Defeat at Quebec

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The year 1775 ended on a note of defeat for the Americans. Since December 6, 1776 the city had been under siege by the combined forces of General Richard Montgomery and Colonel Benedict Arnold. Twelve hundred Americans confronted 1800 British regulars and French Canadian militia.  The Americans realized that the British would eventually strongly reinforce Quebec by sea, and that a prolonged siege in the teeth of a Canadian winter would probably do far more harm to the besiegers than the besieged.

Thus before dawn on December 31, 1775, in the midst of a blizzard, the Americans began a two pronged assault on the lower town of Quebec, the plan being that the forces led by Montgomery and Arnold would meet in the lower town, and then scale the walls of the upper town.


While Arnold attacked from the north, Montgomery attacked from the south, his men sawing through the two palisades and entering the lower town.  Montgomery’s attack came to a sudden end, when a cannon shot from a blockhouse killed Montgomery and firing from the blockhouse injured several of his officers.  A surviving officer led Montgomery’s men out of the town and back to the Plains of Abraham outside of Quebec.

Arnold’s attack initially fared better with the Americans running into the lower town, ignoring British fire from the walls of the upper town, and taking two   Arnold was taken to the rear after being shot through an ankle.  Command devolved upon Captain Daniel Morgan, who then led an assault which took a British held barricade blocking the progress of the Americans.  Morgan and his men were hampered by wet powder from the blizzard.  Holed up in several buildings near the Palace gate, attempting to dry their powder, Morgan’s force was surrounded by 500 of the regulars and French Canadian militia.  Weeping tears of rage, Morgan eventually surrendered his force and sword to a by-standing French Canadian priest, angrily refusing to grant that honor to the British.  Three hundred and seventy-two Americans were captured, and the 13 colonies lost their attempt to have 14 colonies in revolt.

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  1. I have been reading a book by Kevin Phillips, 1775.
    Phillips points out the animosity between Catholic Quebec and Puritan New England, which are not far apart. The outright hatred among many New Englanders for the Catholic Church was a divide Quebec would not cross. The British Crown guaranteed freedom of religion to Quebec, which drove New England crazy.
    This animosity exists today in a different way, as the Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins have a fierce rivalry……even though Catholicism has faded in both regions.

  2. The Revolution was a major factor in helping chip away at anti-Catholicism in the colonies. Civil disabilities, where they existed, against Catholics were removed in most of the colonies. As for Canada, there was a fair amount of support for the Revolution among English Canadians, little among French Canadiens. However there was also little love by the French Canadiens for their English overlords, the French Canadiens largely just wishing to be left alone. Phillips was an overrated political analyst who became a bad historian.

  3. While I never thought much of Phillips, and still don’t, there is one very good chapter in his book. Many times I have pointed out the help that Spain provided to the Americans and Phillips does go into this in some detail. How often is Galvez mentioned in any American history textbook? Not in any I ever read.
    Back to Quebec…it is correct that they wanted to be left alone…still, many Quebecois left to settle Vincennes, St. Louis, Ste. Genevieve and New Orleans, giving further evidence that the Catholic impact upon our nation is greater and goes back further than most of us are aware of.

    Back to Quebec

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