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The Father of British Canada: a Chronicle of Carleton by William Wood, CHAPTER V. BELEAGUERMENT 1775-1776 (2)

 

The first decisive action took place at Pres-de-Ville.

The guard there consisted of fifty men—John Coffin, who was a merchant of Quebec, Sergeant Hugh McQuarters of the Royal Artillery, Captain Barnsfair, a merchant skipper, with fifteen mates and skippers like himself, and thirty French Canadians under Captain Chabot and Lieutenant Picard. These fifty men had to guard a front of only as many feet. On their right Cape Diamond rose almost sheer. On their left raged the stormy St Lawrence. They had a tiny block-house next to the cliff and four small guns on the barricade, all double-charged with canister and grape. They had heard the dropping shots on the top of the Cape for nearly an hour and had been quick to notice the change to a regular hot fire. But they had no idea whether their own post was to be attacked or not till they suddenly saw the head of Montgomery’s column halting within fifty paces of them. A man came forward cautiously and looked at the barricade. The storm was in his face. The defences were wreathed in whirling snow. And the men inside kept silent as the grave. When he went back a little group stood for a couple of minutes in hurried consultation. Then Montgomery waved his sword, called out 'Come on, brave boys, Quebec is ours!' and led the charge. The defenders let the Americans get about half-way before Barnsfair shouted 'Fire!' Then the guns and muskets volleyed together, cutting down the whole front of the densely massed column. Montgomery, his two staff-officers, and his ten leading men were instantly killed. Some more farther back were wounded. And just as the fifty British fired their second round the rest of the five hundred Americans turned and ran in wild confusion.

A few minutes later a man whose identity was never established came running from the Lower Town to say that Arnold’s men had taken the Sault-au-Matelot barricade.

If this was true it meant that the Pres-de-Ville fifty would be caught between two fires. Some of them made as if to run back and reach Mountain Hill before the Americans could cut them off. But Coffin at once threatened to kill the first man to move; and by the time an artillery officer had arrived with reinforcements perfect order had been restored. This officer, finding he was not wanted there, sent back to know where else he was to go, and received an answer telling him to hurry to the Sault-au-Matelot. When he arrived there, less than half a mile off, he found that desperate street fighting had been going on for over an hour.

Arnold’s advance had begun at the same time as Livingston’s demonstration and Montgomery’s attack.

But his task was very different and the time required much longer. There were three obstacles to be overcome. First, his men had to run the gauntlet of the fire from the bluejackets ranged along the Grand Battery, which faced the St Charles at its mouth and overlooked the narrow little street of Sous-le-Cap at a height of fifty or sixty feet. Then they had to take the small advanced barricade, which stood a hundred yards on the St Charles side of the actual Sault-au-Matelot or Sailor’s Leap, which is the north-easterly point of the Quebec promontory and nearly a hundred feet high. Finally, they had to round this point and attack the regular Sault-au-Matelot barricade. This second barricade was about a hundred yards long, from the rock to the river. It crossed Sault-au-Matelot Street and St Peter Street, which were the same then as now. But it ended on a wharf half-way down the modern St James Street, as the outer half of this street was then a natural strand completely covered at high tide. It was much closer than the Pres-de-Ville barricade was to Mountain Hill, at the top of which Carleton held his general reserve ready in the Place d’Armes; and it was fairly strong in material and armament. But it was at first defended by only a hundred men.

The American forlorn hope, under Captain Oswald, got past most of the Grand Battery unscathed.

But by the time the main body was following under Morgan the British blue-jackets were firing down from the walls at less than point-blank range. The driving snow, the clumps of bushes on the cliff, and the little houses in the street below all gave the Americans some welcome cover. But many of them were hit; while the gun they were towing through the drifts on a sleigh stuck fast and had to be abandoned. Captain Dearborn, the future commander-in-chief of the American army in the War of 1812, noted in his diary that he 'met the wounded men very thick' as he was bringing up the rear. When the forlorn hope reached the advanced barricade Arnold halted it till the supports had come up. The loss of the gun and the worrying his main body was receiving from the sailors along the Grand Battery spoilt his original plan of smashing in the barricade by shell fire while Morgan circled round its outer flank on the ice of the tidal flats and took it in rear. So he decided on a frontal attack. When he thought he had a fair chance he stepped to the front and shouted, 'Now, boys, all together, rush!' But before he could climb the barricade he was shot through the leg. For some time he propped himself up against a house and, leaning on his rifle, continued encouraging his men, who were soon firing through the port-holes as well as over the top. But presently growing faint from loss of blood he had to be carried off the field to the General Hospital on the banks of the St Charles.

The men now called out for a lead from Morgan, who climbed a ladder, leaped the top, and fell under a gun inside.

In another minute the whole forlorn hope had followed him, while the main body came close behind. The guard, not strong in numbers and weak in being composed of young militiamen, gave way but kept on firing. 'Down with your arms if you want quarter!' yelled Morgan, whose men were in overwhelming strength; and the guard surrendered. A little way beyond, just under the bluff of the Sault-au-Matelot, the British supports, many of whom were Seminary students, also surrendered to Morgan, who at once pressed on, round the corner of the Sault-au-Matelot, and halted in sight of the second or regular barricade. What was to be done now? Where was Montgomery? How strong was the barricade; and had it been reinforced? It could not be turned because the cliff rose sheer on one flank while the icy St Lawrence lashed the other. Had Morgan known that there were only a hundred men behind it when he attacked its advanced barricade he might have pressed on at all costs and carried it by assault. But it looked strong, there were guns on its platforms, and it ran across two streets. His hurried council of war over-ruled him, as Montgomery’s council had over-ruled the original plan of storming the walls; and so his men began a desultory fight in the streets and from the houses.

This was fatal to American success.

The original British hundred were rapidly reinforced. The artillery officer who had found that he was not needed at the Pres-de-Ville after Montgomery’s defeat, and who had hurried across the intervening half-mile, now occupied the corner houses, enlarged the embrasures, and trained his guns on the houses occupied by the enemy. Detachments of Fusiliers and Royal Emigrants also arrived, as did the thirty-five masters and mates of merchant vessels who were not on guard with Barnsfair at the Pres-de-Ville. Thus, what with soldiers, sailors, and militiamen of both races, the main Sault-au-Matelot barricade was made secure against being rushed like the outer one. But there was plenty of fighting, with some confusion at close quarters caused by the British uniforms which both sides were wearing. A Herculean sailor seized the first ladder the Americans set against the barricade, hauled it up, and set it against the window of a house out of the far end of which the enemy were firing. Major Nairne and Lieutenant Dambourges of the Royal Emigrants at once climbed in at the head of a storming-party and wild work followed with the bayonet. All the Americans inside were either killed or captured. Meanwhile a vigorous British nine-pounder had been turned on another house they occupied. This house was likewise battered in, so that its surviving occupants had to run into the street, where they were well plied with musketry by the regulars and militiamen. The chance for a sortie then seeming favourable, Lieutenant Anderson of the Navy headed his thirty-five merchant mates and skippers in a rush along Sault-au-Matelot Street. But his effort was premature. Morgan shot him dead, and Morgan’s Virginians drove the seamen back inside the barricade.

Carleton had of course kept in perfect touch with every phase of the attack and defence; and now, fearing no surprise against the walls in the growing daylight, had decided on taking Arnold’s men in rear.

To do this he sent Captain Lawes of the Royal Engineers and Captain McDougall of the Royal Emigrants with a hundred and twenty men out through Palace Gate. This detachment had hardly reached the advanced barricade before they fell in with the enemy’s rearguard, which they took by complete surprise and captured to a man. Leaving McDougall to secure these prisoners before following on, Lawes pushed eagerly forward, round the corner of the Sault-au-Matelot cliff, and, running in among the Americans facing the main barricade, called out, 'You are all my prisoners!' 'No, we’re not; you’re ours!' they answered. 'No, no,' replied Lawes, as coolly as if on parade 'don’t mistake yourselves, I vow to God you’re mine!' 'But where are your men?' asked the astonished Americans; and then Lawes suddenly found that he was utterly alone! The roar of the storm and the work of securing the prisoners on the far side of the advanced barricade had prevented the men who should have followed him from understanding that only a few were needed with McDougall. But Lawes put a bold face on it and answered, 'O, Ho, make yourselves easy! My men are all round here and they’ll be with you in a twinkling.' He was then seized and disarmed. Some of the Americans called out, 'Kill him! Kill him!' But a Major Meigs protected him. The whole parley had lasted about ten minutes when McDougall came running up with the missing men, released Lawes, and made prisoners of the nearest Americans. Lawes at once stepped forward and called on the rest to surrender. Morgan was for cutting his way through. A few men ran round by the wharf and escaped on the tidal flats of the St Charles. But, after a hurried consultation, the main body, including Morgan, laid down their arms. This was decisive. The British had won the fight.

The complete British loss in killed and wounded was wonderfully small, only thirty, just one-tenth of the corresponding American loss, which was large out of all proportion.

Nearly half of the fifteen hundred Americans had gone—over four hundred prisoners and about three hundred killed and wounded. Nor were the mere numbers the most telling point about it; for the worse half escaped—Livingston’s Montreal 'patriots,' many of whom had done very little fighting, Montgomery’s time-expired New Yorkers, most of whom wanted to go home, and Jerry Duggan’s miscellaneous rabble, all of whom wanted a maximum of plunder with a minimum of war.

The British victory was as nearly perfect as could have been desired.

It marked the turn of the tide in a desperate campaign which might have resulted in the total loss of Canada. And it was of the greatest significance and happiest augury because all the racial elements of this new and vast domain had here united for the first time in defence of that which was to be their common heritage. In Carleton’s little garrison of regulars and militia, of bluejackets, marines, and merchant seamen, there were Frenchmen and French Canadians, there were Englishmen, Irishmen, Scotsmen, Welshmen, Orcadians, and Channel Islanders, there were a few Newfoundlanders, and there mere a good many of those steadfast Royal Emigrants who may be fitly called the forerunners of the United Empire Loyalists. Yet, in spite of this remarkable significance, no public memorial of Carleton has ever been set up; and it was only in the twentieth century that the Dominion first thought of commemorating his most pregnant victory by placing tablets to mark the sites of the two famous barricades.

As soon as things had quieted down within the walls Carleton sent out search-parties to bring in the dead for decent burial and to see if any of the wounded had been overlooked.

James Thompson, the assistant engineer, saw a frozen hand protruding from a snowdrift at Pres-de-Ville. It was Montgomery’s. The thirteen bodies were dug out and Thompson was ordered to have a 'genteel coffin made for Mr Montgomery,' who was buried in the wall just above St Louis Gate by the Anglican chaplain. Thompson kept Montgomery’s sword, which was given to the Livingston family more than a century later.

The beleaguerment continued, in a half-hearted way, till the spring.

The Americans received various small reinforcements, which eventually brought their total up to what it had been under Montgomery’s command. But there were no more assaults. Arnold grew dissatisfied and finally went to Montreal; while Wooster, the new general, who arrived on the 1st of April, was himself succeeded by Thomas, an ex-apothecary, on the 1st of May. The suburb of St Roch was burnt down after the victory; so the American snipers were bereft of some very favourite cover, and this, with other causes, kept the bulk of the besiegers at an ineffective distance from the walls.

The British garrison had certain little troubles of its own; for discipline always tends to become irksome after a great effort.

Carleton was obliged to stop the retailing of spirits for fear the slacker men would be getting out of hand. The guards and duties were made as easy as possible, especially for the militia. But the 'snow-shovel parade' was an imperative necessity. The winter was very stormy, and the drifts would have frequently covered the walls and even the guns if they had not promptly been dug out. The cold was also unusually severe. One early morning in January an angry officer was asking a sentry why he hadn’t challenged him, when the sentry said, 'God bless your Honour! and I’m glad you’re come, for I’m blind!' Then it was found that his eyelids were frozen fast together.

News came in occasionally from the outside world.

There was intense indignation among the garrison when they learned that the American commanders in Montreal were imprisoning every Canadian officer who would not surrender his commission. Such an unheard-of outrage was worthy of Walker. But others must have thought of it; for Walker was now in Philadelphia giving all the evidence he could against Prescott and other British officers. Bad news for the rebels was naturally welcomed, especially anything about their growing failure to raise troops in Canada. On hearing of Montgomery’s defeat the Continental Congress had passed a resolution, addressed to the 'Inhabitants of Canada' declaring that 'we will never abandon you to the unrelenting fury of your and our enemies.' But there were no trained soldiers to back this up; and the raw militia, though often filled with zeal and courage, could do nothing to redress the increasingly adverse balance. In the middle of March the Americans sent in a summons. But Carleton refused to receive it; and the garrison put a wooden horse and a bundle of hay on the walls with a placard bearing the inscription, 'When this horse has eaten this bunch of hay we will surrender.' Some excellent practice made with 13-inch shells sent the Americans flying from their new battery at Levis; and by the 17th of March one of the several exultant British diarists, whose anonymity must have covered an Irish name, was able to record that 'this, being St Patrick’s Day, the Governor, who is a true Hibernian, has requested the garrison to put off keeping it till the 17th of May, when he promises, they shall be enabled to do it properly, and with the usual solemnities. '

A fortnight later a plot concerted between the American prisoners and their friends outside was discovered just in time.

With tools supplied by traitors they were to work their way out of their quarters, overpower the guard at the nearest gate, set fire to the nearest houses in three different streets, turn the nearest guns inwards on the town, and shout 'Liberty for ever!' as an additional signal to the storming-party that was to be waiting to confirm their success. Carleton seized the chance of turning this scheme against the enemy. Three safe bonfires were set ablaze. The marked guns were turned inwards and fired at the town with blank charges. And the preconcerted shout was raised with a will. But the besiegers never stirred. After this the Old-Countrymen among the prisoners, who had taken the oath and enlisted in the garrison, were disarmed and confined, while the rest were more strictly watched.

Two brave attempts were made by French Canadians to reach Quebec with reinforcements, one headed by a seigneur, the other by a parish priest.

Carleton had sent word to M. de Beaujeu, seigneur of Crane Island, forty miles below Quebec, asking him to see if he could cut off the American detachment on the Levis shore. De Beaujeu raised three hundred and fifty men. But Arnold sent over reinforcements. A habitant betrayed his fellow-countrymen’s advance-guard. A dozen French Canadians were then killed or wounded while forty were taken prisoners; whereupon the rest dispersed to their homes. The other attempt was made by Father Bailly, whose little force of about fifty men was also betrayed. Entrapped in a country-house these men fought bravely till nearly half their number had been killed or wounded and the valiant priest had been mortally hit. They then surrendered to a much stronger force which had lost more men than they.

This was on the 6th of April, just before Arnold was leaving in disgust.

Wooster made an effort to use his new artillery to advantage by converging the fire of three batteries, one close in on the Heights of Abraham, another from across the mouth of the St Charles, and the third from Levis. But the combination failed: the batteries were too light for the work and overmatched by the guns on the walls, the practice was bad, and the effect was nil. On the 3rd of May the new general, Thomas, an enterprising man, tried a fireship, which was meant to destroy all the shipping in the Cul de Sac. It came on, under full sail, in a very threatening manner. But the crew lost their nerve at the critical moment, took to the boats too soon, and forgot to lash the helm. The vessel immediately flew up into the wind and, as the tidal stream was already changing, began to drift away from the Cul de Sac just when she burst into flame. The result, as described by an enthusiastic British diarist, was that 'she affoard’d a very pritty prospect while she was floating down the River, every now & then sending up Sky rackets, firing of Cannon or bursting of Shells, & so continued till She disappear’d in the Channell. '

Three days later, on the 6th of May, when the beleaguerment had lasted precisely five months, the sound of distant gunfire came faintly up the St Lawrence with the first breath of the dawn wind from the east.

The sentries listened to make sure; then called the sergeants of the guards, who sent word to the officers on duty, who, in their turn, sent word to Carleton. By this time there could be no mistake. The breeze was freshening; the sound was gradually nearing Quebec; and there could hardly be room for doubting that it came from the vanguard of the British fleet. The drums beat to arms, the church bells rang, the news flew round to every household in Quebec; and before the tops of the  Surprise frigate were seen over the Point of Levy every battery was fully manned, every battalion was standing ready on the Grand Parade, and every non-combatant man, woman, and child was lining the seaward wall. The regulation shot was fired across her bows as she neared the city; whereupon she fired three guns to leeward, hoisted the private signal, and showed the Union Jack. Then, at last, a cheer went up that told both friend and foe of British victory and American defeat. By a strange coincidence the parole for this triumphal day was St George, while the parole appointed for the victorious New Year’s Eve had been St Denis; so that the patron saints of France and England happen to be associated with the two great days on which the stronghold of Canada was saved by land and sea.

The same tide brought in two other men-of-war.

Some soldiers of the 29th, who were on board the  Surprise , were immediately landed, together with the marines from all three vessels. Carleton called for volunteers from the militia to attack the Americans at once; and nearly every man, both of the French- and of the English-speaking corps, stepped forward. There was joy in every heart that the day for striking back had come at last. The columns marched gaily through the gates and deployed into line at the double on the Heights outside. The Americans fired a few hurried shots and then ran for dear life, leaving their dinners cooking, and, in some cases, even their arms behind them. The Plains were covered with flying enemies and strewn with every sort of impediment to flight, from a cannon to a loaf of bread. Quebec had been saved by British sea-power; and, with it, the whole vast dominion of which it was the key.


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The first decisive action took place at Pres-de-Ville.

The guard there consisted of fifty men—John Coffin, who was a merchant of Quebec, Sergeant Hugh McQuarters of the Royal Artillery, Captain Barnsfair, a merchant skipper, with fifteen mates and skippers like himself, and thirty French Canadians under Captain Chabot and Lieutenant Picard. These fifty men had to guard a front of only as many feet. On their right Cape Diamond rose almost sheer. On their left raged the stormy St Lawrence. They had a tiny block-house next to the cliff and four small guns on the barricade, all double-charged with canister and grape. They had heard the dropping shots on the top of the Cape for nearly an hour and had been quick to notice the change to a regular hot fire. But they had no idea whether their own post was to be attacked or not till they suddenly saw the head of Montgomery’s column halting within fifty paces of them. A man came forward cautiously and looked at the barricade. The storm was in his face. The defences were wreathed in whirling snow. And the men inside kept silent as the grave. When he went back a little group stood for a couple of minutes in hurried consultation. Then Montgomery waved his sword, called out 'Come on, brave boys, Quebec is ours!' and led the charge. The defenders let the Americans get about half-way before Barnsfair shouted 'Fire!' Then the guns and muskets volleyed together, cutting down the whole front of the densely massed column. Montgomery, his two staff-officers, and his ten leading men were instantly killed. Some more farther back were wounded. And just as the fifty British fired their second round the rest of the five hundred Americans turned and ran in wild confusion.

A few minutes later a man whose identity was never established came running from the Lower Town to say that Arnold’s men had taken the Sault-au-Matelot barricade.

If this was true it meant that the Pres-de-Ville fifty would be caught between two fires. Some of them made as if to run back and reach Mountain Hill before the Americans could cut them off. But Coffin at once threatened to kill the first man to move; and by the time an artillery officer had arrived with reinforcements perfect order had been restored. This officer, finding he was not wanted there, sent back to know where else he was to go, and received an answer telling him to hurry to the Sault-au-Matelot. When he arrived there, less than half a mile off, he found that desperate street fighting had been going on for over an hour.

Arnold’s advance had begun at the same time as Livingston’s demonstration and Montgomery’s attack.

But his task was very different and the time required much longer. There were three obstacles to be overcome. First, his men had to run the gauntlet of the fire from the bluejackets ranged along the Grand Battery, which faced the St Charles at its mouth and overlooked the narrow little street of Sous-le-Cap at a height of fifty or sixty feet. Then they had to take the small advanced barricade, which stood a hundred yards on the St Charles side of the actual Sault-au-Matelot or Sailor’s Leap, which is the north-easterly point of the Quebec promontory and nearly a hundred feet high. Finally, they had to round this point and attack the regular Sault-au-Matelot barricade. This second barricade was about a hundred yards long, from the rock to the river. It crossed Sault-au-Matelot Street and St Peter Street, which were the same then as now. But it ended on a wharf half-way down the modern St James Street, as the outer half of this street was then a natural strand completely covered at high tide. It was much closer than the Pres-de-Ville barricade was to Mountain Hill, at the top of which Carleton held his general reserve ready in the Place d’Armes; and it was fairly strong in material and armament. But it was at first defended by only a hundred men.

The American forlorn hope, under Captain Oswald, got past most of the Grand Battery unscathed.

But by the time the main body was following under Morgan the British blue-jackets were firing down from the walls at less than point-blank range. The driving snow, the clumps of bushes on the cliff, and the little houses in the street below all gave the Americans some welcome cover. But many of them were hit; while the gun they were towing through the drifts on a sleigh stuck fast and had to be abandoned. Captain Dearborn, the future commander-in-chief of the American army in the War of 1812, noted in his diary that he 'met the wounded men very thick' as he was bringing up the rear. When the forlorn hope reached the advanced barricade Arnold halted it till the supports had come up. The loss of the gun and the worrying his main body was receiving from the sailors along the Grand Battery spoilt his original plan of smashing in the barricade by shell fire while Morgan circled round its outer flank on the ice of the tidal flats and took it in rear. So he decided on a frontal attack. When he thought he had a fair chance he stepped to the front and shouted, 'Now, boys, all together, rush!' But before he could climb the barricade he was shot through the leg. For some time he propped himself up against a house and, leaning on his rifle, continued encouraging his men, who were soon firing through the port-holes as well as over the top. But presently growing faint from loss of blood he had to be carried off the field to the General Hospital on the banks of the St Charles.

The men now called out for a lead from Morgan, who climbed a ladder, leaped the top, and fell under a gun inside.

In another minute the whole forlorn hope had followed him, while the main body came close behind. The guard, not strong in numbers and weak in being composed of young militiamen, gave way but kept on firing. 'Down with your arms if you want quarter!' yelled Morgan, whose men were in overwhelming strength; and the guard surrendered. A little way beyond, just under the bluff of the Sault-au-Matelot, the British supports, many of whom were Seminary students, also surrendered to Morgan, who at once pressed on, round the corner of the Sault-au-Matelot, and halted in sight of the second or regular barricade. What was to be done now? Where was Montgomery? How strong was the barricade; and had it been reinforced? It could not be turned because the cliff rose sheer on one flank while the icy St Lawrence lashed the other. Had Morgan known that there were only a hundred men behind it when he attacked its advanced barricade he might have pressed on at all costs and carried it by assault. But it looked strong, there were guns on its platforms, and it ran across two streets. His hurried council of war over-ruled him, as Montgomery’s council had over-ruled the original plan of storming the walls; and so his men began a desultory fight in the streets and from the houses.

This was fatal to American success.

The original British hundred were rapidly reinforced. The artillery officer who had found that he was not needed at the Pres-de-Ville after Montgomery’s defeat, and who had hurried across the intervening half-mile, now occupied the corner houses, enlarged the embrasures, and trained his guns on the houses occupied by the enemy. Detachments of Fusiliers and Royal Emigrants also arrived, as did the thirty-five masters and mates of merchant vessels who were not on guard with Barnsfair at the Pres-de-Ville. Thus, what with soldiers, sailors, and militiamen of both races, the main Sault-au-Matelot barricade was made secure against being rushed like the outer one. But there was plenty of fighting, with some confusion at close quarters caused by the British uniforms which both sides were wearing. A Herculean sailor seized the first ladder the Americans set against the barricade, hauled it up, and set it against the window of a house out of the far end of which the enemy were firing. Major Nairne and Lieutenant Dambourges of the Royal Emigrants at once climbed in at the head of a storming-party and wild work followed with the bayonet. All the Americans inside were either killed or captured. Meanwhile a vigorous British nine-pounder had been turned on another house they occupied. This house was likewise battered in, so that its surviving occupants had to run into the street, where they were well plied with musketry by the regulars and militiamen. The chance for a sortie then seeming favourable, Lieutenant Anderson of the Navy headed his thirty-five merchant mates and skippers in a rush along Sault-au-Matelot Street. But his effort was premature. Morgan shot him dead, and Morgan’s Virginians drove the seamen back inside the barricade.

Carleton had of course kept in perfect touch with every phase of the attack and defence; and now, fearing no surprise against the walls in the growing daylight, had decided on taking Arnold’s men in rear.

To do this he sent Captain Lawes of the Royal Engineers and Captain McDougall of the Royal Emigrants with a hundred and twenty men out through Palace Gate. This detachment had hardly reached the advanced barricade before they fell in with the enemy’s rearguard, which they took by complete surprise and captured to a man. Leaving McDougall to secure these prisoners before following on, Lawes pushed eagerly forward, round the corner of the Sault-au-Matelot cliff, and, running in among the Americans facing the main barricade, called out, 'You are all my prisoners!' 'No, we’re not; you’re ours!' they answered. 'No, no,' replied Lawes, as coolly as if on parade 'don’t mistake yourselves, I vow to God you’re mine!' 'But where are your men?' asked the astonished Americans; and then Lawes suddenly found that he was utterly alone! The roar of the storm and the work of securing the prisoners on the far side of the advanced barricade had prevented the men who should have followed him from understanding that only a few were needed with McDougall. But Lawes put a bold face on it and answered, 'O, Ho, make yourselves easy! My men are all round here and they’ll be with you in a twinkling.' He was then seized and disarmed. Some of the Americans called out, 'Kill him! Kill him!' But a Major Meigs protected him. The whole parley had lasted about ten minutes when McDougall came running up with the missing men, released Lawes, and made prisoners of the nearest Americans. Lawes at once stepped forward and called on the rest to surrender. Morgan was for cutting his way through. A few men ran round by the wharf and escaped on the tidal flats of the St Charles. But, after a hurried consultation, the main body, including Morgan, laid down their arms. This was decisive. The British had won the fight.

The complete British loss in killed and wounded was wonderfully small, only thirty, just one-tenth of the corresponding American loss, which was large out of all proportion.

Nearly half of the fifteen hundred Americans had gone—over four hundred prisoners and about three hundred killed and wounded. Nor were the mere numbers the most telling point about it; for the worse half escaped—Livingston’s Montreal 'patriots,' many of whom had done very little fighting, Montgomery’s time-expired New Yorkers, most of whom wanted to go home, and Jerry Duggan’s miscellaneous rabble, all of whom wanted a maximum of plunder with a minimum of war.

The British victory was as nearly perfect as could have been desired.

It marked the turn of the tide in a desperate campaign which might have resulted in the total loss of Canada. And it was of the greatest significance and happiest augury because all the racial elements of this new and vast domain had here united for the first time in defence of that which was to be their common heritage. In Carleton’s little garrison of regulars and militia, of bluejackets, marines, and merchant seamen, there were Frenchmen and French Canadians, there were Englishmen, Irishmen, Scotsmen, Welshmen, Orcadians, and Channel Islanders, there were a few Newfoundlanders, and there mere a good many of those steadfast Royal Emigrants who may be fitly called the forerunners of the United Empire Loyalists. Yet, in spite of this remarkable significance, no public memorial of Carleton has ever been set up; and it was only in the twentieth century that the Dominion first thought of commemorating his most pregnant victory by placing tablets to mark the sites of the two famous barricades.

As soon as things had quieted down within the walls Carleton sent out search-parties to bring in the dead for decent burial and to see if any of the wounded had been overlooked.

James Thompson, the assistant engineer, saw a frozen hand protruding from a snowdrift at Pres-de-Ville. It was Montgomery’s. The thirteen bodies were dug out and Thompson was ordered to have a 'genteel coffin made for Mr Montgomery,' who was buried in the wall just above St Louis Gate by the Anglican chaplain. Thompson kept Montgomery’s sword, which was given to the Livingston family more than a century later.

The beleaguerment continued, in a half-hearted way, till the spring.

The Americans received various small reinforcements, which eventually brought their total up to what it had been under Montgomery’s command. But there were no more assaults. Arnold grew dissatisfied and finally went to Montreal; while Wooster, the new general, who arrived on the 1st of April, was himself succeeded by Thomas, an ex-apothecary, on the 1st of May. The suburb of St Roch was burnt down after the victory; so the American snipers were bereft of some very favourite cover, and this, with other causes, kept the bulk of the besiegers at an ineffective distance from the walls.

The British garrison had certain little troubles of its own; for discipline always tends to become irksome after a great effort.

Carleton was obliged to stop the retailing of spirits for fear the slacker men would be getting out of hand. The guards and duties were made as easy as possible, especially for the militia. But the 'snow-shovel parade' was an imperative necessity. The winter was very stormy, and the drifts would have frequently covered the walls and even the guns if they had not promptly been dug out. The cold was also unusually severe. One early morning in January an angry officer was asking a sentry why he hadn’t challenged him, when the sentry said, 'God bless your Honour! and I’m glad you’re come, for I’m blind!' Then it was found that his eyelids were frozen fast together.

News came in occasionally from the outside world.

There was intense indignation among the garrison when they learned that the American commanders in Montreal were imprisoning every Canadian officer who would not surrender his commission. Such an unheard-of outrage was worthy of Walker. But others must have thought of it; for Walker was now in Philadelphia giving all the evidence he could against Prescott and other British officers. Bad news for the rebels was naturally welcomed, especially anything about their growing failure to raise troops in Canada. On hearing of Montgomery’s defeat the Continental Congress had passed a resolution, addressed to the 'Inhabitants of Canada' declaring that 'we will never abandon you to the unrelenting fury of your and our enemies.' But there were no trained soldiers to back this up; and the raw militia, though often filled with zeal and courage, could do nothing to redress the increasingly adverse balance. In the middle of March the Americans sent in a summons. But Carleton refused to receive it; and the garrison put a wooden horse and a bundle of hay on the walls with a placard bearing the inscription, 'When this horse has eaten this bunch of hay we will surrender.' Some excellent practice made with 13-inch shells sent the Americans flying from their new battery at Levis; and by the 17th of March one of the several exultant British diarists, whose anonymity must have covered an Irish name, was able to record that 'this, being St Patrick’s Day, the Governor, who is a true Hibernian, has requested the garrison to put off keeping it till the 17th of May, when he promises, they shall be enabled to do it properly, and with the usual solemnities. '

A fortnight later a plot concerted between the American prisoners and their friends outside was discovered just in time.

With tools supplied by traitors they were to work their way out of their quarters, overpower the guard at the nearest gate, set fire to the nearest houses in three different streets, turn the nearest guns inwards on the town, and shout 'Liberty for ever!' as an additional signal to the storming-party that was to be waiting to confirm their success. Carleton seized the chance of turning this scheme against the enemy. Three safe bonfires were set ablaze. The marked guns were turned inwards and fired at the town with blank charges. And the preconcerted shout was raised with a will. But the besiegers never stirred. After this the Old-Countrymen among the prisoners, who had taken the oath and enlisted in the garrison, were disarmed and confined, while the rest were more strictly watched.

Two brave attempts were made by French Canadians to reach Quebec with reinforcements, one headed by a seigneur, the other by a parish priest.

Carleton had sent word to M. de Beaujeu, seigneur of Crane Island, forty miles below Quebec, asking him to see if he could cut off the American detachment on the Levis shore. De Beaujeu raised three hundred and fifty men. But Arnold sent over reinforcements. A habitant betrayed his fellow-countrymen’s advance-guard. A dozen French Canadians were then killed or wounded while forty were taken prisoners; whereupon the rest dispersed to their homes. The other attempt was made by Father Bailly, whose little force of about fifty men was also betrayed. Entrapped in a country-house these men fought bravely till nearly half their number had been killed or wounded and the valiant priest had been mortally hit. They then surrendered to a much stronger force which had lost more men than they.

This was on the 6th of April, just before Arnold was leaving in disgust.

Wooster made an effort to use his new artillery to advantage by converging the fire of three batteries, one close in on the Heights of Abraham, another from across the mouth of the St Charles, and the third from Levis. But the combination failed: the batteries were too light for the work and overmatched by the guns on the walls, the practice was bad, and the effect was nil. On the 3rd of May the new general, Thomas, an enterprising man, tried a fireship, which was meant to destroy all the shipping in the Cul de Sac. It came on, under full sail, in a very threatening manner. But the crew lost their nerve at the critical moment, took to the boats too soon, and forgot to lash the helm. The vessel immediately flew up into the wind and, as the tidal stream was already changing, began to drift away from the Cul de Sac just when she burst into flame. The result, as described by an enthusiastic British diarist, was that 'she affoard’d a very pritty prospect while she was floating down the River, every now & then sending up Sky rackets, firing of Cannon or bursting of Shells, & so continued till She disappear’d in the Channell. '

Three days later, on the 6th of May, when the beleaguerment had lasted precisely five months, the sound of distant gunfire came faintly up the St Lawrence with the first breath of the dawn wind from the east.

The sentries listened to make sure; then called the sergeants of the guards, who sent word to the officers on duty, who, in their turn, sent word to Carleton. By this time there could be no mistake. The breeze was freshening; the sound was gradually nearing Quebec; and there could hardly be room for doubting that it came from the vanguard of the British fleet. The drums beat to arms, the church bells rang, the news flew round to every household in Quebec; and before the tops of the  Surprise frigate were seen over the Point of Levy every battery was fully manned, every battalion was standing ready on the Grand Parade, and every non-combatant man, woman, and child was lining the seaward wall. The regulation shot was fired across her bows as she neared the city; whereupon she fired three guns to leeward, hoisted the private signal, and showed the Union Jack. Then, at last, a cheer went up that told both friend and foe of British victory and American defeat. By a strange coincidence the parole for this triumphal day was St George, while the parole appointed for the victorious New Year’s Eve had been St Denis; so that the patron saints of France and England happen to be associated with the two great days on which the stronghold of Canada was saved by land and sea.

The same tide brought in two other men-of-war.

Some soldiers of the 29th, who were on board the  Surprise , were immediately landed, together with the marines from all three vessels. Carleton called for volunteers from the militia to attack the Americans at once; and nearly every man, both of the French- and of the English-speaking corps, stepped forward. There was joy in every heart that the day for striking back had come at last. The columns marched gaily through the gates and deployed into line at the double on the Heights outside. The Americans fired a few hurried shots and then ran for dear life, leaving their dinners cooking, and, in some cases, even their arms behind them. The Plains were covered with flying enemies and strewn with every sort of impediment to flight, from a cannon to a loaf of bread. Quebec had been saved by British sea-power; and, with it, the whole vast dominion of which it was the key.

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