen or
twenty yards within the barrier, upon a rising grounde, the cannon
of which much overtopped the height of the barrier, hence, we were
assailed by grape shot in abundance. This erection we called the
platform. Again, within the barrier, and close into it, were two
ranges of musketeers, armed with musket and bayonet, ready to
receive those who might venture the dangerous leap. Add to all
this, that the enemy occupied the upper chambers of the houses, in
the interior of the barrier, on both sides of the street, from the
windows of which we became fair marks. The enemy, having the
advantage of the ground in front, a vast superiority of numbers,
dry and better arms, gave them an irresistible power, in so narrow
a space. Humphreys, upon a mound, which was speedily erected,
attended by many brave men, attempted to scale the barrier, but
was compelled to retreat, by the formidable phalanx of bayonets
within, and the weight of fire from the platform and the
buildings. Morgan, brave to temerity, stormed and raged;
Hendricks, Steele, Nichols, Humphreys, equally brave, were sedate,
though under a tremendous fire. The platform, which was within our
view, was evacuated by the accuracy of our fire, and few persons
dared venture there again. Now it was, that the necessity of
occupancy of the houses, on our side of the barrier, became
apparent. Orders were given by Morgan to that effect. We entered.
This was near day-light. The houses were a shelter, from which we
might fire with much accuracy. Yet, even here, some valuable lives
were lost. Hendricks, when aiming his rifle at some prominent
person, died by a straggling ball through his heart. He staggered
a few feet backwards, and fell upon a bed, where he instantly
expired. He was an ornament of our little society. The amiable
Humphreys died by a like kind of wound, but it was in the street,
before we entered the buildings. Many other brave men fell at this
place; among these were Lieutenant Cooper, of Connecticut, and
perhaps fifty or sixty noncommissioned officers and privates. The
wounded were numerous, and many of them dangerously so. Captain
Lamb, of the York artillerists; had nearly one-half of his face
carried away, by a grape or canister shot. My friend Steele lost
three of his fingers, as he was presenting his gun to fire;
Captain Hubbard and Lieutenant Fisdle, were all among the wounded.
When we reflect upon the whole of the dangers of this barricade,
and the formidable force that came to annoy us, it is a matter of
surprise that so many should escape death and wounding as did. All
hope of success having vanished, a retreat was contemplated, but
hesitation, uncertainty, and a lassitude of mind, which generally
takes place in the affairs of men, when we fail in a project, upon
which we have attached much expectation, now followed. The moment
was foolishly lost, when such a movement might have been made with
tolerable success. Captain Laws, at the head of two hundred men,
issuing from Palace Gate, most fairly and handsomely cooped us up.
Many of the men, aware of the consequences, and all our Indians
and Canadians (except Natanis [57] and another,) escaped across
the ice, which covered the Bay of St. Charles, before the arrival
of Captain Laws. This was a dangerous and desperate adventure, but
worth while the undertaking, in avoidance of our subsequent
sufferings. Its desperateness consisted in running two miles
across shoal ice, thrown up by the high tides of this latitude -
and its danger, in the meeting with air holes, deceptively covered
by the bed of snow. Speaking circumspectly, yet it must be
admitted conjecturally, it seems to me, that in the whole of the
attack, of commissioned officers, we had six killed, five wounded,
and of non-commissioned and privates, at least one hundred and
fifty killed, and fifty or sixty wounded. Of the enemy, many were
killed and many more wounded, comparatively, than on our side,
taking into view the disadvantages we laboured under; and that but
two occasions happened when we could return their fire, that is,
at the first and second barriers. Neither the American account of
this affair, as published by Congress, nor that of Sir Guy
Carleton, admit the loss of either side to be so great as it
really was, in my estimation * * * * * as to the British, on the
platform they were fair objects to us. They were soon driven
thence by the acuteness of our shooting. * * * *

Perhaps there never was a body of men associated, who better
understood the use and manner of employing a rifle, than our
corps; while by this time of the attack, they had their guns in
good order. When we took possession of the houses, we had a great
range. Our opportunities to kill, were enlarged. Within one
hundred yards, every man must die. The British however were at
home - they could easily drag their dead out of sight, and bear
their wounded to the Hospital. It was the reverse with us. Captain
Prentis, who commanded the provost guards, would tell me of seven
or eight killed, and fifteen or twenty wounded; opposed to this
the sentries, (who were generally Irishmen, that guarded us with
much simplicity, if not honesty,) frequently admitted of forty or
fifty killed, and many more wounded. The latter assertions
accorded with my opinion. The reasons for this belief are these:
when the dead, on the following days, were transported on the
carioles which passed our habitation for deposition in the "dead
house," we observed many bodies, of which none of us had any
knowledge; and again when our wounded were returned to us from the
hospital, they uniformly spoke of being surrounded there, in its
many characters, by many of the wounded of the enemy. To the great
honor of General Carleton, they were all, whether friends or
enemies, treated with like attention."

The Continentals of Brigadier-General Montgomery had settled on the
following plan of attack: - Col Livingston, with his three hundred
Canadians and Major Brown, was to simulate an attack on the western
portion of the walls - Montgomery to come from Holland House down by
Wolfe's Cove, creep along the narrow path close to the St. Lawrence
and meet Arnold on his way from the General Hospital at the foot of
Mountain Hill, and then ascend to Upper Town.

The brilliant _fête littéraire_ held by the Literary and Historical
Society to commemorate the event was thus noticed in the _Morning
Chronicle_ of Dec 30th, 1875:


_THE LITERARY AND HISTORICAL SOCIETY'S CENTENARY FÊTE._

It would be hardly possible to imagine a more graceful or unique
gathering than that which assembled in the rooms of the Literary and
Historical Society last evening, for the purpose of celebrating with
all possible _éclat_ that gloriously memorable event, the repulse
of the troops commanded by General Richard Montgomery, of the American
Army, whilom officer of the 17th Regiment of Infantry in the service
of his Britannic Majesty George III, who on the blusterous wintry
morning of the 31st December, 1775, attempted an assault upon the
redoubts and fortifications which at that time did the duty of our
present Citadel, and whose intrepidity was rewarded with a soldier's
death, and his want of success formed the nucleus of the power which
is so firmly established in this Royal Canada of ours to day.

The arrangements made by the Society for the reception of their
unusually numerous guests and the decorations of the various
apartments, were all that could be wished - commodious and tasteful. In
the entrance hall the Royal standard floated, and there the B. Battery
Band was placed. Turning up the left hand flight of steps the visitor
- passing the large class room of Morrin College, transformed for the
nonce into spacious refreshment buffets - was ushered into the lecture
room, from the galleries of which flags of many nations and many
colours were drooping. The raised dais, occupied during the delivery
of the addresses by James Stevenson, Esq., Senior Vice-President, L. &
H. Society, in the chair; Lieut.-Col. Bland Strange, R. S. M.
Bouchette, Esq., Dr. Boswell, Vice-Presidents, J. M. LeMoine, Esq.,
and Commander Ashe, R.N., ex-Presidents, was flanked on either side
with the blue and silver banners of St. Andrew's Society, bearing the
arms and escutcheon of Scotia, and their proud motto "_Nemo me
impune lascessit_." Bunting and fresh spruce foliage gave an air of
freshness to all the adornable parts of the room. Immediately opposite
the lectern, which was illuminated with wax candles, placed in last
century candlesticks, and attached to the gallery railings, was a fine
collection of Lochaber axes, clustered around a genuine wooden Gaelic
shield studded with polished knobs of glittering brass. Long before
the hour of eight the company had increased to such an extent that the
room was crowded to the doors, but not inconveniently as the
ventilation was unexceptionable. With accustomed punctuality, James
Stevenson, Esq., acting in the absence of the President, opened the
meeting with some highly appropriate remarks relative to the
historical value of the subjects about to be discussed and summarising
very succinctly the events immediately previous to the beleaguering of
the fortress city. He alluded in stirring terms to the devotion which
had been manifested by the British and French defenders, who resolved
rather to be buried in the ruins than surrender the city. He stated
that he thought it especially meet and proper that the Literary and
Historical Society here should have taken up the matter and dealt with
it in this way. He alluded in eulogistic terms to the capability of
the gentlemen about to address them and, after regretting the
unavoidable absence of Lt-Col. Coffin, a lineal descendant of an
officer present, formally introduced the first speaker, Lieutenant-
Colonel Strange, commandant of Quebec Garrison, and Dominion Inspector
of Artillery. This gallant officer, who on rising was received with
loud and hearty cheering by the audience, plunged with characteristic
military brevity _in medias res_, simply remarking, at the outset,
that he, in such a position, was but a rear rank man, while Colonel
Coffin would have been a front-ranker; but his soldierly duty was
to fill that position in the absence of him to whom the task would
have been officially assigned. The subject which formed a distinct
section of the major topic of the evening was then taken up. Inasmuch
as it is our intention, and we believe that of the Society, to
reproduce faithfully in pamphlet form the graphic, interesting and
detailed word-pictures of the ever memorable events of the 31st
December, 1775, as given by the learned and competent gentlemen who
addressed the meeting, it suffices to say in the present brief notice
of the proceedings that Colonel Strange exhaustively treated that
portion which referred to the attack and defence at Pres-de-Ville - the
place in the vicinity of which now stands the extensive wharves of the
Allan Company. Many incidents of the siege, utterly unknown to
ordinary readers of history were recalled last night, and many things
that have hitherto been dubious, or apparently unaccountable explained
away. The story of the finding of the snow-covered and hard-frozen
corpse of the unfortunate General and his Aide-de-Camp, was told with
much pathos, as were details of his burial. The references to
descendants of then existing families still residents in Quebec, were
extremely interesting, because many were among the audience. At the
conclusion of Colonel Strange's admirable resumé, and some further
pointed remarks from the Chairman, Mr. J. M. LeMoine, who is _par
excellence_ and _par assiduité_ our Quebec historian, whose life has
been mainly devoted to compilation of antiquarian data touching the
walls, the streets, the relics, the families, the very Flora, and
Fauna of our cherished Stadacona - commenced his erudite and amusing
sketches of the day, taken from the stand point of the enemy's
headquarters, and the fray in the Sault-au-Matelot. Interspersing in
his own well digested statement of events, he chose the best
authenticated accounts from contemporaneous participants, British,
French Canadian and American, proving that the record as presented by
Col. Strange and himself last night, was a "plain unvarnished truthful
tale," a reliable mirror in which was faithfully reflected all that
was historically interesting as affecting Quebec in the Campaign of
1775-6. When Mr. LeMoine had terminated his address, which was of
considerable length, Mr. Stevenson concluded this portion of the
proceedings with a most eulogistic and deserved recognition of the
devotion which the two gentlemen who had read during the evening had
shewn in preparing their respective papers, and a vote of thanks to
them was heartily and unanimously accorded. He also made reference to
the topic of the day, the restoration and embellishment of our oft-
besieged, city, gracefully attributing honour where it was due, first
and foremost to His Excellency the Governor-General, Earl of Dufferin,
at whose instigation the plans had been prepared; secondly, to His
Worship the Mayor, Owen Murphy, Esq., (who was present), for his
untiring exertions and valuable assistance in developing, maturing and
preparing the way for an early completion of said designs, which are
to make Quebec a splendid architectural example of the deformed,
transformed; thirdly, to the hearty co-operation of the public, aided
in their views by the enterprise of the proprietor of the _Morning
Chronicle_, who had prepared the splendid illustrations of these
improvements, thereby reflecting infinite credit upon himself. After a
few other remarks the ladies and gentlemen were invited to inspect the
library, which for the rest of the evening was the centre of
attraction. The _coup d'oeil_, when once one had fairly entered
into this beautifully designed, permanent focus of intellectual
wealth, around whose walls were ranged the imperishable memorials of
nearly all of man's genius that has been thought worthy of
preservation, was striking and memorable. As in the lecture room,
those emblems, which are our symbolical as well as actual rallying
points in all times of trouble or war, draped and covered the book
shelves which contain the essence of almost all that human
intelligence, human thought, human wit, man's invention and ingenuity
has as yet brought to light. Here, historian and poet, geographer and
engineer, humorist and preacher, dramatist and theologian, are
congregated, serving in the one great cause of public instruction and
the expansion of the limitless ramifications which exist in the ever
growing tree of knowledge. The student and litérateur, the bibliophile
and dilletante novel reader, the most frequent visitors here last
night were replaced by groups of fair women and patriotic men
assembled to commemorate an event which had a marked effect upon the
history of this continent in this nineteenth century, which will
expire a few hours after these lines meet the reader's eyes. In lieu
of study and thought, the attention of the throng was attracted to the
splendid stand of arms reaching from floor to ceiling, and which was
as it were defended by the Dominion standard that fell in long
festoons behind. In the centre of a diamond-shaped figure, made up of
scores of sabres pointing inwards, was a large glittering star of
silvery steel bayonets. In chronological order were pink and gilt
tablets, containing each one the names of the Lieutenant-Governors of
Canada, commencing with Carleton, in 1775, and proceeding through the
noble list, which includes Haldimand, Dorchester, Dalhousie, Gosford,
Colborne, Durham, Sydenham, Bagot, Cathcart, Elgin, Head, Monk,
Lisgar, down to the present glorious epoch, when this prosperous
country is vice-regally and right royally presided over by Lord



Online LibraryJ.M. Le MoinePicturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present → online text (page 13 of 59)