History of Warren County, H. P. Smith
Chapter XII: From 1770 to 1775
This transcription was produced through the use of Readiris Pro 11 OCR software. Contributed by Tim Varney.
Governor Colden's Successor - Old Troubles Renewed - A large Cup of Tea - Congress and its Declaration of Rights - Impending War - The British March to Lexington - Paul Revere's Ride - The Battle on the Green - Retreat of the British - Preparations for the Capture of Crown Point and Ticonderoga - Ethan Allen's Command - Arnolds Arrival and its Consequences - Plan of the Expedition - Capture of Ticonderoga - Surrender of Crown Point - Reassembling of Congress - Congressional Vacillation - Allen and Arnold's Naval Exploit - Indian Action in the Revolution - The Canadian Invasion - Montgomery's Initial Movements - Allen's Capture - Carleton's Plan for Relief of St. Johns - It's Failure - Capture of St. Johns and Montreal by Montgomery - Arnold's Wonderful Expedition - Montgomery before Quebec - Demand for its Surrender and the Reply - Montgomery's death and Failure of the Attack - A Disastrous Retreat - Charlotte County Created - Militia Affairs.
In Page 135 October, 1770, Lord Dunmore succeeded Colden as governor and brought with him royal approval of the act authorizing the issue of colonial bills of credit. The duties had, meanwhile, been removed from all articles except tea. Colonial affairs were going on more smoothly. On the 18th of July, 1771, William Tryon was commissioned governor and Lord Dunmore transferred to Virginia. The old differences finally again came to the surface. The East India Company, having suffered severely through the imposition of the American duty on tea, petitioned Parliament in 1773 to abolish the tax, offering at the same time to submit to double the amount of that duty as an exportation tariff. This was refused, but, instead, the ministry agreed to favor Page 136 the company by a special act allowing them to ship their teas to the American colonies free of duty as an export, while still enforcing the importation duty; in other words the determination was clearly shown that the assumed right to tax the colonists in any way, or all ways, was not to be relinquished under any circumstances. The India company now loaded their ships with teas, appointed consignees for their reception and expected a ready sale at the low prices that could now be made. Their reckoning failed. The Sons of Liberty met and resolved that the obnoxious article should not be landed in the province under any pretense. The tea commissioners, in submission to the popular will, resigned. The first cargo arrived off Sandy Hook in April, 1774, whence the pilot, acting under his instructions from the vigilance committee, refused to bring the ship to port. In the mean time Captain Chambers, of another vessel, a professed patriot, sailed his ship into the harbor. When threats were made of a purpose to search his cargo, he admitted that he had tea on board which he had brought over as a private venture. His chests were thereupon hoisted on deck and given a salt water plunge bath. The vessels were sent on return voyages. In the mean time a cargo of tea had arrived in Boston harbor; the vessel was boarded by the patriotic sons of that city and the chests emptied into the sea.
The English ministry were now so enraged at the outcome of the tea tariff, in connection with other measures of resistance, or disloyalty, as it was there termed, that they resolved to at once subjugate the country. One of the steps towards this end was the adoption of the infamous "Boston port bill," the purpose of which was to practically close the Boston harbor and thus destroy the trade of the city. The people throughout the colonies were in earnest sympathy with their Massachusetts friends, aware that similar ruinous measures might be in store for themselves. Public meetings were held for the consideration of the common grievances and among movements for protection the restoration of the non-importation agreement was urged and the assembling of a colonial congress.
A congress was called and met on the 5th of September, 1774, adopted a declaration of rights, and agreed upon a petition to the king and an appeal to the people of Great Britain and Canada. An adjournment was then taken until the following May. The New York Assembly was the only one that did not sanction these congressional proceedings; but instead, addressed a remonstrance to parliament, which was, of course, treated with disdain. (1) The New York Assembly adjourned on the 3d of April, 1775, and never met again. Its refusal to appoint delegates to the congress gave much dissatisfaction and a Page 137 provincial convention of county representatives was called by the people to perform that duty.
1. On the 12th of January, 1775, at a cabinet council, it was declared there was nothing in the proceedings of Congress that afforded any basis for an honorable reconciliation. It was therefore resolved to break off all commerce with the Americans; to protect the loyalists in the colonies; and to declare all others to be traitors and rebels. - Lossing.
The Americans had long felt their critical condition and foresaw that an appeal to arms must, doubtless, follow. A quantity of military stores had been collected by them at Concord, Mass. To destroy these, General Gage sent a detachment of British regulars on the 18th of April, 1775, from Boston, where he had between three thousand and four thousand troops. But Paul Revere made his famous ride to Concord and aroused the people to the menaced incursion; and when, early on the following morning, the detachment reached Lexington, they found the militia drawn up on the public green. The British officer ordered them to disperse; but the order was not heeded, and the regulars fired. Eight of the "minute men" were killed and several wounded; the remainder were dispersed and the British pressed on to Concord. There the militia had gathered from all directions; the stores were secreted and the invaders were given a warm reception, causing them to retreat. As they fell back towards Lexington they were disastrously harassed by the colonists, who killed many of their number, shooting from behind fences, buildings and trees. It is probable that the whole detachment might have been cut off, but for the fact that reinforcements met them near Lexington; but the retreat was continued and many more regulars fell by the sharp shooting of the citizens. The whole country was aroused and the revolution was begun in earnest.
The next event of importance, and one that bears more directly upon the history of Warren county and vicinity was the capture of Ticonderoga and Crown Point. According to Dr. Holden, "After the close of the French war, or at least as early as the year 1767, the fort at the head of Lake George was partially dismantled, and abandoned as a military post; the forts at Ticonderoga and Crown Point being of more massive character, were considered an adequate protection on a frontier no longer threatened by the annual incursion of the savages. At this time the only occupants of this post were a retired invalid officer of the British army, Captain John Nordberg and two men supposed also to have belonged to the army, and who were possibly pensioners of the crown. There are reasons for supposing that one of these was John McComb, and the other Hugh McAuley whose name subsequently appears in the records, and who was the ancestor of the McAuley family, of the town of Queensbury." (1) General Frederick Haldimand had been left in command on Lake Champlain. He had already announced to the British government in 1773 that the fort at Crown Point was entirely destroyed, while that at Ticonderoga was in a "ruinous condition," and that both could not "cover fifty men in winter." Ethan Allen, who had been conspicuous in his opposition to New York in the New Hampshire grants trouble, and was declared an outlaw and Page 138 a hundred and fifty pounds offered for his arrest, was one of the brave spirits who first took up arms against the oppression of Great Britain. He was found at Bennington by the force which had been collected in Connecticut and Massachusetts with the design of descending upon the works at the two fortified points on Lake Champlain. The expedition numbered about forty volunteers when it reached Bennington, where Allen's powerful influence and enthusiastic assistance were secured. On the 7th of May a band of brave men numbering two hundred and seventy (all but forty-six being" Green Mountain boys," as Allen's followers were termed) had assembled at Castleton. At this inopportune time Benedict Arnold appeared on the scene, bearing a commission from the Massachusetts committee of safety, dated May 3d, clothing him with authority to effect the same purpose for which the other force was destined. A conflict for the command ensued, which was finally terminated by the refusal of the volunteers to march except under the command of Allen. Arnold reluctantly accompanied the expedition as second in command.
1. History of Queensbury.
Noah Phelps, one of the Massachusetts committee, entered the fort at Ticonderoga in pretended quest of a barber, and thus gained definite knowledge of its condition. Captain Herrick was ordered to Skenesborough, whence, after the capture of the younger Skene and the stores there accumulated, he was to join Allen at Ticonderoga. Douglass was ordered to Panton to secure boats for transportation of the force. The committees of Albany and New York appear to have declined any part in these operations.
Allen's force marched with as much secrecy as possible to the eastern shore of the lake, posted pickets on all roads leading to Ticonderoga, to cut off possible conveyance to the fort of intelligence of the movement, and there waited a day and a night for the arrival of the boats. Finally with the few boats that were at hand Allen resolved to attempt the passage; and on the night of the 10th eighty-three men embarked at Hand's Point and landed about a mile north of the fort. Dawn was approaching and the commander realized to the fullest the importance of prompt action. He had been furnished with a guide in the person of young Nathan Beman, son of a patriot of Shoreham, who had a perfect knowledge of the works gained during his boyhood.
Allen, in a low and earnest voice, addressed his little band, inspiring them with the importance of their mission and the glory of its success, and then told them that all who accompanied him must go voluntarily, and ordered all who were ready to poise their firelocks. Every musket was instantly raised. After again pacifying Arnold, who assumed to the leadership, by agreeing that they should advance together, Allen and Arnold took the lead, with young Beaman, and the column filed up to the sallyport of the fortress. The sentinel snapped his gun as they approached and retreated through the covered way, closely followed by the Americans, who drew up on the parade in two lines, each facing the barracks. Their shouts awakened the garrison and Captain de la Page 139 Place came forth from his quarters clad only in his night apparel. He was confronted by Allen with a peremptory summons to surrender. When he requested to know by what authority the demand was made, Allen uttered his immortal response, "By the authority of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress!"
Allen says, in his own graphic account of the event: "The authority of the Congress being very little known at that time, he began to speak again; but I interrupted him, and with drawn sword over his head again demanded an immediate surrender of the garrison; with which he then complied, and ordered his men to be forthwith paraded without arms, as he had given up the garrison. In the mean time some of my officers had given orders and in consequence thereof sundry of the barrack doors were beat down, and about one-third of the garrison imprisoned, which consisted of the said commander, a Lieutenant Feltham, a conductor of artillery, a gunner, two sergeants, and forty-four rank and file, about one hundred pieces of cannon, one thirteen-inch mortar, and a number of swivels. This surprise was carried into execution in the gray of the morning of the 10th of May, 1775. The sun seemed to rise on that morning with a superior lustre; and Ticonderoga and its dependencies smiled to its conquerors who tossed about the flowing bowl and wished success to Congress and the liberty and freedom of America. Happy it was for me, at that time, that those future pages of the book of fate, which afterwards unfolded a miserable scene of two years and eight months imprisonment, were hid from my view."
Allen's well planned measures were all successful. Crown Point surrendered on the following day, with its entire armament and its small garrison of twelve men. Herrick made his capture of Skenesborough, with Skene and his forces, besides several boats and a trading schooner. This success was crowned by the capture of two dispatch boats by Baker, which had been sent from Crown Point with news of the fall of Ticonderoga. Amos Callandar was detached with a party to the fort at the head of Lake George, whence he soon after conducted the prisoners to Hartford.
Although, when viewed from certain standpoints, this event was not one of great magnitude, yet it was, at that particular time, one upon the success or failure of which depended momentous issues; and its success caused a thrill of joy and astonishment to pervade the country. The men who were most prominent in its brave deeds became the possessors of high military distinction before the close of the Revolution - distinction won by their own efficient heroism.
New York was slow to acknowledge the importance of Allen's victory, or to profit by it. The Albany Committee, to whom John Brown bore Allen's letter of particulars of the event, with a request for such reinforcements as would prevent the recapture of the fortifications, merely forwarded the letter to the Page 140 New York Committee. They also refused to act in the matter and in turn forwarded the dispatches to the Congress in Philadelphia. Brown was already there and gave the August body an account of the brilliant event. Their reception of it shows that they were still uncertain and vacillating in attempting to decide what were to be the future relations of America and Great Britain; whether it might not still be the best policy not to arouse the mother country to unconditional hostility. While Congress privately exulted over Allen's conquest, it hesitated to publicly and directly assume the responsibility of it. Instead, it recommended the New York and Albany Committees to immediately remove the armament and stores at the two forts on Lake Champlain to the head of Lake George, and "indirectly counseled the establishment of a strong post at that point." As an indication of the uncertainty just alluded to, Congress also recommended" that an exact inventory of them [the armament and stores] should be taken, in order that they might be safely returned when the restoration of the former harmony between Great Britain and the colonies, so ardently wished for by the latter, should render it prudent and consistent with the overruling law of self-preservation."
To this response Allen, as well as Connecticut and Massachusetts at large, manifested the most earnest opposition, and the plans were abandoned. When, a few months later, Washington at Boston was in sore need of artillery; (1) the immense value of the victory won by Allen and his men at Ticonderoga and Crown Point became apparent. Henry Knox, the young Boston bookseller (afterwards a brigadier-general in the American army), transported fifty heavy guns from Ticonderoga to Washington's camp in the mid-winter of 1775-76. This enterprise was one of almost unparalleled toil, the work being accomplished by numerous teams of oxen, and the journey extending through two hundred miles of wilderness. The procession was received with an ovation.
1. The whole train of artillery possessed by the colonies when the war for independence broke out, was composed of four field pieces, two belonging to citizens of Boston, and two to the province of Massachusetts. - Lossing.
The Continental Congress had reassembled and organized on the 10th of May, the day on which Allen captured Ticonderoga. Almost its first labors were in the direction of raising an army for general defense. New York was ordered to raise three thousand volunteers. A Provincial Congress of New York convened on the 22d of May, authorized the raising of troops, encouraged the manufacture of powder and muskets in the province, and projected fortifications on the Lower Hudson.
The capture of the fortifications on Lake Champlain opened the way for an invasion of Canada, which, at that time and amid the then prevailing spirit of the Canada soldiers and people, could scarcely have failed. Canada was in a peculiarly defenseless condition, many of her troops having been withdrawn to Boston, and it was believed that a large portion of her people would assume the Page 141 cause of America in the event of an invasion promising success. But Congress hesitated, and although Allen had, in a communication of June 7th, declared that "with fifteen hundred men I could take Montreal," that body was averse to an act involving possibilities of apprehension in the minds of many citizens of the colonies, and so thoroughly offensive in its character against the mother country.
Soon after the capture of the forts fifty men who had been enlisted by Arnold arrived at Ticonderoga. An armed schooner was then lying in the Sorel River near St. Johns. Her capture would secure the naval supremacy of the lake, and Arnold and Allen resolved upon the attempt. Arnold took his fifty recruits and manned the schooner captured at Skenesborough, and on the fifth day after the surrender of the fort sailed for St. Johns. Allen accompanied him with one hundred and fifty men in bateaux. Favorable winds enabled Arnold to distance the bateaux. Arriving within thirty miles of his destination, a calm overtook him; but he was not disposed to share with Allen whatever honor might be forthcoming, and accordingly embarked thirty-five men in two boats, hastened forward, surprised and captured the fort, with its guard of twelve men, and seized the schooner, making a successful retreat with his prize. Returning he met Allen and acquainted him with intelligence he had received of an approaching detachment of troops towards St. Johns; but Allen pushed on and landed. The presence of a large force with artillery compelled him to return. (1)
1. Following is Arnold's own subsequent estimate of the importance of these captures: "'We were now masters of Lake Champlain, and the garrisons depending thereon. This success I viewed of consequence in the scale of American polttics; for, if a settlement between the then colonies of Great Britain had soon taken place, it would have been easy to have restored these acquisitions; but viewing the then future consequences of a cruel war, as it has really proved to be, and the command of that lake, garrisons, artillery, etc., it must be viewed to be of signal importance to the American cause, and it is marvelous to me that we ever lost command of it. Nothing but taking a Burgoyne with his whole British army could, in my opinion, atone for it; and notwithstanding such an extraordinary victory, we must be obliged to regain the command of that lake again, be the cost what it will; by doing this Canada will easily be brought into union and confederacy with the United States of America. Such an event would put it out of the power of the western tribes of Indians to carryon a war with us, and be a solid and durable bar against any further inhuman barbarities committed on our frontier inhabitants by cruel and blood-thirsty savages; for it is impossible for them to carryon a war, except they are supported by the trade and commerce of some civilized nation; which to them would be impracticable did Canada compose a part of the American empire."
"Among the military personages to whom the emergencies of the hour gave special prominence," says Dr. Holden, "was Colonel Bernard Romans, . . . . He was a soldier by training, a gentleman by birth and culture and an accomplished scholar." That he was connected with the capture of Skenesborough is an undisputed fact, but under whom or by whose orders no record exists to show; it is only known that he took possession of Fort George on the 12th of May (1775), as the following petition of John Nordberg, a British officer on half pay who, as his petition states, was living in or near Fort George at the time: -Page 142
"Captain Nordberg to the New York Provincial Congress.
"The most respectable Gentlemen Provincial Congress in New York. I beg leave to represent to the most respectable congress this circumstance.
"I am a native of Sweeden, and have been persecuted for that I have been against the French faction there. I have been in his Brittannick Majesty's service since January, 1758.
"I have been twice shot through my body here last war in America, and I am now 55 years old, reduced of age, wounds, and gravels, which may be seen by Doctor Jones certificate.
"[In] 1773, I got permission in Jamaica to go to London, where I petition to be an Invalid officer, but as a foreigner, I could not enjoy a commission in England or Ereland. His Majesty was graciously pleased to give me the allowance for Fort George, 7 shillings sterling per day, with liberty to live where I pleased in America, because the Fort has been abandoned this 8 year and only 2 men remain there for to assist any express going between New York and Canada. I arrived here in New York last year in September, with intention to live in New York, as I heard nothing els than disharmony amongst Gentlemen which was not agreeable to my age, I resolved to go to Fort George, and live there in a little cottage as a Hermit where I was very happy for 6 months.
"The 12th of May last Mr. Romans came and took possession of Fort George, Mr. Romans behaved very genteel and civil to me, I told that I did not belong to the army, and I may be considered as half pay officer or invalid, and convinced him that I was plagued with Gravell, Mr. Romans gave me his passport to go to New Lebanon for to recover my health, and he told me that in regard to my age I may go where I pleased.
"As I can't sell any bill for my subsistence, and I can't live upon wind and weather, I therefore beg and implore the most respectable Congress permission to go to England, and I entend to go to my native country. I could have gone away secret so well as some others have done, but I will not upon any account do such thing.
"I hope the most respectable will not do partially to refuse me, because Major Etherington, Captain Brown, Captain Kelly, which is in the army have been permitted to go to England, and it may happen they return here again on actual service, which old age and infirmities render me incapable off.
"As it is the custom amongst the Christian Nations and the Turks, that they give subsistence to every Prisoner according to their rank, should the most respectable Congress have claim upon me to be a prisoner here, I hope they will give me my subsistence from the 12 May last, according to my rank as captain. I implore the favour of the most respectable Congress, answer. I have the honor to remain with great respect, Gentlemen, Your most obedt. servant,
"New-York, december, 1775."
In June Arnold turned over his command to Colonel Benjamin Hinman, who was stationed at Ticonderoga with about five hundred troops of the 1,000 he had brought from Connecticut. Soon after this, through an understanding with General Washington and by direction of Congress, General Schuyler assumed the general command of all the northern troops On the 1st of July following Schuyler, in his returns to Congress, reported the following troops under his command, and their disposition: At Ticonderoga, 495; at Crown Point, 302; at Lake George Landing, 102; and at Fort George 104, all belonging to Colonel Hinman's force of Connecticut troops; and of the Massachusetts troops there were at Ticonderoga 40; at Crown Point, 109; at Fort George, 25; of New York soldiers there were 205 at Fort George. (1)
Lossing, in his Life of Schuyler, quotes from a letter of Schuyler to General Washington the following not encouraging report of the discipline in force at Ticonderoga upon his arrival at that post: "About ten last night, I arrived at the landing place, the north end of Lake George, a post occupied by a captain and one hundred men. A sentinel, on being informed that I was in the boat, quitted his post to go and wake the guard consisting of three men, in which he had no success. I walked up and came to another, a sergeant's guard. Here the sentinel challenged, but suffered me to come up to him, the whole guard, like the first, being sound asleep."
The course pursued by the Indians early in the Revolutionary struggle was the cause of much anxiety to the colonists and opened the way to the bloody deeds that followed their alliance with the English and their association with the Tories. The alarming encroachments of the white settlers upon the domain of the Iroquois undoubtedly had its influence in producing this deplorable result. Sir William Johnson, England's Indian agent, died in 1774, but much of his great influence over the Six Nations descended to his successor, an influence that was potent in withholding the Iroquois power, from alliance with the French in the earlier war. The successor was Sir Guy Johnson, a nephew of Sir William. Upon the breaking out of the Revolution it became the policy of the Americans to secure simply the neutrality of the Indians (which policy was successful as far as the Oneidas were concerned), while the British made undisguised efforts to effect their close alliance to the royal cause. La Corne St. Luc, a bitter partisan, had declared, "We must let loose the savages upon the frontier of these scoundrels to inspire terror and to make them submit." In the spring of 1777 Governor Tryon wrote to Germain that he and the partisan named were perfectly agreed as to the employment of Indians in the war. Brant, the great Mohawk chief, had already been taken to England (1775-6), was shown marked favor by the government and employed to lead all who would follow him against the colonists. Against this inhuman policy Pitt hurled his bitterest invective and in 1777, when the policy was thus defended Page 144 by one of the secretaries of state, in parliament: "It is perfectly justifiable to use all the means that God and nature have put in our hands," Pitt replied: "I know not what idea that lord may entertain of God and nature, but I know that such abominable principles are equally abhorrent to religion and humanity." He called upon the bishops to disavow such principles and "to vindicate the religion of our God." But his appeals were in vain, and the colonial secretary (Germain) gave special instructions to employ Indians "in fighting Republicans."
At length, late in the season of 1775, the Congress began to see the importance of an invasion into Canada. It had, apparently, become a necessary measure for self-protection, as Governor Carleton (of Canada) had received a commission authorizing him to muster and arm the people of the province, and to march them into any province of America and arrest and put to death, or spare "rebels" and other offenders. Major-General Philip Schuyler had been appointed to the command of the northern department (which included all of New York) with Richard Montgomery as his chief lieutenant. An army of three thousand men was concentrating at Ticonderoga for the proposed expedition, while Carleton, apprised of the movement, made preparations to oppose it by creating a naval force competent to maintain supremacy on the lake. To defeat this design Montgomery took the small force already assembled and rapidly descended the lake and seized the position at the Isle aux Noix. There he was joined by Schuyler and an address of conciliation was made to the Canadians, which had the effect of partially influencing the people to maintain neutrality towards the Americans. At the same time Carleton's efforts to enlist the general populace were almost unsuccessful; they would not join in active aggression against their neighbors across the border.
A council had already been held at Montreal by the chiefs and warriors of the Iroquois, Guy Johnson and Brant both taking part. Here the savages swore fealty to the king, the first act in the long catalogue of slaughter and devastation that followed.
As the first step towards the invasion the Americans, 1,000 strong, made a demonstration against St. Johns, during which they were attacked by a body of Indians who were repulsed. After erecting a slight breastwork near the fort, Schuyler fell back to his original position and erected a chevaux de frise in the Sorel, obstructing navigation into the lake by Carleton's vessels, then in progress of construction at St. Johns. Schuyler was now called to Albany and was there detained by sickness, leaving the command in the efficient hands of Montgomery. He soon adopted aggressive measures. St. Johns was then occupied by a garrison of 700 men under Major Preston, and was looked upon as the key to Canada. This position was considered impregnable to the force at Montgomery's command, and he resolved to assault the works at Chambly, a few miles below. It was accomplished in the night (Oct. 10th), after feeble Page 145 defense by the small garrison, and placed in Montgomery's possession several heavy guns, a large quantity of powder and other stores, all which he was in extreme need of. This success turned the scale of Canadian sympathy more towards America and large numbers joined the army; which spirit was fostered by Montgomery, who sent detachments of his soldiers in different directions through their country for that purpose. Two of these parties, under Allen and Brown, respectively, approached Montreal, and without order and with apparent injudiciousness, resolved upon capturing the island. Brown failed to cooperate with Allen, as arranged, and the latter with his party was captured after gallant fighting. (1)
1. Allen was taken a prisoner to England, where he was held nearly three years, and persecuted with all manner of indignities in loathsome prisons. At the end of his imprisonment he was exchanged and received with honors by his country.
Carleton's success over Allen and Brown now led him to attempt the relief of St. Johns. His plans embraced a conjunction with Colonel McLean who was stationed with a corps at the mouth of the Sorel. Carleton started with a force of about 1,000, mostly Canadians and Indians, to make the passage of the river from Montreal to Longueil; but Seth Warner had already occupied the eastern bank of the river with his Green Mountain boys, and apprehending Carleton's movements, he fortified his position with a few pieces of artillery and awaited the fleet. Carleton was welcomed by Warner with a terrible fire of musketry and grape shot, which sent his undisciplined troops flying back to the island. McLean also retreated to his former position and at this time through an intercepted letter from Arnold to Schuyler, learned that a formidable force was descending the valley of the Chaudiere to assault Quebec; he accordingly hastened, with such force as he could collect, to occupy that place. Montgomery immediately occupied the position from which McLean had fallen back, erected works at the confluence of the St. Lawrence and Sorel and, further aided by floating batteries, completely controlled both streams, cutting off Montreal and the fortifications on the upper waters of the river and lakes from communication with Quebec and the sea. This well conceived action forced Preston to surrender St. Johns, after which Montgomery marched against Montreal and that city also surrendered without making defense. Carleton relinquished the command at Montreal to Prescott before Montgomery's arrival, and escaped in disguise in the night down the river past the American batteries.
Meanwhile Washington had planned one of those remarkably bold and original movements for which he was famous, with the capture of Quebec as its object. This was no less than the march of a thousand men from Cambridge, by way of Kennebec River, through the untrodden wilderness between that stream and the Chaudiere, and the descent of the latter to Quebec.
Had it been possible for human sagacity to foresee the almost insurmountable Page 146 obstacles and hardships to overcome in this then unparalleled expedition, it would in all probability have been so directed as to have been entirely successful. But as it proved the heroic troops and their officers were buried in the depths of the wilderness for thirty-two days, suffering the horrors of starvation, tempestuous weather and freezing floods in the streams they were forced to ford, before reaching the Chaudiere. Here actual starvation threatened, and it was still seventy miles to the nearest French settlement. Arnold, therefore, left the main body of his troops and, taking with him fifty-five men, started down the river for food. The settlement was reached and Indians sent back with supplies and to guide the troops down the river. This was all accomplished, but it took time, and it was nearly two months from the date of leaving Cambridge before they reached the St. Lawrence opposite Quebec (November 9th), decimated to 750 strong. (1)
1. Their sufferings from cold and hunger had been extreme. At One time they had attempted to make broth of boiled deer skin moccasins to sustain life, and a dog belonging to Henry (afterwards General) Dearborn made savory food for them. In this expedition were men who afterwards became famous in American history. - Aaron Burr, R. J. Meigs, Henry Dearborn, Daniel Morgan and others. - Lossing.
It is more than probable that this expedition, bold, hazardous, and secret as it was, would have secured the prize for which it was planned, but for the intercepted letter before alluded to. The alertness of McLean saved the city from capitulation. Four days Arnold was prevented from crossing the river, at the end of which, on the night of the 13th of November, he embarked 550 men in bark canoes and landed them at Wolf's Cove, whence they ascended to the Plains of Abraham. Here he ordered his men to give three cheers, in the hope of thus calling the garrison out to attack him, upon which it was his purpose to rush through the open city gates, call around him the sympathizers he believed to be in the city and hold the situation. The regulars did not come out. Arnold was joined by the 200 men left on Point Levi across the river, and he now spent a few days in issuing proclamations and arrogantly demanding the surrender of the city. Little attention was paid to him or his movements by the enemy. Learning that Carleton was coming down the river and that the garrison was preparing for a sortie that might overwhelm his really insignificant force, he prudently retreated to Point aux Trembles, twenty miles above, and awaited instructions from Montgomery. The latter had left Montreal in charge of a force under General Wooster, and on the 3d of December reached Arnold and his "shivering troops." With the clothing he brought the complaining soldiers were reclad and then the combined force, still less than 1,000 strong, outside of 200 Canadians who had volunteered under Colonel James Livingstone, pressed forward and halted before Quebec on the 5th of December. A demand for the surrender of the city was made on the following morning but the flag sent was fired upon, and in response to a letter from Page 147 Montgomery to Carleton, the latter said he would hold no communication with "a rebel general."
Preparations were now made to assault the city. Colonel Lamb had brought six twelve-pounder guns which were mounted upon a redoubt built of ice, and from a few mortars stationed in the lower town, shells were thrown into the city, by which a few buildings were set on fire. But Lamb's ice battery was destroyed by well-directed cannonade from the citadel and he was forced to withdraw. Clearly, this course would not succeed, and Montgomery waited two weeks in vain for reinforcements. His soldiers, many of whom had left him before his departure from Montreal, upon expiration of their terms, were becoming dissatisfied; the small-pox broke out among them and to make matters worse, Arnold, always dictatorial and obstinate, quarreled with other officers and thus further alienated some of the troops.
At last and almost in desperation, Montgomery determined upon an attempt to carry the city by a direct assault at two points, one division to be led by himself and the other by Arnold. On the first stormy night Arnold was to attack the lower town, set fire to the suburb of St. Roque, while the main body should make an assault from the St. Lawrence River side under Montgomery. A snow storm began on the 30th of December; sickness, desertion and expiration of enlistment terms had dwindled the force to seven hundred and fifty effective men, but the movement was carried forward. While Arnold led his three hundred and fifty men to the assault on the St. Charles side, Livingston made a feint upon the St. Louis gate and Major Brown menaced the Cape Diamond bastion. At the same time Montgomery descended to the St. Lawrence and made his way along the narrow shore at the foot of the cape. The whole plan had been revealed to Carleton by a Canadian deserter and the garrison was prepared for the assault. A battery was placed at the narrow pass on the St. Charles side and a block-house with masked cannon occupied the narrow road at the foot of Cape Diamond. Montgomery approached this block-house, where all was still. Believing his presence was not known he shouted to the companies of Captains Mott and Cheesemen, near him, "Men of New York, you will not fear to follow where your general leads; push on, my brave boys and Quebec is ours!" At this moment a charge of grape shot from a single gun, which, tradition says, was fired by a drunken sailor (the last of the blockhouse garrison, the remainder having fled at the approach of the Americans), swept through the narrow path with terrific destructiveness. Montgomery fell, pierced though the head and both legs; his dying form was caught in the arms of Burr. Cheeseman and McPherson, aids, and ten others were killed. The assault was doomed; the fall of the brave leader overwhelmed the troops, and Montgomery's division, now in command of Colonel Campbell, hastily withdrew.
Meanwhile Arnold's band was marching through blinding snow and heavy Page 148 drifts, in single file, up the defile that led to his point of attack. This could be raked by the guns of the battery and swept by the musketry from the garrison walls. Lamb had left his artillery as useless, and joined Arnold. The city bells began ringing and drums beating. Fire was opened on the narrow pass and Arnold fell wounded and was borne from the field. Morgan took command and amid desperate fighting a battery was captured with a number of the guards and its barricades scaled with ladders. The commander was the second man to cross the works. With the aid of Colonel Green and Majors Bigelow and Meigs he succeeded in gathering around him two hundred of the troops, covered with snow and ice and suffering with the cold; but as day dawned they were imbued with renewed enthusiasm and called on their brave commander to lead them against a second battery mounted beyond the angle of a street. The advance was quickly made, but turning the angle they were met by a body of troops under Captain Anderson; the latter called on Morgan to surrender and was immediately shot by him. The Americans now rushed ahead, planted ladders against this barricade and mounted to the top. Here they saw before them two lines of British regulars, the butts of their muskets on the ground and their bayonets towards the summit of the barricade. Many of the Americans retreated into the stone houses whence they could maintain their fire, and the conflict continued. But Carleton was enabled, through the failure of the other assaults, to throw his entire force against Morgan. After several hours of resistance and waiting in vain for aid from the other detachments, the brave band was compelled to surrender after a loss of a hundred men. Thus ended the siege.
The entire loss of the Americans in killed wounded and prisoners, was about four hundred. The British lost about twenty killed.
Upon the death of Montgomery Arnold took the command and retired with the remainder of the troops to Silllery, three miles up the river, where he blockaded Quebec during the remainder of the winter. His position and his prospects were not encouraging. The troops were insubordinate and the Canadian people, prompted by the priests, were becoming disaffected towards the Americans, while at the same time disease was rampant among the troops. Arnold was relieved in April by General Wooster and a month later General Thomas took command. Arnold was transferred to Montreal, where "he revealed the cupidity and rapaciousness, which, in after years, and on another stage deformed and debauched his whole character." (1)
1. Watson's Essex County.
The approach of three British ships that had forced their way up the river, conveying troops and supplies, coupled with his own almost helpless situation, impelled Thomas to begin a retreat, which was done on the 5th of May. The order was for such immediate movement that most of the sick and wounded and the stores were abandoned. The retreat itself was a long series of hardships, Page 149 struggles with sickness and hunger and general suffering. At Sorel General Thomas fell a victim to the prevailing epidemic and was succeeded by General Sullivan. This officer's subsequent conduct of the retreat showed the highest generalship and was formally recognized by Congress. The capture of the post at the Cedars, on the St. Lawrence, by the Canadians and Mohawks, and the sanguinary disaster at the Three Rivers, only served to hasten Sullivan's retreat, and he arrived at Crown Point in June, with the remnant of a conquered army.