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 (???? - 1799 AD) Pre-19th Century Battles
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George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 11520
Joined: 2009
Dec. 31, 1775. Continental Army attacks Québec City
12/31/2020 11:57:24 AM
Dec. 31, 1775. Battle of Québec. American Revolutionary War

On this date in 1775, the rebels determined to seize Québec City and to gain control of the British colony of Québec.

The Continental Congress had had little success in their attempt to entice the inhabitants of the colony of Québec to join the rebellion. There were some English speaking Quebeckers who may have been supportive but the French speaking colonists were unsure of the intent of the American rebels. They knew that many of the Protestant English colonies were resentful of Québec because Roman Catholicism was the faith of the French people. As well, the Quebec Act of 1774 had extended the boundaries of this colony right into the prized lands of the Ohio valley and guaranteed French language and religious rights to the people.

On June 27, 1775, the Congress authorized an attack and by August the troops were ready and a two pronged assault was planned with General Schuyler heading up the Richelieu River to Montréal and the brilliant fighting General Benedict Arnold heading up the Chaudière River to Québec City. Schuyler became ill and so the ill fated General Richard Montgomery took his place and he moved his troops into Montréal without a fight in November.

Guy Carleton was the governor of Québec and he had ordered his Montréal troops to head to Québec City.

Meanwhile Benedict Arnold was on his way to Québec City and he would be joined by General Montgomery's force which marched from Montréal to Québec, arriving on Dec. 4.

Note that there was some rebel support in Montréal by English speaking Protestants. Montreal stayed under American control and in 1776 Ben Franklin headed to the city to gin up some revolutionary zeal. But Montgomery's invasion of 1775 had left a sour taste in the mouths of the inhabitants.

A US Major Wooster was left in charge as Montgomery marched to Québec City. He decided that it would be wise to imprison the leading citizens of the town. He also closed the RC churches. The fact that the rebel soldiers brought smallpox with them didn't endear them to the Montrealers. Attempting to pay for goods with paper money didn't wash with Montreal's merchants. In the year following the invasion, the Continental Congress put on a full court diplomatic press to convince Montréal to join the cause.

After a few weeks of trying, Ben Franklin wrote that, "It would be easier to buy Canada than to conquer it". The RC priests had decided that, for the French, it was better to throw in with the British than the Americans and the people listened.

Returning to the December 1775 attack at Québec City, Arnold's army and Montgomery's army decided to attack from the north and the river side respectively, and then to join up inside the city. The attack began at 4 AM on Dec. 31 in a blinding snowstorm.



The British garrison under Carleton had more than double the number of American troops whose ranks had been thinned by disease. Benedict Arnold had lost some men as he made the arduous trek through Maine to get to Quebec.

Montgomery pressed forward but the lights that he was using to guide the troops forward were seen and the British opened up. Grape shot felled Montgomery and he died right there. His troops had attempted to enter via the Lower town which was comparatively unprotected. Some of Montgomery's men tried to enter the city but they were cut down by British fire. Those that could, retreated.

Death of Montgomery



Meanwhile Arnold with no knowledge of Montgomery's death and no communication available between the two forces, attempted to enter the city from the north side. Arnold had to cover a lot of ground to get there and by the time he was ready to attack, the British had already engaged Montgomery and were destroying that force. So they were ready for Arnold and pelted his force with cannon and rockets as they marched into position.

They were about to enter the city when Arnold was severely wounded in the leg and had to withdraw. Under US Gen. Morgan the troops entered the city. They were moving through the streets and actually taking British prisoners when the officers determined that they should stop and take account of their position. Montgomery, of course, was nowhere to be seen as he was dead and his men were being routed.

Guy Carleton had reorganized inside the walls and the British and colonial troops met them in the narrow streets. This was often hand to hand fighting. All of this took place in a blizzard and it was difficult to keep weapons dry. It became apparent that the attack was failing and so the rebels surrendered. 400 men became POW.

British and colonial militia meet Arnold's troops inside the city



Benedict Arnold then marshalled his remaining forces to lay siege to Québec City. But Guy Carleton had prepared and stocked the city well. The rebel army was quite ill but they did hang on until May of 1776 when the RN appeared in front of the city and Arnold's siege was called off. We recall that when the French attempted to reclaim Québec in April of 1760, after Montcalm's defeat on the Plains of Abraham in 1759, that it was the Royal Navy that was first to come up the St. Lawrence to break that siege as well.

The importance of the RN to protecting British interests cannot be underestimated.

It was a rather disastrous effort overall and several excellent rebel leaders were killed or taken prisoner along with the rest of the 400 whom had surrendered. British and Canadian losses were estimated to be only 20 so this was an inglorious defeat.

I should note that some French Canadians did join the rebel cause. I am not sure of their fate after the defeat of the Americans at Québec City.

Cheers,

George



George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 11520
Joined: 2009
Dec. 31, 1775. Continental Army attacks Québec City
12/31/2020 2:54:52 PM
1st Canadian Regiment

This was a regiment that fought with the Continental Army at the Battle of Québec. Gen. Richard Montgomery had received some support when he marched into Montréal in 1775. An Anglo businessman had recruited some people to the rebel cause.

Buoyed by that support, Montgomery authorized this businessman to raise a regiment to assist in the upcoming attack on Québec City.
And so about 200 Canadiens joined that fight. Another 100 joined on route. The group comprised Anglos and Francophones.

At Québec, their job was to divert the attention of the British in the fort while Montgomery made his attack. As I have described in a previous post, this part of the attack was a failure.

The regiment went on to fight in several battles in New York but it never reached the 1000 man mark which had been the goal. The Continental Congress officially recognized the 1st Canadian Regiment as part of the army, in January of 1776.

George
Michigan Dave
Muskegon MI USA
Posts: 6202
Joined: 2006
Dec. 31, 1775. Continental Army attacks Québec City
12/31/2020 10:08:32 PM
George,

You mention the RN appearing in May 1776, Quebec City is pretty far up the St. Lawrence River, how navigable is it and how many HMS ships made it?? It sounds like difficult task way back then with currents and hidden shallows weren't mapped out yet?

Just curious about this RN aid to Quebec City, modern day Ottawa right?

MD
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"The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 11520
Joined: 2009
Dec. 31, 1775. Continental Army attacks Québec City
1/1/2021 4:44:06 PM
Quote:
George,

You mention the RN appearing in May 1776, Quebec City is pretty far up the St. Lawrence River, how navigable is it and how many HMS ships made it?? It sounds like difficult task way back then with currents and hidden shallows weren't mapped out yet?

Just curious about this RN aid to Quebec City, modern day Ottawa right?

MD


The St. Lawrence River was a difficult navigational prospect from the Atlantic to Québec City. But we recall that when the British took Québec City in 1759 that the French were shocked to find large RN vessels appearing in front of the city. The French navy had only ever been able to bring smaller vessels to that point. James Cook was one of the navigators that surveyed the river and found a way to get the large warships to Québec. They spent weeks doing depth soundings and finding the best routes to avoid trouble for their ships.

So the RN already had the expertise and the maps that would allow them to come to the rescue of Québec in 1776 which of course was a British fortress by that time. The RN was defending its own forces and attempting to rout the rebels who were attacking.

Those maps and surveys from 1759 comprised 12 sheets with exquisite detail. And they covered all of the river from Anticosti Island to the Richelieu Falls and were ordered to be created by Admiral Saunders.

This is a section of the survey of the area right around Québec at the time of the conquest in 1759.



Cheers,

George



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