image

The Father of British Canada: a Chronicle of Carleton by William Wood, CHAPTER IV. INVASION 1775 (1)

Carleton’s first eight years as governor of Canada were almost entirely occupied with civil administration.

The next four were equally occupied with war; so much so, indeed, that the Quebec Act could not be put in force on the 1st of May 1775, as provided for in the Act itself, but only bit by bit much later on. There was one short session of the new Legislative Council, which opened on the 17th of August. But all men’s minds were even then turned towards the Montreal frontier, whence the American invasion threatened to overspread the whole country and make this opening session the last that might ever be held. Most of the members were soon called away from the council-chamber to the field. No further session could be held either that year or the next; and Carleton was obliged to nominate the judges himself. The fifteen years of peace were over, and Canada had once more become an object of contention between two fiercely hostile forces.

The War of the American Revolution was a long and exceedingly complicated struggle; and its many varied fortunes naturally had a profound effect on those of Canada.

But Canada was directly engaged in no more than the first three campaigns, when the Americans invaded her in 1775 and '76, and when the British used her as the base from which to invade the new American Republic in 1777. These first three campaigns formed a purely civil war within the British Empire. On each side stood three parties. Opponents were ranged against each other in the mother country, in the Thirteen Colonies, and in Canada. In the mother country the king and his party government were ranged against the Opposition and all who held radical or revolutionary views. Here the strife was merely political. But in the Thirteen Colonies the forces of the Crown were ranged against the forces of the new Continental Congress. The small minority of colonists who were afterwards known as the United Empire Loyalists sided with the Crown. A majority sided with the Congress. The rest kept as selfishly neutral as they could. Among the English-speaking civilians in Canada, many of whom were now of a much better class than the original camp-followers, the active loyalists comprised only the smaller half. The larger half sided with the Americans, as was only natural, seeing that most of them were immigrants from the Thirteen Colonies. But by no means all these sympathizers were ready for a fight. Among the French Canadians the loyalists included very few besides the seigneurs, the clergy, and a handful of educated people in Montreal, Three Rivers, and Quebec. The mass of the habitants were more or less neutral. But many of them were anti-British at first, while most of them were anti-American afterwards.

Events moved quickly in 1775.

On the 19th of April the 'shot heard round the world' was fired at Lexington in Massachusetts. On the 1st of May, the day appointed for the inauguration of the Quebec Act, the statue of the king in Montreal was grossly defaced and hung with a cross, a necklace of potatoes, and a placard bearing the inscription,  Here’s the Canadian Pope and English Fool—Voila le Pape du Canada et le sot Anglais . Large rewards were offered for the detection of the culprits; but without avail. Excitement ran high and many an argument ended with a bloody nose.

Meanwhile three Americans were plotting an attack along the old line of Lake Champlain.

Two of them were outlaws from the colony of New York, which was then disputing with the neighbouring colony of New Hampshire the possession of the lawless region in which all three had taken refuge and which afterwards became Vermont. Ethan Allen, the gigantic leader of the wild Green Mountain Boys, had a price on his head. Seth Warner, his assistant, was an outlaw of a somewhat humbler kind. Benedict Arnold, the third invader, came from Connecticut. He was a horse-dealer carrying on business with Quebec and Montreal as well as the West Indies. He was just thirty-four; an excellent rider, a dead shot, a very fair sailor, and captain of a crack militia company. Immediately after the affair at Lexington he had turned out his company, reinforced by undergraduates from Yale, had seized the New Haven powder magazine and marched over to Cambridge, where the Massachusetts Committeemen took such a fancy to him that they made him a colonel on the spot, with full authority to raise men for an immediate attack on Ticonderoga. The opportunity seemed too good to be lost; though the Continental Congress was not then in favour of attacking Canada, as its members hoped to see the Canadians throw off the yoke of empire on their own account. The British posts on Lake Champlain were absurdly undermanned. Ticonderoga contained two hundred cannon, but only forty men, none of whom expected an attack. Crown Point had only a sergeant and a dozen men to watch its hundred and thirteen pieces. Fort George, at the head of Lake George, was no better off; and nothing more had been done to man the fortifications at St Johns on the Richelieu, where there was an excellent sloop as well as many cannon in charge of the usual sergeant’s guard. This want of preparation was no fault of Carleton’s. He had frequently reported home on the need of more men. Now he had less than a thousand regulars to defend the whole country: and not another man was to arrive till the spring of next year. When Gage was hard pressed for reinforcements at Boston in the autumn of 1774 Carleton had immediately sent him two excellent battalions that could ill be spared from Canada. But when Carleton himself made a similar request, in the autumn of 1775, Admiral Graves, to his lasting dishonour, refused to sail up to Quebec so late as October.

The first moves of the three Americans smacked strongly of a well-staged extravaganza in which the smart Yankees never failed to score off the dunderheaded British.

The Green Mountain Boys assembled on the east side of the lake. Spies walked in and out of Ticonderoga, exactly opposite, and reported to Ethan Allen that the commandant and his whole garrison of forty unsuspecting men would make an easy prey. Allen then sent eighty men down to Skenesborough (now Whitehall) at the southern end of the lake, to take the tiny post there and bring back boats for the crossing on the 10th of May. Then Arnold turned up with his colonel’s commission, but without the four hundred men it authorized him to raise. Allen, however, had made himself a colonel too, with Warner as his second-in-command. So there were no less than three colonels for two hundred and thirty men. Arnold claimed the command by virtue of his Massachusetts commission. But the Green Mountain Boys declared they would follow no colonels but their own; and so Arnold, after being threatened with arrest, was appointed something like chief of the staff, on the understanding that he would make himself generally useful with the boats. This appointment was made at dawn on the 10th of May, just as the first eighty men were advancing to the attack after crossing over under cover of night. The British sentry’s musket missed fire; whereupon he and the guard were rushed, while the rest of the garrison were surprised in their beds. Ethan Allen, who knew the fort thoroughly, hammered on the commandant’s door and summoned him to surrender 'In the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress!' The astonished commandant, seeing that resistance was impossible, put on his dressing-gown and paraded his disarmed garrison as prisoners of war. Seth Warner presently arrived with the rest of Allen’s men and soon became the hero of Crown Point, which he took with the whole of its thirteen men and a hundred and thirteen cannon. Then Arnold had his own turn, in command of an expedition against the sergeant’s guard, cannon, stores, fort, and sloop at St Johns on the Richelieu, all of which he captured in the same absurdly simple way. When he came sailing back the three victorious commanders paraded all their men and fired off many straggling fusillades of joy. In the meantime the Continental Congress at Philadelphia, with a delightful touch of unconscious humour, was gravely debating the following resolution, which was passed on the 1st of June:  That no Expedition or Incursion ought to be undertaken or made, by any Colony or body of Colonists, against or into Canada .


Want to learn a language?


Learn from this text and thousands like it on LingQ.

  • A vast library of audio lessons, all with matching text
  • Revolutionary learning tools
  • A global, interactive learning community.

Language learning online @ LingQ

Carleton’s first eight years as governor of Canada were almost entirely occupied with civil administration.

The next four were equally occupied with war; so much so, indeed, that the Quebec Act could not be put in force on the 1st of May 1775, as provided for in the Act itself, but only bit by bit much later on. There was one short session of the new Legislative Council, which opened on the 17th of August. But all men’s minds were even then turned towards the Montreal frontier, whence the American invasion threatened to overspread the whole country and make this opening session the last that might ever be held. Most of the members were soon called away from the council-chamber to the field. No further session could be held either that year or the next; and Carleton was obliged to nominate the judges himself. The fifteen years of peace were over, and Canada had once more become an object of contention between two fiercely hostile forces.

The War of the American Revolution was a long and exceedingly complicated struggle; and its many varied fortunes naturally had a profound effect on those of Canada.

But Canada was directly engaged in no more than the first three campaigns, when the Americans invaded her in 1775 and '76, and when the British used her as the base from which to invade the new American Republic in 1777. These first three campaigns formed a purely civil war within the British Empire. On each side stood three parties. Opponents were ranged against each other in the mother country, in the Thirteen Colonies, and in Canada. In the mother country the king and his party government were ranged against the Opposition and all who held radical or revolutionary views. Here the strife was merely political. But in the Thirteen Colonies the forces of the Crown were ranged against the forces of the new Continental Congress. The small minority of colonists who were afterwards known as the United Empire Loyalists sided with the Crown. A majority sided with the Congress. The rest kept as selfishly neutral as they could. Among the English-speaking civilians in Canada, many of whom were now of a much better class than the original camp-followers, the active loyalists comprised only the smaller half. The larger half sided with the Americans, as was only natural, seeing that most of them were immigrants from the Thirteen Colonies. But by no means all these sympathizers were ready for a fight. Among the French Canadians the loyalists included very few besides the seigneurs, the clergy, and a handful of educated people in Montreal, Three Rivers, and Quebec. The mass of the habitants were more or less neutral. But many of them were anti-British at first, while most of them were anti-American afterwards.

Events moved quickly in 1775.

On the 19th of April the 'shot heard round the world' was fired at Lexington in Massachusetts. On the 1st of May, the day appointed for the inauguration of the Quebec Act, the statue of the king in Montreal was grossly defaced and hung with a cross, a necklace of potatoes, and a placard bearing the inscription,  Here’s the Canadian Pope and English Fool—Voila le Pape du Canada et le sot Anglais . Large rewards were offered for the detection of the culprits; but without avail. Excitement ran high and many an argument ended with a bloody nose.

Meanwhile three Americans were plotting an attack along the old line of Lake Champlain.

Two of them were outlaws from the colony of New York, which was then disputing with the neighbouring colony of New Hampshire the possession of the lawless region in which all three had taken refuge and which afterwards became Vermont. Ethan Allen, the gigantic leader of the wild Green Mountain Boys, had a price on his head. Seth Warner, his assistant, was an outlaw of a somewhat humbler kind. Benedict Arnold, the third invader, came from Connecticut. He was a horse-dealer carrying on business with Quebec and Montreal as well as the West Indies. He was just thirty-four; an excellent rider, a dead shot, a very fair sailor, and captain of a crack militia company. Immediately after the affair at Lexington he had turned out his company, reinforced by undergraduates from Yale, had seized the New Haven powder magazine and marched over to Cambridge, where the Massachusetts Committeemen took such a fancy to him that they made him a colonel on the spot, with full authority to raise men for an immediate attack on Ticonderoga. The opportunity seemed too good to be lost; though the Continental Congress was not then in favour of attacking Canada, as its members hoped to see the Canadians throw off the yoke of empire on their own account. The British posts on Lake Champlain were absurdly undermanned. Ticonderoga contained two hundred cannon, but only forty men, none of whom expected an attack. Crown Point had only a sergeant and a dozen men to watch its hundred and thirteen pieces. Fort George, at the head of Lake George, was no better off; and nothing more had been done to man the fortifications at St Johns on the Richelieu, where there was an excellent sloop as well as many cannon in charge of the usual sergeant’s guard. This want of preparation was no fault of Carleton’s. He had frequently reported home on the need of more men. Now he had less than a thousand regulars to defend the whole country: and not another man was to arrive till the spring of next year. When Gage was hard pressed for reinforcements at Boston in the autumn of 1774 Carleton had immediately sent him two excellent battalions that could ill be spared from Canada. But when Carleton himself made a similar request, in the autumn of 1775, Admiral Graves, to his lasting dishonour, refused to sail up to Quebec so late as October.

The first moves of the three Americans smacked strongly of a well-staged extravaganza in which the smart Yankees never failed to score off the dunderheaded British.

The Green Mountain Boys assembled on the east side of the lake. Spies walked in and out of Ticonderoga, exactly opposite, and reported to Ethan Allen that the commandant and his whole garrison of forty unsuspecting men would make an easy prey. Allen then sent eighty men down to Skenesborough (now Whitehall) at the southern end of the lake, to take the tiny post there and bring back boats for the crossing on the 10th of May. Then Arnold turned up with his colonel’s commission, but without the four hundred men it authorized him to raise. Allen, however, had made himself a colonel too, with Warner as his second-in-command. So there were no less than three colonels for two hundred and thirty men. Arnold claimed the command by virtue of his Massachusetts commission. But the Green Mountain Boys declared they would follow no colonels but their own; and so Arnold, after being threatened with arrest, was appointed something like chief of the staff, on the understanding that he would make himself generally useful with the boats. This appointment was made at dawn on the 10th of May, just as the first eighty men were advancing to the attack after crossing over under cover of night. The British sentry’s musket missed fire; whereupon he and the guard were rushed, while the rest of the garrison were surprised in their beds. Ethan Allen, who knew the fort thoroughly, hammered on the commandant’s door and summoned him to surrender 'In the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress!' The astonished commandant, seeing that resistance was impossible, put on his dressing-gown and paraded his disarmed garrison as prisoners of war. Seth Warner presently arrived with the rest of Allen’s men and soon became the hero of Crown Point, which he took with the whole of its thirteen men and a hundred and thirteen cannon. Then Arnold had his own turn, in command of an expedition against the sergeant’s guard, cannon, stores, fort, and sloop at St Johns on the Richelieu, all of which he captured in the same absurdly simple way. When he came sailing back the three victorious commanders paraded all their men and fired off many straggling fusillades of joy. In the meantime the Continental Congress at Philadelphia, with a delightful touch of unconscious humour, was gravely debating the following resolution, which was passed on the 1st of June:  That no Expedition or Incursion ought to be undertaken or made, by any Colony or body of Colonists, against or into Canada .

×

We use cookies to help make LingQ better. By visiting the site, you agree to our cookie policy.