The retreat from Canada
The death of Montgomery
dispelled the illusion
Chap. LXVII.} 1776. Jan. to Mar.
that hovered round the invasion of Canada
The soldiers whose time expired on the last day of December insisted on their discharge; some went off without leave, taking with them their arms; the rest were dejected and anxious to be at home.
There remained encamped near Quebec
rather than besieging it, about four hundred Americans
and as many wavering Canadians.
The force commanded by Carleton
was twice as numerous as both, and was concentrated in the well provisioned and strongly fortified town.
Yet in the face of disasters and a superior enemy, Arnold
preserved his fortitude; ‘I have no thought,’ he said, ‘of leaving this proud town until I enter it in tri umph.’
had required an army of ten thousand men; Arnold
declared that a less number would not suffice.
The chief command devolved on Wooster
was at Montreal
; and he wrote in every direction for
Chap LXVII.} 1776. Jan. to Mar.
aid. To Warner
and the Green Mountain
Boys he sent word that they must come down as fast as parties to could be collected, by fifties or even by tens; of Washington
, who had no artillery for his own use, he asked not men only, but heavy cannon and mortars; to the president of congress and to Schuyler
he said plainly: ‘We shall want every thing,’ men, heavy cannon, mortars, shot, shells, powder, and hard money.
Bills of credit had no currency; ‘money,’ he reiterated, ‘we must have or give up every thing;’ ‘if we are not immediately supplied with hard cash, we must starve, quit the country, or lay it under contribution.’
Wherever among the colonies the news spread of Montgomery
's fall, there was one general burst of sorrow, and a burning desire to retrieve his defeat.
overcame his scruples about initiating measures, and without waiting to consult congress, recommended to Massachusetts
, and New Hampshire
, each to raise and send forward a regiment on behalf of the continent; and the three colonies eagerly met his call, for the annexation of Canada
was then their passion.
The continental congress specially encouraged western New Hampshire
to complete a regiment for the service; and ordered one regiment from Philadelphia
, another from New Jersey
to march for the St. Lawrence
These were to be soon followed by four or five more.
In the first moments of the excitement the summons was obeyed; citizens became soldiers, left the comforts of home with alacrity, and undertook a march of many hundred miles, to a country in that rigorous
season almost uninhabitable, through snow and
Chap. LXVII.} 1776. Jan. to Mar.
over frozen lakes, without tents, or any shelter from the inclemency of the weather.
Their unanimity, their zeal for liberty, their steady perseverance, called to forth the most confident predictions of their success; but reflection showed insurmountable obstacles.
Since congress for eight months had not been able to furnish Washington
, who was encamped in the most thickly peopled part of the country, with the men, clothes, blankets, money, and powder required for the recovery of Boston
, how could they hope to keep up the siege of Quebec
To maintain a foothold in Canada
, there was need, in the first place, of the good — will and confidence of its people.
had from his birth been familiar with Catholics
; but Wooster
, a New England
Calvinist from a country town in Connecticut
, cradled in the hatred of popery, irritated the jealousies of the Canadian
clergy, who refused absolution to the friends of the Americans
, and threatened them from the pulpit with eternal woe. Nor were his manners and frugal style of living suited to win the friendship of the Canadian
But without the support of their priests or their feudal superiors, the fickle and uncertain common people were incapable of being solidly organized, unless the Americans
should prove themselves to be the strongest party.
It would therefore be necessary to send into Canada
a numerous, well disciplined, and well appointed army, with trains of artillery for a siege.
But congress, in its dread of a standing force, had no troops at all except on short enlistments; among the New England
men who were the first to move, there was little aptness
for military subordination; and if Washington
Chap. LXVII.} 1776. Jan. to Mar.
found it difficult to reduce them to order, if Schuyler
almost threw up the attempt, if Montgomery
suffered to from their querulousness even while leading them to victory, what was to be expected from fresh levies of imperfectly armed villagers who for the most part had never seen war, and, alike officers and men, could never have acquired the sentiment of soldierly obedience, or the habit of courage in danger?
Moreover, the distance was an obstacle in respect to which England
had the advantage; the path across the Atlantic
and up the St. Lawrence
was more easily traversed than the road by land from the colonies to Quebec
A real American army of ten thousand men was wanted, and by the middle of March no more than fifteen hundred had reached Montreal
The royalists in Canada
began to cry victory, and were bolder than ever.
The relations with the Indians became alarming; yet Schuyler
dissuaded from any attempt at employing them; and congress voted not to suffer them to serve in its armies without the previous consent of the tribes in a national council, nor then without its own express approval.
But to guard against dangers from the Five Nations, James Deane
was sent with the returning deputations from the Oneidas and the seven tribes in Canada
On the journey they marched in Indian file, and at sunset encamped in a grove of hemlocks, of which the boughs furnished beds.
The council, in which the nations were much divided, began on the twenty eighth of March with the usual ceremonies to wipe away tears, to cleanse from blood, to lighten the grief which choked speech.
The next day was
given to acts of condolence, when new trees, as they
expressed it, were raised in the place of chiefs who had fallen, and their names published to the Six Nations.
On the thirty first the confederated tribes gave each other pledges to observe a strict neutrality in the present quarrel.
Nothing amazed them more than the flight of the British
For four months Wooster
remained the highest officer in Canada
All accounts agree that he was ‘unfit, totally unfit’ for so important a station, which he had never sought, and which he desired to surrender to an officer of higher rank.
Yet he did some things well; in the early part of his command he arrested Campbell
, the Indian
agent of the British
, and La Corne St. Luc
, and sent them out of the province.
Like a true New England
man, he allowed each parish to choose its own officers, thus introducing the system of self-government in towns.
He also intended to employ committees of safety and committees of correspondence, and thus lead the way to a Canadian convention, which might send delegates to the general congress.
When a friend wished he might enter Quebec
through its gates, ‘Not so, but over its walls,’ was his reply; and they were not mere words of rodomontade, for the aged man was brave.
He was too old to unlearn his partiality for Connecticut
, and sometimes paid his men in hard money, when those round Quebec
got only paper; and sometimes granted a furlough which carried pay, instead of a discharge.
, who was far the more testy of the two, he had constant bickerings, which attracted the attention and divided the opinion of congress.
On the first day of April Wooster
of the troops round Quebec
The garrison laughed
as they saw from the ramparts the general, now venerable from age, and distinguished by his singularly large wig, walking solemnly along the walls, to spy out their weak parts.
Scattered round Quebec
, on both sides of the river, and at great distances from each other, lay about two thousand men; of whom not many more than half were able to do duty.
How to supply them with food was a great difficulty.
The insignificant batteries of three light guns and one howitzer on Point Levi; of twice that number of guns, two howitzers, and two small mortars on the heights of Abraham; and of two guns at the Traverse, were harmless to the enemy; the store of powder did not exceed three or four tons; of shot, ten or twelve; there were no engineers and few artillerists; of those who had wintered in Canada
, constituting more than half of the whole number, the time of service would expire on the fifteenth of April, when neither art, nor money, nor entreaty would be able to prevail on them to remain.
's regiment of about two hundred Canadians would be free on the same day, and very few of them would reengage.
Without the immediate support of eight or ten thousand men, a good train of artillery, and a full military chest, it was plain that the ministerial troops would easily regain the country.
, at his own solicitation, withdrew to Montreal
The regiments, sent forward to Canada
, arrived at Albany
in a very incomplete state, and were further thinned on the march by sickness and desertion.
who had confided in Montgomery
and given him aid before Quebec
, now only waited an
opportunity to rise against the Americans
country was outraged by the arbitrariness of the military occupation; the peasantry had been forced to furnish wood and other articles at less than the market price, or for promissory certificates; the clergy, neglected or ill used, were unanimously hostile; of the more cultivated classes, both French and English, seven eighths favored the British
, and were willing to assist in driving back the invaders.
The savages kept aloof from the Americans
, and it was feared would, early in the spring
on their frontier.
Alarmed by constant unfavorable reports, congress, on the twentieth, by its president, urged Washington
to hasten the departure of four battalions destined for Quebec
, as ‘a week, a day, even an hour might prove decisive;’ but on the twentieth and twenty first, before receiving the letters, he had dispatched them, under Thompson
Two or three days later, the unsuccessful attempt of the Canadians, near the end of March, under Beaujeu
, to raise the blockade of Quebec
, became known; and though Washington
at that moment was in want of men, arms, and money, congress, giving way to its unchecked impulses, declared itself ‘determined on the reduction of Quebec
,’ and without even consulting the commander in chief
, suddenly and peremptorily ordered him to detach six additional battalions from his army for service in Canada
, and further inquired of him if he could spare more.
Late at night on the twenty fifth, Washington
received the order by express; his effective force on that day consisted of but eight thousand three hundred and one; and of this small force, poorly armed
and worse clad, he detached six of his best batta-
lions, containing more than three thousand men, at a time when the British
ministry was directing against him thirty thousand veteran troops.
The command of the brigade was given to Sullivan
; among its officers were Stark
of New Hampshire
, Anthony Wayne
The troops were scantily provided for the march; some companies had not a waistcoat among them all, and but one shirt to a man.
It was a most touching spectacle to see Washington
resign himself to the ill considered votes of congress, and, parsimonious of complaint, to send off his best troops to Canada
at their word, even though it left him bare and exposed to the greatest dangers.
‘I could wish the army in Canada
more powerfully reinforced,’ he wrote to congress; ‘at the same time trusting New York and Hudson river
to the handful of men remaining here, is running too great a risk.
The securing this post and Hudson River
is of so great importance, that I cannot at present advise the sending any more troops from hence; on the contrary, the general officers
, now here, think it absolutely necessary to increase the army at this place with at least ten thousand men.’
Destitute of hard money, congress requested the New England
States to collect as much of it as they could and forward it to Schuyler
Having stripped Washington
of ten battalions, or about half his effective force, they next ordered that provisions, powder, of which his stock was very low, and articles of clothing for ten thousand men, should follow.
Ten thousand was the number of men, which all agreed
was necessary for Canada
, and they were resolved to
maintain that number on the St. Lawrence
, leaving Washington
very much to his own devices and the effect of solicitations, addressed to the colonies nearest him, at a time when it was the grand plan of the English
to take possession of Hudson river
an able general was wanted not less than an army.
having refused the service, and Lee
having been transferred to the South
stood next in rank; but Washington
, who judged him leniently as an executive officer, saw his utter incompetency to a distant, separate command.
Thomas of Massachusetts
, a man of less experience but superior ability and culture, was, therefore, raised to the rank of major general and ordered to Quebec
To complete the misery of the army, with whichhe was to hold Canada
, the small pox raged among the soldiers: Thomas
had never been inoculated; and his journey to the camp was a journey to meet death unattended by glory.
He was closely followed by Franklin
, and Charles Carroll
, whom congress had commissioned to promise a guarantee of their estates to the clergy; to establish a free press; to hold out to the people of Canada
the alluring prospect of a free trade with all nations; and to invite them to set up a government for themselves and join the federal union.
, the brother of Charles, a Jesuit, afterwards archbishop of Baltimore
, came also, in the vain hope as an ecclesiastic of moderating the opposition of the Canadian
The commissioners discovered on their arrival a general apprehension that the Americans
would be driven out of the province; and that
without a restoration of credit by the use of hard
money and without a large army, they could not ask the people to take part in continuing the war.
arrived near Quebec
on the first of May, and employed the next three days in ascertaining the condition of his command.
He found one thousand nine hundred men, including officers.
Of these, nine hundred were sick, chiefly with the small pox; out of the remaining thousand, three hundred were soldiers whose enlistments had expired on the fifteenth of April, and who refused duty, or were very importunate to return home.
This small army occupied several posts so distant from each other, that not more than three hundred men could be rallied against any sudden attack.
In all the magazines there remained but about one hundred and fifty pounds of powder, and six days provisions.
The French inhabitants were much disaffected, so that supplies were obtained from them with great difficulty.
On the fifth, he called a council of war, who agreed unanimously to prepare for a retreat by removing the invalids immediately to Three Rivers
, and embarking the cannon as soon as possible.
The wise decision was made too late; that same evening ships arrived before Quebec
Early on the sixth, the Surprise
frigate, the Isis
, and the sloop Martin
, which had forced their way up the river when it was almost impracticable from ice, came into the basin, landed their marines and that part of the twenty ninth which they had on board; and not far from noon, while the Americans
were embarking their sick and their artillery, the garrison thus reinforced about one thousand strong, in two divisions, formed in columns six deep,
with a train of six cannon, made a sally out of the St. John
's and St. Louis
' gates, and attacked the American
sentinels and main guard.
attempted to bring his men under arms, but unable to collect more than two hundred and fifty on the plains, he directed a retreat to Deschambault
, forty eight miles above Quebec
The troops fled withthe utmost precipitation and confusion, leaving their provisions, cannon, and five hundred muskets, and about two hundred of their sick.
Of these, one half crept away from the hospitals as they could; and they fell into the hands of merciful men; the Canadian
peasants nursed them with the kindness that their religion required; and Carleton
, by proclamation, offered them proper care in the general hospital with leave to return home when their health should be restored.
At Deschambault Thomas
again held a council of war, and by a vote of twelve to three, it was carried that the half-starved army should not attempt to make a stand below Sorel
who were in pursuit, less forbearing towards French insurgents thantowards colonists of the same stock with themselves, carried the torch in their hands to burn the houses of those who had befriended the rebels.
On the eighth the ship of war Niger
and three transports with the forty seventh regiment from Halifax
, on the tenth the Triton with more transports and troops, came in, and others continued to arrive.
At the same time Sir John Johnson
, whom Schuyler
had left free on his parole, stirred up an attack by regulars, Canadians, and Indians from the northwest.
To guard against this new danger, Arnold
of New Hampshire
with about four hundred
men and two cannon at the narrow pass of the Ce-
This pass was but fifteen leagues above Montreal
; and Thomas
, at Sorel
, was but as many leagues distant below.
The American commissioners calmly looked at things as they were; and with manly resolution gave distinct advice.
They observed that the invaders had lost the affections of the Canadian
people; that for the want of hard money to support themselves with honor, they were distressed for provisions; that they were incapable of exact discipline, because sent for short periods of service; that, always too few in numbers, they were disheartened and wasted by the small pox; and they wrote: ‘We report it as our firm and unanimous opinion, that it is better immediately to withdraw the army from Canada
,’ ‘and fortify the passes on the lakes.’
They even wished that Sullivan
's brigade might be stopped at Fort George
But the continental congress, which had summoned Washington
for consultation on the defence of the middle colonies, reasoned differently on learning the retreat from Quebec
It considered the loss of Canada
as exposing the frontiers of New York and New England
not to Indians only but to the ravages of the British
; it therefore enjoined Thomas
to ‘display his military qualities and acquire laurels.’
Of hard money it sent forward all that was in its treasury; which was no more than sixteen hundred sixty two pounds, one shilling, and three pence; and having vainly tried every method to collect more, and being still bent on supporting the expedition, it resolved to supply the troops in Canada
with provisions and clothing from the other colonies.
Its resolutions were unmeaning words; it could not
command adequate means of transportation, nor had it magazines on which it could draw; besides, the campaign in Canada
was decided, before its votes were made known.
The detachment from Detroit
under Captain Forster
, composed of forty of the eighth regiment, a hundred Canadians, and several hundred Indians
, from the Northwest
, appeared in sight of the Cedars.
, its commander, committing the fort to Major Butterfield
, deserted under pretence of soliciting a reenforcement.
On his arrival at Montreal
on the sixteenth detached Major HenrySherburne
of Rhode Island
with one hundred and forty men to relieve the fort; but before he could make his way through the enemy to the Cedars, Butterfield
, on the nineteenth, though he had two field-pieces and sufficient ammunition and officers and men willing to defend the post, cowered like a craven under a dread of the Indians, and after sustaining no other attack than from musketry, surrendered himself and his garrison prisoners at discretion.
The next day, as Sherburne
, ignorant of the surrender, came to the entrance of a wood, which was about five miles from the fort, he was attacked while still in open ground by an enemy who fought under cover of trees.
After a skirmish of an hour, the Americans
were intercepted in their attempt at a retreat, and more than a hundred of them were taken prisoners.
The savages, who lost in the battle a great warrior of the Seneca
tribe, immediately stripped them almost naked, tomahawking or scalping the wounded men; so that they lost twenty eight wounded
and killed in battle or murdered afterwards in cold
blood, in violation of the express terms of surrender, as well as of humanity.
At the news of the double disaster, Arnold
moved with about seven hundred men to recover the captives by force; but as the British
officer declared a massacre of the prisoners, four hundred and seventy four in number, would be the inevitable consequence of an attack, he consented to obtain the release of them all, except four captains who were retained as hostages, by promising the return of an equal number of British prisoners.
The engagement led to mutual criminations; the Americans
preferred a counter claim for the punishment of those who had massacred some of the prisoners.
In this manner the British
drew near Montreal
from the west.
From the lower side news came, that Thomas
had been seized by the small pox. But the commissioners, in their contempt for the capacity of Wooster
, would not suffer him to resume the command; and thought the best service he could render the cause would be to return home.
At the end of May confusion prevailed in every department of the army.
There could be no discipline among soldiers enlisted only for a year, or a shorter term; some only for two months; the troops lived from hand to mouth, often for days without meat, levying contributions of meal; the scattered army did not exceed four thousand men, three fourths of whom had never had the small pox; many of the officers were incompetent.
's whole thoughts were bent on
making a safe retreat, the congress at Philadelphia
, on the first day of June, in the helplessness of its zeal,
resolved ‘that six thousand militia be employed to
Chap. LXVII.} 1776. June 28.
reinforce the army in Canada
, and to keep up the communication with that province;’ and called upon Massachusetts
to make up half that number, Connecticut
one quarter, New Hampshire
and New York the rest.
They also authorized the employment of Indians
On that same day the first division of the Brunswick
troops under Riedesel
arrived with Burgoyne
, and, with the regiments from Ireland
and others, put into the hands of Carleton
an army of nine thousand nine hundred and eighty four effective men, well disciplined, and abundantly provided with all the materials of war. Henceforth the Americans
were in imminent danger of being cut off and utterly destroyed.
The death of Thomas
on the second, left the command to Sullivan
Arriving with his party at Sorel
on the fifth, he assumed it with the misplaced confidence and ostentation of inexperience.
‘In a few days,’ said he, ‘I can reduce the army to order, and put a new face upon our affairs here.’
A council of war resolved on an attempt against the enemy at Three Rivers
; a party of about fifteen hundred, mostly Pennsylvanians, including the regiments of St. Clair
, and Irvine
, was placed for that purpose under the command of Thompson
‘I am determined,’ wrote Sullivan
, ‘to hold the most important posts as long as one stone is left upon another.’
At one o'clock in the morning of the seventh, Thompson
and his party arrived at St. Clair's station on the Nicolet; lay hid in the woods on its bank during the day; and in the evening crossed the St. Lawrence
, intending a surprise on a party,
which was not supposed to exceed four hundred.
Chap. LXVII.} 1776.
But a Canadian peasant, as soon as they landed, hastened to inform General Frazer
at Three Rivers
of their approach; and moreover, twenty five transports, laden with troops, had, by Carleton
's directions, been piloted past Quebec
without stopping, and had arrived at Three Rivers
just in time to take part in repelling the attack.
A large force was promptly landed with field-pieces; and was disposed with a view to surround and take captive the whole body of assailants.
The short darkness of that latitude was soon over; as day began to appear, the Americans
, who were marching under the bank of the river, were cannonaded from the ships; undismayed they took their way through a thickly wooded swamp, above their knees in mire and water; and after a most wearisome struggle of four hours reached an open piece of low ground, where they endeavored to form.
began the attack, and forced an advanced party to run; his companions then pressed forward in column against the breastworks, which covered the main body of the enemy.
They displayed undisputed gallantry; but being outnumbered more than three to one, were compelled to retire.
To secure time for the retreat, Wayne
, with about five officers and twenty men, sheltered by the dense forest, which hid the paucity of their numbers, kept up a fire from the edge of the swamp for an hour longer, when they also were obliged to fly. Thompson
, who were separated from the rest of the party, were betrayed by the Canadians; about one hundred and fifty of the fugitives were taken prisoners; the main body, saved, as British
officers asserted, by Carleton
's want of alertness, and
Chap. LXVII.} 1776.
his calling in the parties that guarded the fords of the De Loup
, wandered about that day and the following night, without food or refreshment except water, and worn out by watching and fatigue.
On the ninth they found their boats, and returned to Sorel
The American loss exceeded two hundred; Wayne
's regiment which began the attack, suffered the most.
‘I now think only of a glorious death or a victory obtained against superior numbers,’ wrote Sullivan
, as he learned that the force intended for Canada
was arrived with Burgoyne
at its head; and he would have remained at Sorel
The post was not defensible; the remains of the army, encamped there, did not exceed two thousand five hundred men; about a thousand more were at other stations, but most of them under inoculation.
Sickness, want of regular and sufficient food, the recent repulse, the threefold superiority of the British
in numbers, and their incomparable superiority in appointments, made resistance impossible.
Slow and cautious as were Carleton
's movements, any further delay would enable the British
to pass above them, take post in their rear, and cut off their retreat.
A council of field officers was all but unanimous for quitting the ground; Arnold
, Antill, and Hazen
, who were not present, were of the same opinion.
On the fourteenth the fleet with the British
forces was coming up the river under full sail; when an hour or a little more before their arrival, Sullivan
broke up his camp, taking away with him every thing,
even to a spade.
The guard at Bertier retreated by
Chap. LXVII.} 1776.
land, leaving nine boats behind.
all the boats and baggage were brought over the rapids, except three heavy pieces of cannon.
with his little garrison of three hundred men remained at Montreal
till the enemy were at twelve miles' distance from him, and having, under the plea of instructions from Schuyler
, seized such parcels of goods as could be serviceable to the army, crossed safely to La Prairie
All that was left of the invading army met on the seventeenth at St. John
's; one half of them being sick, almost all destitute of clothing, and having no provisions except salt pork and flour.
On the eighteenth the emaciated, half naked men, broken in strength and in discipline, too weak to have beaten off an assault from the enemy, as pitiable a spectacle as could be seen, removed to Isle aux Noix, where Sullivan
proposed to await express orders from Schuyler
They were languidly pursued by a column under the command of Burgoyne
, who excused his inactivity by pleading instructions from Carleton
to hazard nothing till the column on his right should be able to cooperate with him.
Meanwhile congress had introduced a new element of confusion.
On the day on which Sullivan
halted at Isle aux Noix, Gates
, who enjoyed the friendship of John Adams
, and had been elected a majorgeneral, was appointed to take command of the forces in Canada
The appointment could give Schuyler
no umbrage, for he himself had uniformly refused to go into Canada
; but no sooner had Gates
than the question arose whether the command
would not revert to Schuyler
the moment the army
Chap. LXVII.} 1776.
should be found south of the Canada
At Isle aux Noix the men fit for duty remained for eight days, till the invalids could be taken to Crown Point
The voyage was made in leaky boats which had no awnings; so that the sick lay drenched in water and exposed to the sun. Their only food was raw pork, and hard bread or unbaked flour.
A physician, who was an eye-witness said: ‘At the sight of so much privation and distress, I wept till I had no more power to weep.’
When, early in July, all the
fragments of the army of Canada
had reached Crown Point
, the scene of distress produced a momentary despair.
Every thing about them, their clothes, their blankets, the air, the very ground they trod on, was infected with the pestilence.
‘I did not look into a tent or a hut,’ says Trumbull
, ‘in which I did not find either a dead or dying man.’
Of about five thousand men, housed under tents, or rudely built sheds, or huts of brush, exposed to the damp air of the night, full half were invalids; more than thirty new graves were made every day. In a little more than two months the northern army lost by desertion and death more than five thousand men.