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The Father of British Canada: a Chronicle of Carleton by William Wood, CHAPTER IV. INVASION 1775 (2)

The same Congress, however, found reasons enough for changing its mind before the month of May was out.

The British forces in Canada had already begun to move towards the threatened frontier. They had occupied and strengthened St Johns. And the Americans were beginning to fear lest the command of Lake Champlain might again fall into British hands. On the 27th of May the Congress closed the phase of individual raids and inaugurated the phase of regular invasion by commissioning General Schuyler to 'pursue any measures in Canada that may have a tendency to promote the peace and security of these Colonies.' Philip Schuyler was a distinguished member of the family whose head had formulated the 'Glorious Enterprize' of conquering New France in 1689. [Footnote: See, in this Series,  The Fighting Governor .] So it was quite in line with the family tradition for him to be under orders to 'take possession of St Johns, Montreal, and any other parts of the country,' provided always, adds the cautious Congress, that 'General Schuyler finds it practicable, and that it will not be disagreeable to the Canadians. '

A few days later Arnold was trying to get a colonelcy from the Convention of New York, whose members just then happened to be thinking of giving commissions to his rivals, the leaders of the Green Mountain Boys, while, to make the complication quite complete, these Boys themselves had every intention of electing officers on their own account.

In the meantime Connecticut, determined not to be forestalled by either friend or foe, ordered a thousand men to Ticonderoga and commissioned a general called Wooster to command them. Thus early were sown the seeds of those dissensions between Congress troops and Colony troops which nearly drove Washington mad.

Schuyler reached Ticonderoga in mid-July and assumed his position as Congressional commander-in-chief.

Unfortunately for the good of the service he had only a few hundred men with him; so Wooster, who had a thousand, thought himself the bigger general of the two. The Connecticut men followed Wooster’s lead by jeering at Schuyler’s men from New York; while the Vermonters added to the confusion by electing Seth Warner instead of Ethan Allen. In mid-August a second Congressional general arrived, making three generals and half a dozen colonels for less than fifteen hundred troops. This third general was Richard Montgomery, an ardent rebel of thirty-eight, who had been a captain in the British Army. He had sold his commission, bought an estate on the Hudson, and married a daughter of the Livingstons. The Livingstons headed the Anglo-American revolutionists in the colony of New York as the Schuylers headed the Knickerbocker Dutch. One of them was very active on the rebel side in Montreal and was soon to take the field at the head of the American 'patriots' in Canada. Montgomery was brother to the Captain Montgomery of the 43rd who was the only British officer to disgrace himself during Wolfe’s Quebec campaign, which he did by murdering his French-Canadian prisoners at Chateau Richer because they had fought disguised as Indians. [Footnote: See  The Passing of New France , p. 118.] Richard Montgomery was a much better man than his savage brother; though, as the sequel proves, he was by no means the perfect hero his American admirers would have the world believe. His great value at Ticonderoga was his professional knowledge and his ardour in the cause he had espoused. His presence 'changed the spirit of the camp.' It sadly needed change. 'Such a set of pusillanimous wretches never were collected' is his own description in a despairing letter to his wife. The 'army,' in fact, was all parts and no whole, and all the parts were mere untrained militia. Moreover, the spirit of the 'town meeting' ruled the camp. Even a battery could not be moved without consulting a council of war. Schuyler, though far more phlegmatic than Montgomery, agreed with him heartily about this and many other exasperating points. 'If Job had been a general in my situation, his memory had not been so famous for patience. '

Worn out by his worries, Schuyler fell ill and was sent to command the base at Albany.

Montgomery then succeeded to the command of the force destined for the front. The plan of invasion approved by Washington was, first, to sweep the line of the Richelieu by taking St Johns and Chambly, then to take Montreal, next to secure the line of the St Lawrence, and finally to besiege Quebec. Montgomery’s forces were to carry out all the preliminary parts alone. But Arnold was to join him at Quebec after advancing across country from the Kennebec to the Chaudiere with a flying column of Virginians and New Englanders.

Carleton opened the melancholy little session of the new Legislative Council at Quebec on the very day Montgomery arrived at Ticonderoga—the 17th of August.

When he closed it, to take up the defence of Canada, the prospect was already black enough, though it grew blacker still as time went on. Immediately on hearing the news of Ticonderoga, Crown Point, and St Johns at the end of May he had sent every available man from Quebec to Montreal, whence Colonel Templer had already sent off a hundred and forty men to St Johns, while calling for volunteers to follow. The seigneurial class came forward at once. But all attempts to turn out the militia en masse_ proved utterly futile. Fourteen years of kindly British rule had loosened the old French bonds of government and the habitants were no longer united as part of one people with the seigneurs and the clergy. The rebels had been busy spreading insidious perversions of the belated Quebec Act, poisoning the minds of the habitants against the British government, and filling their imaginations with all sorts of terrifying doubts. The habitants were ignorant, credulous, and suspicious to the last degree. The most absurd stories obtained ready credence and ran like wildfire through the province. Seven thousand Russians were said to be coming up the St Lawrence—whether as friends or foes mattered nothing compared with the awful fact that they were all outlandish bogeys. Carleton was said to have a plan for burning alive every habitant he could lay his hands on. Montgomery’s thousand were said to be five thousand, with many more to follow. And later on, when Arnold’s men came up the Kennebec, it was satisfactorily explained to most of the habitants that it was no good resisting dead-shot riflemen who were bullet-proof themselves. Carleton issued proclamations. The seigneurs waved their swords. The clergy thundered from their pulpits. But all in vain. Two months after the American exploits on Lake Champlain Carleton gave a guinea to the sentry mounted in his honour by the local militia colonel, M. de Tonnancour, because this man was the first genuine habitant he had yet seen armed in the whole district of Three Rivers. What must Carleton have felt when the home government authorized him to raise six thousand of His Majesty’s loyal French-Canadian subjects for immediate service and informed him that the arms and equipment for the first three thousand were already on the way to Canada! Seven years earlier it might still have been possible to raise French-Canadian counterparts of those Highland regiments which Wolfe had recommended and Pitt had so cordially approved. Carleton himself had recommended this excellent scheme at the proper time. But, though the home government even then agreed with him, they thought such a measure would raise more parliamentary and public clamour than they could safely face. The chance once lost was lost for ever.

Carleton had done what he could to keep the enemy at arm’s length from Montreal by putting every available man into Chambly and St Johns.

He knew nothing of Arnold’s force till it actually reached Quebec in November. Quebec was thought secure for the time being, and so was left with a handful of men under Cramahe. Montreal had a few regulars and a hundred 'Royal Emigrants,' mostly old Highlanders who had settled along the New York frontier after the Conquest. For the rest, it had many American and a few British sympathizers ready to fly at each others' throats and a good many neutrals ready to curry favour with the winners. Sorel was a mere post without any effective garrison. Chambly was held by only eighty men under Major Stopford. But its strong stone fort was well armed and quite proof against anything except siege artillery; while its little garrison consisted of good regulars who were well provisioned for a siege. The mass of Carleton’s little force was at St Johns under Major Preston, who had 500 men of the 7th and 26th (Royal Fusiliers and Cameronians), 80 gunners, and 120 volunteers, mostly French-Canadian gentlemen. Preston was an excellent officer, and his seven hundred men were able to give a very good account of themselves as soldiers. But the fort was not nearly so strong as the one at Chambly; it had no natural advantages of position; and it was short of both stores and provisions.


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The same Congress, however, found reasons enough for changing its mind before the month of May was out.

The British forces in Canada had already begun to move towards the threatened frontier. They had occupied and strengthened St Johns. And the Americans were beginning to fear lest the command of Lake Champlain might again fall into British hands. On the 27th of May the Congress closed the phase of individual raids and inaugurated the phase of regular invasion by commissioning General Schuyler to 'pursue any measures in Canada that may have a tendency to promote the peace and security of these Colonies.' Philip Schuyler was a distinguished member of the family whose head had formulated the 'Glorious Enterprize' of conquering New France in 1689. [Footnote: See, in this Series,  The Fighting Governor .] So it was quite in line with the family tradition for him to be under orders to 'take possession of St Johns, Montreal, and any other parts of the country,' provided always, adds the cautious Congress, that 'General Schuyler finds it practicable, and that it will not be disagreeable to the Canadians. '

A few days later Arnold was trying to get a colonelcy from the Convention of New York, whose members just then happened to be thinking of giving commissions to his rivals, the leaders of the Green Mountain Boys, while, to make the complication quite complete, these Boys themselves had every intention of electing officers on their own account.

In the meantime Connecticut, determined not to be forestalled by either friend or foe, ordered a thousand men to Ticonderoga and commissioned a general called Wooster to command them. Thus early were sown the seeds of those dissensions between Congress troops and Colony troops which nearly drove Washington mad.

Schuyler reached Ticonderoga in mid-July and assumed his position as Congressional commander-in-chief.

Unfortunately for the good of the service he had only a few hundred men with him; so Wooster, who had a thousand, thought himself the bigger general of the two. The Connecticut men followed Wooster’s lead by jeering at Schuyler’s men from New York; while the Vermonters added to the confusion by electing Seth Warner instead of Ethan Allen. In mid-August a second Congressional general arrived, making three generals and half a dozen colonels for less than fifteen hundred troops. This third general was Richard Montgomery, an ardent rebel of thirty-eight, who had been a captain in the British Army. He had sold his commission, bought an estate on the Hudson, and married a daughter of the Livingstons. The Livingstons headed the Anglo-American revolutionists in the colony of New York as the Schuylers headed the Knickerbocker Dutch. One of them was very active on the rebel side in Montreal and was soon to take the field at the head of the American 'patriots' in Canada. Montgomery was brother to the Captain Montgomery of the 43rd who was the only British officer to disgrace himself during Wolfe’s Quebec campaign, which he did by murdering his French-Canadian prisoners at Chateau Richer because they had fought disguised as Indians. [Footnote: See  The Passing of New France , p. 118.] Richard Montgomery was a much better man than his savage brother; though, as the sequel proves, he was by no means the perfect hero his American admirers would have the world believe. His great value at Ticonderoga was his professional knowledge and his ardour in the cause he had espoused. His presence 'changed the spirit of the camp.' It sadly needed change. 'Such a set of pusillanimous wretches never were collected' is his own description in a despairing letter to his wife. The 'army,' in fact, was all parts and no whole, and all the parts were mere untrained militia. Moreover, the spirit of the 'town meeting' ruled the camp. Even a battery could not be moved without consulting a council of war. Schuyler, though far more phlegmatic than Montgomery, agreed with him heartily about this and many other exasperating points. 'If Job had been a general in my situation, his memory had not been so famous for patience. '

Worn out by his worries, Schuyler fell ill and was sent to command the base at Albany.

Montgomery then succeeded to the command of the force destined for the front. The plan of invasion approved by Washington was, first, to sweep the line of the Richelieu by taking St Johns and Chambly, then to take Montreal, next to secure the line of the St Lawrence, and finally to besiege Quebec. Montgomery’s forces were to carry out all the preliminary parts alone. But Arnold was to join him at Quebec after advancing across country from the Kennebec to the Chaudiere with a flying column of Virginians and New Englanders.

Carleton opened the melancholy little session of the new Legislative Council at Quebec on the very day Montgomery arrived at Ticonderoga—the 17th of August.

When he closed it, to take up the defence of Canada, the prospect was already black enough, though it grew blacker still as time went on. Immediately on hearing the news of Ticonderoga, Crown Point, and St Johns at the end of May he had sent every available man from Quebec to Montreal, whence Colonel Templer had already sent off a hundred and forty men to St Johns, while calling for volunteers to follow. The seigneurial class came forward at once. But all attempts to turn out the militia en masse_ proved utterly futile. Fourteen years of kindly British rule had loosened the old French bonds of government and the habitants were no longer united as part of one people with the seigneurs and the clergy. The rebels had been busy spreading insidious perversions of the belated Quebec Act, poisoning the minds of the habitants against the British government, and filling their imaginations with all sorts of terrifying doubts. The habitants were ignorant, credulous, and suspicious to the last degree. The most absurd stories obtained ready credence and ran like wildfire through the province. Seven thousand Russians were said to be coming up the St Lawrence—whether as friends or foes mattered nothing compared with the awful fact that they were all outlandish bogeys. Carleton was said to have a plan for burning alive every habitant he could lay his hands on. Montgomery’s thousand were said to be five thousand, with many more to follow. And later on, when Arnold’s men came up the Kennebec, it was satisfactorily explained to most of the habitants that it was no good resisting dead-shot riflemen who were bullet-proof themselves. Carleton issued proclamations. The seigneurs waved their swords. The clergy thundered from their pulpits. But all in vain. Two months after the American exploits on Lake Champlain Carleton gave a guinea to the sentry mounted in his honour by the local militia colonel, M. de Tonnancour, because this man was the first genuine habitant he had yet seen armed in the whole district of Three Rivers. What must Carleton have felt when the home government authorized him to raise six thousand of His Majesty’s loyal French-Canadian subjects for immediate service and informed him that the arms and equipment for the first three thousand were already on the way to Canada! Seven years earlier it might still have been possible to raise French-Canadian counterparts of those Highland regiments which Wolfe had recommended and Pitt had so cordially approved. Carleton himself had recommended this excellent scheme at the proper time. But, though the home government even then agreed with him, they thought such a measure would raise more parliamentary and public clamour than they could safely face. The chance once lost was lost for ever.

Carleton had done what he could to keep the enemy at arm’s length from Montreal by putting every available man into Chambly and St Johns.

He knew nothing of Arnold’s force till it actually reached Quebec in November. Quebec was thought secure for the time being, and so was left with a handful of men under Cramahe. Montreal had a few regulars and a hundred 'Royal Emigrants,' mostly old Highlanders who had settled along the New York frontier after the Conquest. For the rest, it had many American and a few British sympathizers ready to fly at each others' throats and a good many neutrals ready to curry favour with the winners. Sorel was a mere post without any effective garrison. Chambly was held by only eighty men under Major Stopford. But its strong stone fort was well armed and quite proof against anything except siege artillery; while its little garrison consisted of good regulars who were well provisioned for a siege. The mass of Carleton’s little force was at St Johns under Major Preston, who had 500 men of the 7th and 26th (Royal Fusiliers and Cameronians), 80 gunners, and 120 volunteers, mostly French-Canadian gentlemen. Preston was an excellent officer, and his seven hundred men were able to give a very good account of themselves as soldiers. But the fort was not nearly so strong as the one at Chambly; it had no natural advantages of position; and it was short of both stores and provisions.

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