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Duke of Manchester inform the House of L,ords that,
according to the testimony of seamen, the ice in the St.
lyawrence did not often give way before the end of that
month ; but they knew that vessels never came up until
some time after the first, and felt sure that the winter had
been severer than usual. "'

2 ! See Note 23.

26 § Cramah^to [Germain], Nov. ig, 1775; Bancroft Coll., Eng. and Amer.,


Grounds for Hope 269

The heavy cannon from New York were not far dis-
tant now, and the gun battery on the Heights, within
five hundred j'ards of the wall, would open soon. Artil-
lerymen, infantry, and no doubt ammunition must arrive
shortly. In fact, more than a week before, Wooster had
written : ' We certainly shall have in a very few days a
large reinforcement of Men Artillery Stores & I hope
every thing necessary for our future opperations.' The
enemy, on the other hand, seemed to be approaching
despair. A Canadian arrested for carr5dng the Gov-
ernor's letters, oflFered to take oath that both garrison
and people had risen in a body and forced him to promise
that, should no aid arrive within fourteen days, he would
surrender ; and this had been some time ago. To be
sure, he had not surrendered ; but the incident appeared
very suggestive. A report went about Boston that Carle-
ton actually oflfered to give up the town, though not on
acceptable terms ; and, if the same story circulated in
camp, as apparently it did, the soldiers must have felt
the end was very nigh. Some even declared they would
rather not capture the city until the British reinforce-
ments had come. At all events the time to despair did
not seem to have arrived."

Aug., 1775-Dec., 1776, p. 1&5. Hamilton to Dartmouth, Nov. 20, 1775: Can. Arch.,
Q, II, p. 339. Montreal letter, Apr. 6, 1776 : 4 Force, V., 8o(. Manchester : 4
Force, VI., 363. Arrival of Ships: N. Y. Calendar, I., p. 285.

" § Arnold to Deane, Mar. 30, 1776: 4 Force, V., 545. Wooster to McNeill,
Apr. 23, 1776 : Am. Antiq. See. Montreal letter, Apr. 6, 1776: 4 Force, V., 804.
Essex Journal, May 3, 1776. Spy : ' Shortt ' Journal, Feb. 28. Remark LXXVI.


OUR analysis of the situation at Quebec, however,
omitted one factor entirely. The mistake was
natural. Dead men tell no tales ; and prisoners of war,
immured in stone walls three feet thick, have never been
expected to bear a hand in the campaign. But the Ken-
nebec detachment were no ordinary prisoners.

After laying down their arms that ill-fated morning,
the Americans made their way, under very attentive es-
corts, to the main guard of the garrison ; and, as group
after group arrived, they were able to reckon up the ex-
tent of their misfortune, and find that over-praised conso-
lation which misery has been said to love. Major Meigs
broke bread very comfortably with Captain I<aws, who
owed him so much ; the other officers had a mouthful at
the guard-house ; and then all of them filed off to an upper
floor in a wing of the Seminary, where the Bishop resided
— though not in precisely the same style — all his life.
Here they passed a ' Solentary ' New Year's. Few could
help reflecting with Humphrey : ' Fortune was kind
enough to save me from Either Starving or Drowning to
bring me to this place to be maid A prisner which I think
to be no great favour.' But, as Governor Ward said, they
had ' acquired immortal honor, ' and that counted for
much ; they had life, and with life hope ; and the straw-
beds, mattresses, and blankets made the lodging seem
'Very Cumfortable.' Meantime the privates, after sooth-
ing their fatigue and chagrin with a biscuit and a swallow


The American Prisoners


of rum, found their prison close at hand in the Recollet
monaster}', and were glad enough to rest awhile with ' a
straw bed between two, and a blanket each man.' '

Though promised ' good quarters & Tender usage, '
these unlucky patriots were hardly ' looked upon by their
Captors as prisoners of war.' Caldwell, whose property
on both sides the river had suffered not a little, felt de-
cidedly unamiable toward them, and let the fact glimmer
somewhat plainly through his bluff integument. Mac-
lean, a ramrod of loyaltj', with
some whose old royalism had
become a second — if not a first —
conscience, and some whose new
royalism felt the zeal of conver-
sion, could not miss an oppor-
tunitj' so excellent for exalting
orthodoxy. A few ' examples '
would no doubt have pleased
them greatly. But Carleton
viewed the situation otherwise.
He looked upon the ' rebellion '
of the Colonies as kindled by a few leaders, who were ' re-
solved to seek their own Safety and gratify their Ambi-
tion, in the Continuance of the Public Confusion and pub-
lic Calamities, ' and who drove on the mass of the people by
representing that, after what had occurred, no hope of par-
don could be entertained by any one. His desire was to
isolate the chiefs by convincing their deluded followers
' that the way to mercy was not yet shut against them ' ;
and he laid down as the true policy : ' Valor and good
Conduct in time of Action, with Humanity and friendly
Treatment to those, who are subdued.' ''


1 § See the Journals of lleigs, Dearborn, Humphrey, Melvin. Tgtu,
Ev6ques, Chap. I., p. 259. Morison, Account: Penna. Mag., 1890, p. 435. Ward,
to S.Ward, Jr., Jan. 21, 1776; J. Ward, S. Ward, p. ii.

2 § Dearborn, Journal. Not pris. of war ; Meigs, Petition (Cont. Cong,

2 72 Our Struggle for the Fourteenth Colony

Certainly Arnold's redoubtable followers needed to be
safely kept, and the state of Quebec forbade any pamper-
ing of their appetites ; but, so far as possible, the Gov-
ernor wished them kindly treated. Some of his officers
called at the prison without delay, and he made several
visits there himself We are ' used very well,' Meigs in-
formed his comrades outside. We were ' treated with the
Greatest Humanity,' recorded Nichols. In spite of Carle-
ton's iron resolve to have no communications with men in
arms against their sovereign, they had permission to send
for their belongings. Merchants of Quebec were allowed
to make the rank and file a New Year's present of a large
butt of porter with bread and cheese proportionate. After
fuel became very scarce, parties from the garrison sallied
into St. Roch more than once, their lives in their hands,
' to bring in firewood for the prisoners. ' As for diet, cer-
tainly two or three bran biscuits, three ounces of pork and
half a pint of thin soup each day could hardly be called
luxurious; but the Americans understood that the garrison
lived no better. Unfortunately a man named Dewey, ap-
pointed to look after such matters within the prison, sold
a part of their supplies for his own profit ; ' but,' rejoiced
Morison, ' the lyord of Hosts soon delivered us out of his
hands ; for he was taken with the small-pox, which swept
him from off the face of the earth.' ^

Many of the prisoners — particularly the eastern men —
had never suffered from this disease ; and, as the danger
from taking it in the natural way was regarded as im-
mensely more than that from artificial infection, they
petitioned to be inoculated, and the Governor granted

Papers, No. 42, V., p. 15). Caldwell; Porterfield, Diary (Va. Mag., Oct., 1901, p.
145). Carleton to Germain, Aug. 10, 1776: Pub. Rec. On., Colon. Corres., Quebec,
12, p. 247. Id. to Howe, Aug. 8, 1776: Can. Arch., B, 39, p. 93.

3 § Humphrey, Journal, Jan. 2. Henry, Journal, pp. 128, 139. Haskell,
Diary, Jan. 2. Nichols, Assault. ' Chalmers ' Journal, Jan. 31 ; Feb. 2, 3. Stock-
ing, Journal, Dec. 31. Melvin, Journal, Jan. 9. Fobes, Narrative Morison,
Account: Penna. Mag., 1890, p. 435.

The Prisoners are Well Used 273

their request. Above a hundred had to be carried to the
hospital ; and, while their hopes of an easy sickness were
not fully realized, the attentions they received proved no
slight compensation. In fact, some men pretended to
be ill in order to be taken there, or concealed recovery as
long as they could in order to remain. l,ieutenant Nich-
ols was one of these. Suffering from scarlet fever and re-
moved to the H&tel Dieu, he found the care of the Mother
Abbess, as he called her, and of the nuns, who sat up with
him several nights ' four at a time in turn two hours each
turn,' rather different from the rough companionship of
the prison. So he feigned to be sick for nearly a month
after he knew that he had never been sounder, — in fact,
until he chose to acknowledge his cure. It was then inti-
mated to him that, as houses were being pulled down for
fuel, the General would like to have him go back to his
comrades. ' Never was a person treated with more Hos-
pitality,' wrote the lyieutenant in reference to the nuns,
' than I was treated by them.' '

Other prisoners found a different path from confine-
ment. When their names, ages, and places of birth were
taken, it appeared that more than a hundred of the rank
and file hailed from Great Britain. These were called
out by themselves, and addressed by the Provost-Mar-
shal. 'My men,' said he, 'you deserve nothing but
death, for j'ou have taken up arms against your own
country ; but, if you will take the oath of allegiance and
serve the King until the first of June next, you shall find
mercy.' Indeed, remarkable inducements were offered :
full pay, even for the time they had campaigned with
the Americans, and a free voyage 'to Britain or where
they please[d] by the first vessel in the spring." No

' § Henry, Journal, p. 144, note. Nichols, Diary, particularly Mar. 10.
Ainslie, Journal, Jan. 3 ; Feb. 13. Councilman : Univ. Cyclop., VI., p. 261.
Henry, Journal, p. 152. Remark LXXVII.

VOL. II.— 18.

2 74 Our Struggle for the Fourteenth Colony-

ordinary writhings of conscience and heart followed ; but
in the end all accepted the offer."

Many Quebeckers doubted whether a pledge given
with a noose round the neck would prove bindings and
not a few wagers were laid on that point ; but at first the
plan worked well. For a fortnight, the old-country men
shouldered arms and paced the ramparts fully to Maclean's
taste ; but then three of the ' penitent rebels, again

repenting,' disappeared. Two
weeks more passed, and another
trio piped the song of liberty.
Ten days more went by, and
a sextet vanished over the wall.
Some dropped quietly oif behind
the artillerjr barracks and shot
down the steep incline of thirty
or forty feet, covered with snow,
into a street at St. Roch ; but
others chose a bolder fashion.
While Cavanaugh, a ' converted
rebel,' was doing sentry duty
near Palace Gate in company
with a British soldier, his friend Connor sauntered along in
that direction, produced a bottle, and, after taking a pull
as an evidence of good faith, passed the ' craythur ' to
the Briton. The soporific influence of the treat was deep-
ened by a stunning blow from the butt of Cavanaugh 's
musket, and then the two comrades jumped for dear life
into twenty-five feet of drifted snow. A ball or two fol-
lowed them, but they got safely away. Finally, Carleton
disarmed and disuniformed the others, and shut them up
in the artillery barracks out of the reach of temptation."

'§ Brit. Return: Can. Arch., Q, 12, p. 159 (Recapit.). Melvin, Journal,
Jan. 3. Fobes, Narrative. Ainslie, Journal, Jan. 7, 8. 'Chalmers' Journal,
Jan. 7 ; Feb. 16. Caldwell, Letter. ' Shortt ' Journal, Jan. 8.

<• § Ainslie, Journal, Jan. 21 ; Feb. 6, 16. Caldwell, Letter. Finlay, Journal,
Feb. 5, 16. Henry, Journal, p. 137.


Life of the Prisoners 275

The rest of the rank and file— more than two hundred
and fifty— formed a cozy if not gorgeous club, and whiled
away the time as best they could. Numberless tales were
furbished up, length counting as a greater merit than
accuracy. Cards occupied many an hour, and swearing
at luck and the King disposed of occasional minutes.
Some, too fastidious for these consolations, employed
themselves in making wooden spoons and little boxes ;
and the more artistic decorated such articles with clever
figures : a beaver, an Indian sitting on a rock, or even a
deer at full stretch, pursued by a hound. Far less agree-
able but not less absorbing an occupation was the inevi-
table speculating about the future. Some of the sentries
expressed the cheerful opinion that all would be shipped
off to England, and ' sold as slaves to some island' ; oth-
ers said they would be sent to Boston and exchanged ;
and still others maintained that a halter would certainly
be the end of every mother's son in the prison. As for
their own opinion, they hoped their comrades would cap-
ture the city and release them.'

Some ebullitions of spirit could not be avoided. Parrot
found himself in irons for calling one of the Emigrants a
Tory : which made it appear that even royalists consid-
ered that name opprobrious ; and Brown fared the same
for answering back an uncivil keeper. When the alarm
bells announced that an assault was expected, the men
longed to have a share in it ; but a large guard was
thrown round their prison, and a field-piece rolled up be-
fore the door. Eifteen agreed to fight their way out ; but
Dewey reported them, and two were ironed. In spite of
pluck, discouragement and listlessness gained a little
ground each day. ' The time seems very long,' groaned

' § Brit. Return.; Can. Arch., Q,i2, p. 159. Melvin, Journal, Jan. 31 ; Feb.
Henry, Journal, p. 140.



^^ ^


■e? Ji


In the Dauphin Jail 277

Melvin ; and so did every one else even before January
ended. They felt out of the world, — mere flotsam tossed
about by the winds and waves of the contest. And then,
in a moment, the sky opened.'

It opened precisely when it seemed to be closing hard
upon them. About the middle of March they were trans-
ferred to the Dauphin Jail ; and, as they filed into that
dingy, gloomy sepulchre, they almost felt condemned to
a living death. Fully three feet of solid stone surrounded
them ; heavy iron bars darkened the small windows ; and
a wall twenty feet high, bristling with spikes along the
top, shut in the small yard behind. There were two
floors, with four non-communicating rooms on each, and
at night every room was carefully locked ; while the door
into the street — a very solid affair — had fastenings on the
outside. But, just as the men were bewailing their fate,
the window-bars were given a closer look, and it appeared
that many of them, deeply gnawed by rust, could easily
be removed from their sockets.'

A sort of council, mainly composed of sergeants, grew
together very soon, and an attempt at escape was eagerly
discussed. Evidently it would be a desperate affair.
Getting through the windows would not help the men
very much, after all. Two sentries, relieved every fifteen
minutes, waited constantly at each corner of the enclo-
sure. A guard-house, always well manned, stood nearly
opposite. St. John's Gate, occupied by thirty or forty of
the best soldiers, stood about a hundred and fifty yards
away, and no building intervened to conceal operations.
Only a few minutes would be needed to turn plenty of
cannon on the jail. Sentries patrolled the ramparts inces-

8 § Melvin, Journal, Jan. 20 ; Feb, 15 ; Mar. i. Tolman (Ware), Journal,
Mar. 10-13.

5 § Melvin, Journal, Mar. 10, 13. Tolman, Journal, Mar. 10-13. LeMoine,
Pict. Quebec, p. 120. Henry, Journal, p. 145. Fobes, Narrative. Finlay,
Journal, Mar. 13.

278 Our Struggle for the Fourteenth- Colony

santly with muskets ready ; and reserves lay on their arms
within easy call. It was decided, then, first of all, to ask
the men whether they had stomachs for such a venture.
All answered, Yes ; and the council then took the matter
up in earnest, meeting often but always in private, lest
some treachery or indiscretion should betray the plot. '°

One thing helped the prisoners ; indeed, two things.
The belief that only a few leaders really caused the op-
position to England found many supporters in Quebec
besides the Governor" ; and these fine, genial unfortun-
ates in confinement, admired as much as feared, had now
come to be looked upon ' as deluded by the fascinating
sound of liberty and freedom, and induced to take up
arms when . . . not at heart inimical to his Britannic
Majesty.' "^ This begot a feeling that no great stringency
need be used upon them; while Maclean's eagerness to
employ in active service every able-bodied man led him
to place no guards within the jail and only greybeards
and boys on the outside.

But arms were needed. A battle against fearful odds.
Yes ; mere slaughter. No.

A number of tomahawks, or small hatchets, had been
secreted when the men surrendered, and brought into the
prison. These were ready for action. A good many long
hunting-knives, which had the same history, were now
fixed at the ends of ' splits ' of fir, cut from the bottoms of
the lower tier of berths; and here were good spears, ten
feet in length. Peeping through the keyhole of a small,
locked room, an inquisitive eye discovered a pile of iron
hoops two or three inches broad. The lock was carefully

' '^ § For the plot of the privates see particularly Henry's Journal, pp. 145-159
(Henry belonged to the ' council '), and Fobes, Narrative ; also the Journals
of Melvin, Stocking, and Morison; and the British Journals, particularly
Ainslie's. Carleton to Germain, May 14, 1776: 4 Force, VI., 456. Caldwell,

' ' E- g., Ainslie, Journal, Mar, 5.

1 2 Stocking, Journal, Jan. 10.

A Plan to Escape


plied; it yielded; and the hoops, doubled and furnished
with wooden handles, made tolerable cutlasses, or, rather,
terrific bludgeons. Various odds and ends of iron proved
available for more spear-points; and a few old scythes were
metamorphosed into swords. An axe had to be given the
prisoners to split their fire-wood with. Somehow it was
lost; after a while a second axe also disappeared; and so,
in the course of no long time, working their way cautiously
and plausiblj', the men obtained quite a number of axes.

The bottoms of some of the lower tier of berths, about a
foot higher than the floor, were taken up, and the weapons
laid away. Then the bottoms returned to their places, and
the nails, broken in the middle so they would not hold,
apparently did the same. Blankets and bundles, piled
above in seeming
confusion, hid the
work still more.
One of the men
stood guard in-
cessantly at each
end of the corri-
dor. Whenever a
British officer ap-
proached, he gave
a signal ; and com-
rades appointed
to that duty fell

instantly into a heavy doze in the berths. The prison
had become an arsenal ; yet every sign of danger lay as
covert as the claws of a purring kitten. Even the lock
of the small room was made to close again.

Next in order stood a plan of campaign, and reconnoit-
ring the field threatened to be difficult. But all obstacles
vanished before such men. Ferrets as well as lions, they
contrived ways to open every door inside the prison at


28o Our Struggle for the Fourteenth Colony

will ; and their day reall}' began when the officers had
locked them up for the night. Climbing into the attic and
raising a trap-door in the roof, they studied the walls and
the posts of St. John's Gate minutely and at leisure under
the brilliant light of the moon. The cannon, the ammuni-
tion, the guard-house, the placing of sentries, the move-
ments of the patrols were all patiently conned, until, in
spite of the distance, everything of importance became
perfectly clear. With equal keenness, putting out their
own lights in order to see the better, they perused the
guard-house across the street, only some forty yards dis-
tant. It had no shutters, and the lamps burned all night.
The front door, never closed, led to a flight of stairs. In
the passage there was always a light. At the top of the
stairs on the right hand, going up, the muskets, with
bayonets fixed, could always be found in a certain corner.
About thirty men belonged there ; but by morning they
counted as none, for all of them lay dead-asleep on the
floor. The treads in the flight of stairs were numbered,
and it was reckoned that a quick man could clear them in
three bounds.

The prisoners were then organized. Sergeant Aston of
Lamb's company was appointed the general. McCoy and
others became colonels. Majors, captains, and lieutenants
also were chosen. Boyd, Cunningham, and Henry had
orders to carry the guard-house opposite the jail, and were
permitted to pick twenty-two men from the whole number.
Aston with a hundred and fifty followers, undertook to
attack the guard at St. John's Gate. A reserve under
McCoy was to support him, and a smaller body had orders
to fire the jail and near-by houses and then assist Boyd.
So far as concerned arms, Malaysia was to fight Europe.
A stiff 'bustle,' as the soldiers termed it, had to be ex-
pected ; but desperation and numbers — to make no claim
on the score of quality — were counted upon to win.

A Scheme of Conquest 281

These men, however, had not come so far from home
simply to escape from a prison: they had come to conquer ;
and, after risking life to get into Quebec, there they
were. Why not make the most of this ? If the cannon
could be turned upon them, they could turn the cannon
upon the British; and, if they could take St. John's Gate,
they could certainly open it. In short, the plan of escape
turned out a plan of conquest.

As this was pondered, a great diiEculty presented itself.
The cannon were loaded and primed, and boxes of ammu-
nition stood near ; but it would take the British artillerymen
only a second to throw the fuses into the ditch. Without
fuses the cannon were dead ; and without gunpowder the
prisoners could manufacture no fuses of their own. Some-
thing had to be done about it; and this produced an
elaborate plot within a plot.

The boys guarding the jail were forward and inclined
to be insolent; but this lightness of head made them
easy victims to flattery. The prisoners humored them ;
joked with them; pretended to learn French of them;
showed them all manner of deference. At the same time
they devised toy cannon, made of tough paper many folds
thick and very tightly rolled, and mounted them on wooden
carriages. Embrasures were cut in the opposing fronts of
the berths , and the cannon placed behind them. With an
air of infinite good-humor, the sentries were induced to
look at these forts, and their curiosity to see a battle was
cleverly worked up. Finally, they supplied some powder
for that purpose. The prisoners took sides; and, amid
roars of what sounded like simple-minded laughter, the
cannon popped and popped again, as loud as pistols. A
little of the powder, however, was reserved and secreted.

Finally the Americans, growing very fond of the mimic
warfare and requiring a good deal of this article, cajoled
the boys into purchasing small quantities of it for them ;,

282 Our Struggle for the Fourteenth Colony

and then, as little money could be found in their pockets,
ways to obtain it had to be devised. Some were droll
enough. So many of the prisoners fell sick, or feigned to
fall sick in order to reach the hospital, that people outside
began to think the jail unhealthy, and took pity more
than ever on the unfortunate Americans. Many 'pious
matrons' visited them, and never empty-handed. Elderly
nuns came often; and, these- — not being housewives —
usually brought little gifts of money. Generosity so spon-
taneous would evidently bear a little stimulation ; and with
fine art that stimulation was applied.

Sergeant Gibson of Hendricks's company, naturall}' of a
'beautiful countenance,' had studied physic, knew how
to care for himself, and now, amid the sallow faces of his
comrades, bloomed like a rose. McCoy arranged a little
room for him near the front door, so that charitable visitors
might drop in there before wasting their sympathy on less
public-spirited or less knowing prisoners ; and then Gibson
and Henry watched prudently at a window near.

'Zounds, Gibson, there 's a nun! ' cried Henr5^

Instantly Gibson rushed into the little room ; and,
without stopping to disrobe, got into bed and covered
himself to the chin.

The nun was admitted. Henry and others in the secret
received her at the door with all politeness, and begged
her to visit a sick friend. Full of pious good-will she
entered, and — aided by the remarks of her escort — beheld

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