Robert Tomes.

Battles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) online

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ger. So scarce had food become, that


they were obliged to kill their dogs and
eat the flesh ; and when this supply was
exhausted, they were reduced to the ne
cessity of making a soup out of their
mooseskin moccasins ! Arnold now felt
the urgent necessity of an immediate ef
fort for relief; and, accordingly, landing
his main force on the bank of the lake,
with orders to move leisurely on by land,
he hastily equipped half a dozen boats,
and, taking sixteen men with him, pushed
on up the lake. They quickly reached
the northern extremity of Lake Megan-
tic, and entered the Chaudiere. Without
guides they began the dangerous naviga
tion of this turbulent stream, and, getting
among the rapids, three of the boats were
overturned, and six of the men had a hard
struggle for life. They were, however,

Oct. 30.

saved from drowning, and conveyed to
the land, where, after drying their clothes,
they took to their remaining boats, and
prepared to hurry forward. At this mo
ment, one of the party, having proceeded
for some distance in advance, cried out,
" A fall ahead !" And, sure enough, they
were just on the verge of a cataract, and
barely had time to save themselves from
being swept over, with the result of cer
tain death to every man of them. They
were now obliged to carry their boats
around this dangerous fall ; and, starting
again, they finally succeeded, without fur
ther accident, in reaching the French sei>
tlement of Sertigan, near the
Chaudiere and Des Loups riv
ers. Arnold found abundance of provis
ions here, and immediately sent back a
supply to his famished troops. The re
lief proved timely, for they had been re
duced almost to starvation. They were
found coming slowly and disconsolately
along the banks of the river, having lost
all their boats, with most of the baggage,
in the turbulent waters of the Chaudiere.
Refreshed with abundance of food, they
hurried their march, and soon began, in
straggling detachments, to enter Sertigan,
where they all finally arrived in a few

Arnold now, as he was approaching
the Canadian capital, was anxious that
Schuyler, with whom he was to co-oper
ate, should be made aware of his move
ments. He therefore, with an imprudent
confidence,intrusted a chance Indian with
a despatch to the American general, which
was enclosed in a letter to one of Arnold s
friends in Quebec. Arnold was encour-



[PART n.

aged by the reception which he met with
among the inhabitants of the valley of
the Chaudiere. He had followed the di
rections of Washington, who had urged
upon him to treat the Canadian people
with great kindness, to avoid offending
in any respect their religious prejudices,
and strictly to regard their rights of prop
erty. Arnold had been provided with
printed manifestoes, setting forth the
cause of the provincials, and appealing
to the Canadians for active sympathy.
These were diligently distributed, and
appeared to produce everywhere a favor
able effect. After a delay of a few days
in the enjoyment of the abounding hospi
tality of the generous and simple-minded
French inhabitants of that sequestered
valley, Arnold moved on with all his
force, and arrived at Point Levi,
opposite to Quebec, on the 13th of

Arnold was disappointed, on reaching
the shore, to find that there were no boats
to take his force across the St. Lawrence.
The enemy, in fact, had learned the par
ticulars of his march through the despatch
to Schuyler, which had been intrusted to
the Indian messenger, and who had treach
erously delivered it up to the British of
ficer in command at Quebec. The boats
were accordingly all withdrawn to the
Quebec side of the river, a frigate and a
sloop-of-war stationed in the St. Lawrence
to intercept the invaders, and additional
troops from Sorel and Newfoundland hur
ried in to reinforce the garrison. Ar
nold s impetuosity, however, was not to be
checked ; and getting together, through
the agency of the Indians and Canadians


who had joined him, a number of birchen
canoes, he succeeded, in the course of a
night, in setting all but a hundred and
fifty of his men on the Plains of Abra
ham, having landed at "Wolfe s cove,"
and clambered with his men the same
rugged path up which that brave gener
al had led the British troops.

The American commander, conscious
of the increased strength of the garrison,
could have had little hope of a successful
assault ; but, as he had reason to believe
that the inhabitants of Quebec were dis
affected toward their rulers and favorably
disposed toward his own enterprise, he
was determined to try the temper of the
people. Arnold accordingly inarched his
force close to the walls of the city, and
ordered them to send up three loud huz
zas, with the hope that the troops would
be provoked to make a sally, and that
the gates being thus opened, the Cana
dians would take the occasion of co-oper
ating with him. He was, however, disap
pointed in the effects of his bravado, for
the garrison only answered it by a salute
from their guns. Arnold next tried the
lieutenant-governor, with a pompous de
mand, in the name of the American Con
gress, to surrender. This, of course, the
British officer, confident in his superior
force, and the humble means of his ene
my, contemptuously disregarded.

Arnold was now fain to depart, partic
ularly as he heard from some of his old
friends in Quebec that the British were
about coming out to attack him with a
large force, and knew that his own troops
were so deficient in numbers and in sup
plies of ammunition for they had but




five rounds of cartridge to a man that
it would be folly to attempt a resistance.
He acordingly marched up the banks of

the St. Lawrence, and took post at Point
aux Trembles, to await the approach of


Montgomery enters Montreal without Opposition. Sir Guy Carleton enclosed between two American Forces. Escapes
in Disguise, but loses his Flotilla. Montgomery worried by the Disobedience of his Troops. Many refuse to follow
Him. He marches, however, with a Few, and joins Arnold. Montgomery assumes the General Command, and
marches to the Plains of Abraham. Quebec summoned to surrender. A Siege. Vain Attempts to communicate
with the Disaffected Inhabitants of Quebec. An Ice-Battery. An Assault determined upon. Trouble among the
American Troops. The Assault begins. Its Progress. Death of Montgomery. Morgan s Desperate Struggle, and
Final Capture. Failure of the Assault. Arnold succeeds to the Chief Command, and is promoted to the Rank of
Brigadier-General. Retires to a Short Distance from Quebec, and prepares to receive an Expected Attack from the


As Montgomery entered Montre
al without opposition, on the 12th
of November, Sir Guy Carleton, the gov
ernor of Canada, passed hurriedly out
with his officers and small force, and, em
barking in a half-dozen river-craft, sailed
down the St. Lawrence with the view of
reaching Quebec. The Americans, how
ever, under the command of Major Brow r n,
after their success at Chambly, and the
defeat of the Highlanders sent to rein
force Carleton, had taken possession of a
post at the mouth of the Sorel, which
they fortified, so placing their guns as to
command the passage of the St. Lawrence
between Montreal and Quebec. Carle-
ton attempted to pass this resistance, and
was driven back, with his small flotilla.
He now found himself imprisoned be
tween Montgomery above, at Montreal,
and the American batteries at the mouth
of the Sorel below, with hardly a hope
of escape.

Montgomery was eager to get hold of

Carleton as his capture, he believed,
might settle the fate of Canada. Carle-
ton was equally anxious to save himself)
but was perplexed to discover the means,
and remained fixed,, with his vessels an
chored in the St. Lawrence, with the en
emy above and below. Montgomery now
made a move which appeared decisive.
He came down from Montreal with a
fleet of batteaux, mounted with guns, de
termined to crowd Carleton down upon
the American battery at the mouth of
the Sorel, and so close in upon him as to
make sure of his capture. Carleton, see
ing the approaching danger, gave up all
hope of the safety of his flotilla, but re
solved upon making an effort to secure
himself from capture. He accordingly
disguised himself as a Canadian voyageur,
and taking a boat, with six men to pull
it, set off in the midst of a dark night,
and silently floated down the St. Law
rence with muffled oars, passed all the
dangers of the mouth of the Sorel, and




getting on board a vessel below, reached
in safety the city of Quebec at the very
moment Arnold took his departure. In
the meanwhile, Montgomery had reached
the British vessels, which at once surren
dered, with all on board, among whom
was General Prescott, the former com
mander at Montreal, of whose rough treat
ment Ethan Allen had reason to make so
much complaint.

Montgomery had met with great suc
cess in his efforts toward conciliating the
people of Montreal. His courtesy, and
careful regard of their rights and privi
leges, proved to them that he was no mil
itary adventurer, and they became favor
ably disposed toward a cause sustained
by a man so peaceful in his bearing and
so just in his conduct. His own troops,
however, gave him great trouble, and so
worried him by their disobedience and
importunate demands to be sent home,
that he quite sickened of his command,
and wrote to Schuyler, expressing the
hope that his health would soon allow of
his resuming a position of which he him
self wearied and disgusted. " I must go
home," he added, " if I walk by the side
of the lake. I am weary of power, and
totally want that patience and temper so
requisite for such a command."

Montgomery had received intelligence
of the arrival of Arnold at Point aux Trem
bles, and was anxious to march with his
troops and co-operate with him in an at
tack on Quebec. He was trying " to pre
vail on the troops to accompany" him,
but was met with all kinds of objections.
Some were too ill to go j some declared
that their time was out ; others openly

refused ; and a few only were disposed to
obey orders, or rather to yield to persua
sion, for in those days the militia were
mostly inclined to enjoy their indepen
dence before they had won it. Mont
gomery was, however, determined to go,
notwithstanding the reluctance of most
of his army, and accordingly embarked
with some three hundred men, who were
all that were willing to follow him, and
sailed down to Point aux Trembles, where
he formed a junction with Arnold, and
took command of the whole force, which
amounted to nine hundred in all. Mont
gomery seems to have been struck with
admiration by the soldierly appearance
of Arnold s troops, and by the character
of their leader. " There is a style of dis
cipline among them," he wrote to Schuy
ler, " much superior to what I have been
used to see in this campaign. He [Ar
nold] himself is active, intelligent, and
enterprising." Favorably impressed as he
was with what he saw of Arnold s troops
who were well-disciplined, had been re
freshed, and comfortably clad with a sup
ply of woollens from Montreal Mont
gomery became sanguine of success in the
contemplated attack upon Quebec. Ar
nold, however, was less hopeful, and wrote
to Washington that it would require five
thousand men to reduce that stronghold.
Montgomery calculated upon the dis
affection of the inhabitants of Quebec;
the miscellaneous character of the British
troops, made up of sailors, raw recruits,
and a few regulars ; and the great extent
of the fortifications, which seemed to re
quire a larger number for their defence
than Carleton possessed. The latter, how-




Dec. 1.

ever, though unpopular from the reserve
of his aristocratic manners, was a man full
of vigorous energy in an emergency, and
he accordingly prepared to meet with
spirit the expected assault. To assure
loyalty, he turned out all suspected per
sons from official position, and even sent
" trooping out of the town" all those in
habitants who showed any unwillingness
to put forth their might in its defence.
He had, by this thinning out, so far di
minished his numbers within Quebec, as
to leave only fifteen hundred men, near
ly double that of the American force ; but
although Carleton was not conscious of
this disparity, he confidently awaited the
coining of his enemy.

As soon as the junction of the Ameri
can forces had been formed, Montgomery
marched to the Plains of Abra
ham. Immediately on his arri
val, he attempted to send a summons to
the British commander to surrender ; but
Carleton would not allow any flag to ap
proach the walls, and all communication
was refused. Montgomery then began
to play with his artillery upon the town
and its suburbs, but with no effect beyond
the occasional burning of a house, and
the killing of a man or two. After this
ill success, a ruse was tried, with the hope
of communicating with some of the in
habitants supposed to be favorably dis
posed toward the American cause. A wo
man was induced to carry letters into the
city, addressed to some of the merchants,
who were promised every possible favor
in case of co-operation with Montgomery.
With these letters there was a summons
to surrender, with an exaggerated state-

ment of the American force, intended for
the eye of Carleton. This was handed
him ; but the British commander, nothing
daunted, merely imprisoned the messen
ger in petticoats, withheld all answer to
the communication of the American gen
eral, and steadily persevered in strength
ening his defences.

Montgomery, disappointed in not pro
ducing, by summons and letters, any im
pression upon Carleton, or apparently up
on the inhabitants of Quebec, now began
a systematic attack. Approaching with
in four hundred yards of the centre of
the walls, opposite to one of the gates, he
commenced the construction of a breast
work. The army had but a poor supply
of intrenching-tools to work with ; and
the ground, moreover, was so hardened
by the severe frost, that it was only with
the greatest labor that pick or spade
could make any impression upon it. A
snowstorm had set in as soon as Mont
gomery left Montreal, and was still in full
blast, so that the men were much incom
moded by the weather. The snow, how
ever, which now in great depth covered
the ground, was turned to advantage, for
it was used to fill in the space behind the
trees and brushwood which formed the
frame of the breastwork. After being
well packed, and covered with water
which froze immediately in those cold De
cember days the snow became a mass
of solid ice. Haifa dozen small fieldpieces
were here planted, and kept firing bombs
into the city, with the hope of frighten
ing the inhabitants, and inducing them to
force Carleton into submission. No such
result, however, ensued ; and then Mont-



[PART n.

gomery tried the expedient of attaching
letters to arrows, and ordering the Indi
ans- to shoot them into the town, that the
citizens might pick them up, and, reading
them, be advised to insist upon a surren
der, which was the purport of what was
written. This also failed in its effect.

After the "ice-battery" had been for
live days ineffectually trying its artillery
upon the walls, and its powers of persua
sion upon the people within, the general
took occasion one night to pay a visit to
the captain in command Lamb was his
name. Montgomery had hardly arrived,
when a ball came plump from the ene
my s guns against the walls of ice, shat
tering them like so much glass, overturn
ing the light fieldpieces, and wounding
ing several of the men. " This is warm
work, sir," said the general to 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."* This was the end of the
brittle ice-battery ; for Montgomery, see
ing its entire inefficiency and danger, im
mediately ordered Lamb and his brave
men to abandon it.

Three weeks had been spent in these
vain attempts to influence the inhabit
ants, when it was finally decided to make
a general assault upon the city. Mont
gomery w r as distrustful of his means for
a successful attempt ; but, as his troops
were growing dissatisfied with the long
delay, and discouraged by-labors and suf
ferings undergone without any compen
sating advantage, he felt it necessary,

* Life of John Lamb, p. 125, quoted by Irving.

either to strike a blow, or retire. He
could not submit to the latter alterna
tive, for he knew that his country expect
ed much of him, and his own brave spirit
prompted him to deeds of daring. Mont
gomery was, indeed, conscious that his
men were hardly in a condition to under
take so hazardous an enterprise ; for they
had suffered (ill clothed and ill provided
as they were with food) from the severity
of the weather, and they not only mur
mured loudly, but even refused to obey
orders. The commander, however, hoped
that their martial ardor, warming with
the prospect of action, would melt away
disaffection, and soon reunite the hearts
of all in common sympathy.

The plan of operations being settled,
the various divisions of the troops were
ordered to be drawn up, to prepare for
their separate duties. At this moment
word was brought to the general that
three companies of Arnold s detachment
refused obedience, declaring that they
would no longer serve, unless placed un
der a different command. Montgomery

CJ /

might well be discouraged by such an oc
currence at such a moment ; but he mas
tered his feelings, and promptly present
ing himself to the disorderly troops, suc
ceeded by his firmness in bringing them
back to their duty.

The whole force was now mustered,
and it was found that disease for the
small-pox had broken out among them
and desertion had reduced the troops to
the small number of seven hundred and
fifty. These were then detailed for duty.
One division, under Montgomery, was to
descend the cliffs, and, proceeding along




the river around Cape Diamond, attack
the town in that quarter ; another, under
Arnold, was to advance on the other side
by the suburb of St. Roque, and the two
were to fight their way from these oppo
site directions until they met. The third
division, under Brown and Livingston,
was to advance from the Plains of Abra
ham, set fire to St. John s gate, and make
a show of assault against the walls of the
fortress on the heights, in order to divert
the enemy from the movements of the
main body below. It was arranged that
these various attacks should be simulta
neous, on the letting off of some signal-

It was two o clock in the morning, in

Dec. 31.

the midst of a heavy snowstorm,
when the movement began. Mont
gomery led his men down the rugged
path to Wolfe s cove below, and along
the shore of the river, without opposition,
until he reached a narrow point below
the slate-crags of Cape Diamond. Here
he found a fence of pickets, which the
carpenters soon cut away with their saws,
the general helping to pull them down
with his own hands. Montgomery was
the first to enter, followed by his aid-de
camp. The men hesitated and lingered.
About fifty yards before them, with the
river on one side and a precipitous rock on
the other, stood a blockhouse or redoubt,
strongly fortified, mounted with some
heavy guns, and garrisoned with fifty of
the enemy. Montgomery fancied his ap
proach was unperceived, and confidently
advanced along the narrow and irregular
path, doubly insecure from the accumu
lated ice, urging his New- York regiment j

to follow, saying : " Men of New York,
you will not fear to follow where your
general leads ! Push on, brave boys, and
Quebec is ours!" Montgomery, with
sword in hand, then hurried in advance,
and had hardly made a dash at the re
doubt, when a sudden light flashed upon
the darkness, and a volley of cannon-shot
swept the American column, killing the
general, his two aids, and many of the
rank and file, at the first discharge. The
rest of the men were driven back in con
fusion to Wolfe s cove, where they were
rallied by Colonel Campbell, who, how
ever, did not attempt to bring them up
again to the attack.

The signal-rockets had been by some
accident let off too soon, and the diver
sion which was to have been made by
the division on the Plains of Abraham
had failed : so the enemy within the city
was on the alert, prepared to receive Ar
nold and his detachment, in their attack
through the suburb of St. Roque. Arnold,
at the head of an advanced guard of a lieu
tenant and thirty men, led the van ; next
went the artillery-company, under Cap
tain Lamb, with a single fieldpiece on a
sledge ; Morgan and his riflemen, together
with a company in charge of scaling-lad
ders, brought up the rear. They proceed
along the bank of the St. Charles, floun
dering in the depths of the drifted snow,
and go groping in the dark into the low
er town. Here, with the narrow, irregu
lar streets, the crowded houses, the stores,
boats, and wharves, all seems inextrica
ble confusion; but Arnold continues to
lead on his advance-guard in single file
each man making his way as best he can



[PART n.

after him. He now comes upon a two-
gun battery stretched across the street,
and halts momentarily for his fieldpiece ;
but, finding that it can not be dragged up
through the deep snowdrifts, Arnold be
gins the attack: he is, however, so severely
wounded in the knee on the first advance,
that he has to be carried back to the rear,
and is obliged to leave the assault to Mor
gan, the next in command, who hurries
up with his riflemen, and after a severe
struggle, which lasts nearly an hour, car
ries the battery. The enemy, although
they fired their muskets briskly, and even
a discharge of grapeshot, did but little
mischief beyond wounding Arnold and
killing one man. Morgan was so rapid
in his approach, and came so close to the
battery, that his riflemen were enabled to
shoot through the embrasures and drive
the men from their guns ; and thus give
free scope for the use of the scaling-lad
ders, which were at once planted against
the pickets. The Americans now clam
bered over and took the captain and his
thirty men captive.

Pushing on immediately along the
street, Morgan finds himself obstructed
by another and more formidable battery.
The citizens, too, are now everywhere on
the alert, and keep firing from their win
dows upon the Americans, who, though
sorely galled, continue to advance. Mor
gan leads his men as before right up to
the barrier, which, strongly fortified with
pickets, and planted with heavy guns,
stretched from the precipice which over
hangs the lower town down to the river.
The riflemen, getting close under the en
emy s cannon, fire away, aiming through

the embrasures, and succeed in making
room for the ladders. The men, howev
er, are driven back with their scaling-
implements ; they are planted again and
again, but without success. The Amer
icans, with a fire now concentrated upon
them from every point of the city forti
fications, are obliged to withdraw, and
protect themselves in the narrow alleys
and the neighboring houses, where they
continue, however, to keep up a brave
struggle against the enemy. Rallying
again for another attack upon the battery,
they finally succeed in carrying it, but not
without a severe loss of life. Lamb, the
captain of the artillery, was struck at the
last moment by a grapeshot, which tore
away a part of his jawbone. As the gun
ners were about retreating from the bar
rier, one of them determined to have one
more shot, when Lamb, observing his
purpose, levelled a musket at the fellow,
but missed his fire, and received in full
face the discharge of grape which so ter
ribly mutilated him.

The battery taken, Morgan and his men
prepared for a rush into the town ; and
they issued out for the purpose, but were
forced by overwhelming numbers to take
refuge in a stone building, whence they
kept up a severe fire upon the enemy
thronging the street below. Morgan now
heard of the death of Montgomery, and
that a large detachment from the garri
son had come down, and, suddenly burst

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 27 of 126)