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Chapter 52:

The capture of Montreal.

August—November, 1775.

when Carleton heard of the surrender of Ticon-
Chap. LII.} 1775.
deroga to Allen and Arnold, he resolved to attempt its recovery. The continental congress had, on the first of June, explicitly disclaimed the purpose of invading Canada; and a French version of their resolution was very widely distributed among its inhabitants. But on the ninth of that month the governor of the province proclaimed the American borderers to be a rebellious band of traitors, established martial law, and summoned the French peasantry to serve under the old colonial nobility, while the converted Indian tribes and the savages of the northwest were instigated to take up the hatchet against New York and New England. These movements affected the intentions of congress, and made the occupation of Canada an act of self-defence.

The French nobility, of whom many under the Quebec act were received into the council or appointed [177] to executive offices, and the Catholic clergy

Chap. LII.} 1775
who were restored to the possession of their estatesand their tithes, acquiesced in the new form of government; but by a large part of the British residents it was detested, as at war with English liberties, and subjecting them to arbitrary power. The instincts of the Canadian peasantry inclined them to take part with the united colonies: they denied the authority of the French nobility as magistrates, and resisted their claim of a right as seignors to command their military services. Without the hardihood to rise of themselves, they were willing to welcome an invasion.

Carleton, in his distress, appealed to the Catholic bishop. That prelate, who was a stipendiary of the British king, sent a mandate to the several parishes, to be read by the subordinate clergy after divine service, but the peasantry persisted in refusing to come out.

We have seen the feeble and disorderly condition of the northern army at the time of Schuyler's arrival. His first object was to learn the state of Canada, and in Major John Brown he found a fearless, able, and trusty emissary. He next endeavored to introduce order into his command. On the twenty seventh of July the regiment of Green Mountain Boys elected its officers; the rash and boastful Ethan Allen was passed by, and instead of him Seth Warner, a man of equal courage and better judgment, was elected its lieutenant colonel.

Under the direction of Schuyler, boats were built

at Ticonderoga as fast as possible; and his humanity brooked no delay in adopting measures for the relief of the sick; but as twelve hundred men formed the [178] whole force that he could as yet lead beyond the bor-
Chap. LI.} 1775. Aug.
der, he feared that the naval strength of the enemy might prevent his getting down the Sorel river; and on the sixth of August he wrote to congress, which had already adjourned, for information whether he was to proceed. The reference implied his own conviction, that his army was inadequate to the vast enterprise. Before the middle of the month, Brown returned from his perilous march of observation, and reported that now was the time to carry Canada; that the inhabitants were friends; that the number of regulars in Canada was only about seven hundred, of whom three hundred were at St. John's; that the militia openly refused to serve under the French officers lately appointed. At the same time a new arrival at Ticonderoga changed the spirit of the camp.

We have seen Richard Montgomery, who had served in the army from the age of fifteen, gain distinction in the Seven Years war. Several years after his return to Ireland, he took the steps which he believed sufficient for his promotion to a majority; failing in his pursuit and thinking himself overreached, he sold his commission in disgust and emigrated to New York. Here, in 1773, he renewed his former acquaintance with the family of Robert R. Livingston, and married his eldest daughter. Never intending to draw his sword again, studious in his habits, he wished for retirement; and his wife, whose affections he entirely possessed, willingly conformed to his tastes. At Rhinebeck a mill was built, a farm stocked, and the foundation of a new house laid, so that peaceful years seemed to await them. Montgomery was of a sanguine temperament, yet [179] the experience of life had tinged his spirit with

Chap. LII.} 1775.
melancholy, and he would often say: ‘My happiness is not lasting; but yet let us enjoy it as long as we may, and leave the rest to God.’ And they did enjoy life; blest with parents, brothers, sisters, and friends, their circle was always enlivened by intelligent conversation and the undisturbed flow of affection. The father of his wife used to say, that ‘if American liberty should not be maintained, he would carry his family to Switzerland, as the only free country in the world.’ War was the dream of her grandfather alone, the aged Robert Livingston, the staunchest and most sagacious patriot of them all. In 1773, in his eighty fourth year, he foretold the conflict with England, and when his son and grandchildren smiled at his credulity, ‘You, Robert,’ said he to his grandson, ‘will live to see this country independent.’ At the news of the retreat of the British from Concord, the octogenarian's eye kindled with the fire of youth, and he confidently announced American independence. Soon after the battle of Bunker Hill, he lay calmly on his deathbed, and his last words were: ‘What news from Boston?’

From such a family circle the county of Dutchess, in April, 1775, selected Montgomery as a delegate to the first provincial convention in New York, where he distinguished himself by unaffected modesty, promptness of decision, and soundness of judgment. On receiving his appointment as brigadier general he reluctantly bade adieu to his ‘quiet scheme of life;’ ‘perhaps,’ he said, ‘for ever, but the will of an oppressed people, compelled to choose between liberty and slavery, must be obeyed.’ [180]

On the sixth of August, from Albany, he advised

Chap. LII.} 1775. Aug.
that Tryon, whose secret designs he had penetrated, should be conducted out of the way of mischief to Hartford. He reasoned justly on the expediency of taking possession of Canada, as the means of guarding against Indian hostilities, and displaying to the world the strength of the confederated colonies; it was enlarging the sphere of operations, but a failure would not impair the means of keeping the command of Lake Champlain. Summoned by Schuyler to Ticonderoga, he was attended as far as Saratoga by his wife, whose fears he soothed by cheerfulness and good humor, and his last words to her at parting were: ‘You will never have cause to blush for your Montgomery.’

On the seventeenth of August his arrival at Ticonderoga was the signal for Schuyler to depart for Saratoga, promising to return on the twentieth. That day came, and other days followed, and still Schuyler remained away. On the twenty fifth Montgomery wrote to him entreatingly to join the army with all expedition, as the way to give the men confidence in his spirit and activity. On the evening of the twenty sixth he received an express from Washington, who urged the acquisition of Canada and explained the plan for an auxiliary enterprise by way of the Kennebec. ‘I am sure,’ wrote the chief, ‘you will not let any difficulties, not insuperable, damp your ardor; perseverance and spirit have done wonders in all ages. You will therefore, by the return of this messenger, inform me of your ultimate resolution; not a moment's time is to be lost.’ In obedience to this letter, Schuyler [181] left the negotiation with Indians to the other com-

Chap. LII.} 1775. Aug.
missioners at Albany, and set off for his army.

Montgomery, wherever he came, looked to see Aug. what could be done, and to devise the means of doing it; he had informed Schuyler that he should probably reach St. John's on the first day of September. Schuyler sent back no reply. ‘Moving without your orders,’ rejoined Montgomery, ‘I do not like; but the prevention of the enemy is of the utmost consequence; for if he gets his vessels into the lake, it is over with us for the present summer;’ and he went forward with a thousand or twelve hundred men. Retarded by violent head winds and rain, it was the

third of September when he arrived at Isle La Motte. On the fourth he was joined by Schuyler, and they proceeded to Isle aux Noix. The next day a declaration of friendship was dispersed amongst the inhabitants. On the sixth Schuyler, whose forces did not exceed a thousand, embarked for St. John's. They landed without obstruction, a mile and a half from the fortress, towards which they marched in good order over marshyand wooded ground. In crossing a creek, the left of their advanced line was attacked by a party of Indians; but being promptly supported by Montgomery, it beat off the assailants, yet with a loss of nine subalterns and privates. Schuyler's health had declined as he approached the army. In the night a person came to his tent with false information, which he laid before a council of war; their opinion being consonant with his own, he immediately ordered a retreat, and without carefully reconnoitring the fortress, he led back the troops unmolested to the Isle aux Noix. From that station [182] he wrote to congress: ‘I have not enjoyed a moment's
Chap. LII.} 1775. Sept.
health since I left Fort George; and am now so low as not to be able to hold the pen. Should we not be able to do any thing decisively in Canada, I shall judge it best to move from this place, which is a very wet and unhealthy part of the country, unless I receive your orders to the contrary.’

This letter was the occasion of ‘a large controversy’ in congress; his proposal to abandon Isle aux Noix was severely disapproved; it was resolved to spare neither men nor money for his army, and if the Canadians would remain neuter, no doubt was entertained of the acquisition of Canada. He himself was encouraged to attend to his own health, and this advice implied a consent that the command of the invading forces should rest with Montgomery.

Meantime Schuyler, though confined to his bed, sent out on the tenth a party of five hundred; they returned on the eleventh, disgraced by ‘unbecoming behavior.’ Upon this Montgomery, having discerned in the men a rising spirit more consonant with his own, entreated permission to retrieve the late disasters; and Schuyler, who was put into a covered boat for Ticonderoga, turned his back on the scene with regret, but not with envy, and relinquished to the gallant Irishman the conduct, the danger, and the glory of the campaign.

The day after Schuyler left Isle aux Noix, Montgomery began the investment of St. John's. The Indians kept at peace, and the zealous efforts of the governor, the clergy, and the French nobility, had hardly added a hundred men to the garrison. Carleton thought himself abandoned by all the earth, and [183] wrote to the commander in chief at Boston: ‘I had

Chap. LII.} 1775. Sept.
hopes of holding out for this year, had the savages remained firm; but now we are on the eve of being overrun and subdued.’

On the morning after Montgomery's arrival near St. John's, he marched five hundred men to its north side. A party which sallied from the fort was beaten off, and the detachment was stationed at the junction of the roads to Chambly and Montreal. Additions to his force and supplies of food were continually arriving, through the indefatigable attention of Schuyler; and though the siege flagged for the want of powder, the investment was soon made so close that the retreat of the garrison was impossible.

The want of subordination delayed success. Ethan Allen had been sent to Chambly to raise a corps of Canadians. They gathered round him with spirit, and his officers advised him to lead them without delay to the army; but dazzled by vanity and rash ambition, he attempted to surprise Montreal. Dressed as was his custom when on a recruiting tour, in ‘a short fawn skin, double breasted jacket, a vest and breeches of woollen serge, and a red worsted cap,’ he passed over from Longeuil to Long Point, in the night preceding the twenty fifth of September, with about eighty Canadians and thirty Americans, though he had so few canoes, that but a third of his party could embark at once. On the next day he discovered that Brown, whom he had hoped to find with two hundred men on the south side of the town, had not crossed the river. Retreat from the island was impossible; about two hours after sunrise he was attacked by a motley party of regulars, English residents of Montreal, [184] Canadians, and Indians, in all about five hun-

Chap. LII.} 1775. Sept.
dred men, and after a defence of an hour and three quarters, he, with thirty eight men, was obliged to surrender; the rest fled to the woods. At the barrack yard in Montreal, Prescott, a British brigadier, asked the prisoner: ‘Are you that Allen who took Ticonderoga?’ ‘I am the very man,’ quoth Allen. Then Prescott, in a great rage, called him a rebel and other hard names, and raised his cane. At this Allen shook his fist, telling him: ‘This is the beetle of mortality for you, if you offer to strike.’ ‘Youshall grace a halter at Tyburn,’ cried Prescott, with an oath.

The wounded, seven in number, entered the hospital; the rest were shackled together in pairs, and distributed among different transports in the river. But Allen, as the chief offender, was chained with leg irons weighing about thirty pounds; their heavy substantial bar was eight feet long; the shackles, which encompassed his ancles, were so very tight and close that he could not lie down exeept on his back; and in this plight, thrust into the lowest part of a vessel, the captor of Ticonderoga was dragged to England, where imprisonment in Pendennis Castle could not abate his courage or his hope.

The issue of this rash adventure daunted the

Canadians for a moment, but difficulties only brought out the resources of Montgomery. He was obliged to act entirely from his own mind; for there was no one about him competent to give advice. Of the field officers, he esteemed Brown alone for his ability; though McPherson, his aide-de-camp, a very young man, universally beloved, of good sense, and rare endowments, gave promise of high capacity for war. [185] But his chief difficulties grew out of the badness of
Chap. LII.} 1775. Oct.
the troops. Schuyler also complained of the Connecticut soldiers, announcing even to congress: ‘If Job had been a general in my situation, his memory had not been so famous for patience.’ ‘The New Englanders,’ wrote Montgomery, ‘are the worst stuff imaginable for soldiers. They are homesick; their regiments are melted away, and yet not a man dead of any distemper. There is such an equality among them, that the officers have no authority, and there are very few among them in whose spirit I have confidence; the privates are all generals, but not soldiers; and so jealous that it is impossible, though a man risk his person, to escape the imputation of treachery.’

Of the first regiment of Yorkers, he gave a far worse account; adding: ‘The master of Hindostan could not recompense me for this summer's work; I have envied every wounded man who has had so good an apology for retiring from a scene where no credit can be obtained. O fortunate husbandmen; would I were at my plough again!’ Yet, amidst all his vexations, his reputation steadily rose throughout the country, and he won the affection of his army, so that every sick soldier, officer, or deserter, that passed home, agreed in praising him wherever they stopped.

The wearisomeness of delay, occasioned by the want of munitions of war, increased the anxiety of Montgomery. There was no hope of his reducing the garrison from their want of provisions. The ground on which he was encamped was very wet; the weather cold and rainy, so that the troops suffered exceedingly from sickness. Insubordination heightened his distress. Seeing that the battery was ill [186] placed, he would have erected one at the distance

Chap. LII.} 1775. Oct.
of four hundred yards from the north side of the fort; but the judgment of the army was against him. ‘I did not consider,’ said he, ‘I was at the head of troops who carried the spirit of freedom into the field and think for themselves;’ and saving appearances by consulting a council of war, he acquiesced in their reversing his opinion. In John Lamb, the captain of a New York company of artillery, he found ‘a restless genius, brave, active, and intelligent, but very turbulent and troublesome.’

Anxious to relieve St. John's, Carleton, after the capture of Allen, succeeded in assembling about nine hundred Canadians at Montreal; but a want of mutual confidence and the certainty that the inhabitants generally favored the Americans, dispirited them, and they disappeared by desertions, thirty or forty of a night, till he was left almost as forlorn as before. The Indians, too, he found of little service; ‘they were easily dejected, and chose to be of the strongest side, so that when they were most wanted they vanished.’ But history must preserve the fact that, though often urged to let them loose on the rebel provinces, in his detestation of cruelty, he would not suffer a savage to pass the frontier.

In this state of mutual weakness, the inhabitants of the parishes of Chambly turned the scale. Ranging themselves under James Livingston of New York, then a resident in Canada, and assisted by Major Brown, with a small detachment from Montgomery, they sat down before the fort in Chambly, which, on the eighteenth of October, after a siege of a day and a half was ingloriously surrendered by the English [187] commandant. The colors of the seventh regi-

Chap. LII.} 1775. Oct.
ment, which were here taken, were transmitted as the first trophy to congress; the prisoners, one hundred and sixty eight in number, were marched to Connecticut; but the great gain to the Americans was seventeen cannon and six tons of powder.

The siege of St. John's now proceeded with efficiency. The army of Montgomery yielded more readily to his guidance; Wooster of Connecticut had arrived, and set an example of cheerful obedience to his orders. At the northwest, a battery was constructed on an eminence within two hundred and fifty yards of the fort; and by the thirtieth it was in full action.

To raise the siege Carleton planned a junction with McLean; but Montgomery sent Easton, Brown, and Livingston to watch McLean, who was near the mouth of the Sorel, while Warner was stationed near Longeuil. Having by desperate exertions got together about eight hundred Indians, Canadians, and regulars, Carleton, on the last day of October embarked them at Montreal, in thirty four boats, to cross the Saint Lawrence. But Warner, with three hundred Green Mountain Boys and men of the second New York regiment, watched their approach, and as they drew near the bank, poured on them so destructive a fire from the one four-pounder of the Americans, that they retired precipitately with loss and in disorder.

On the news of Carleton's defeat, McLean, de-

serted by the Canadians, and losing all hope of support, retired to Quebec; while the besiegers pushed on their work with unceasing diligence, keeping up a well-directed fire by day and night. On the third of [188] November, after a siege of fifty days, the fort of St.
Chap. LII.} 1775. Nov.
John's surrendered; and its garrison, consisting of five hundred regulars and one hundred Canadians, many of whom were of the French gentry, marched out with the honors of war.

Montgomery now hastened to Montreal as rapidly as the bad weather and worse roads would permit; and on the twelfth of November, unopposed, he took possession of the town. He came as the auxiliary of the Canadians, to give them the opportunity of establishing their freedom and reforming their laws; and he requested them to choose as soon as possible ‘faithful representatives to sit in the continental congress, and make a part of that union.’ He sought to impress them with the idea that the freedom of the thirteen colonies could never be securely enjoyed, so long as arbitrary government should remain established in Canada; that no reconciliation could take place till the liberties of all should be secured on the same basis. He did not think himself a great politician, but his plan had, as he believed, ‘the merit of being liberal, and of coming from an honest heart, void of any ambition but that of serving the public.’ He earnestly urged Schuyler to pass the winter at Montreal. In the midst of his unparalleled success, the hero longed to be below the Catskills, with his young wife, his pleasant farm occupations, and his books. ‘I am weary of power,’ said he to Schuyler; ‘I must go home this winter, if I walk by the side of the lake.’ ‘I have courted fortune,’ he wrote to his brother-in-law, ‘and found her kind. I have one more favor to solicit, and then I have done.’ Without Quebec, Canada remained unconquered; and honor [189] forbade him to turn back before attempting its cap-

Chap. LII.} 1775.
ture. Men, money, and artillery were wanting; in the face of a Canadian winter, he nevertheless resolved to go down to Quebec, and pledged his word that on his part there should be no negligence of duty, no infirmity of purpose.

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