Invasion of Canada – 1775

The Invasion of Canada in 1775 was the first major military initiative by the newly-formed Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. The objective of the campaign was to gain military control of the British Province of Quebec, and convince the French-speaking Canadiens to join the revolution on the side of the Thirteen Colonies.

One expedition left Fort Ticonderoga under Richard Montgomery, besieged and captured Fort St. Johns, and very nearly captured British General Guy Carleton when taking Montreal.

The other expedition left Cambridge, Massachusetts under Benedict Arnold, and traveled with great difficulty through the wilderness of Maine to Quebec City. The two forces joined there, but were defeated at the Battle of Quebec in December 1775

American Attack on Quebec

Montgomery’s Expedition

General Richard Montgomery (1738-1775)

Montgomery’s expedition set out from Fort Ticonderoga in late August, and began besieging Fort St. Johns, the main defensive point south of Montreal, in mid-September. After the fort was captured in November, Carleton abandoned Montreal, fleeing to Quebec City, and Montgomery took control of the city before heading for Quebec with an army much reduced in size by expiring enlistments. There he joined Arnold, who had left Cambridge in early September on an arduous trek through the wilderness that left his surviving troops starving and lacking in many supplies and equipment.

In May 1775, aware of the light defenses and presence of heavy weapons at the British Fort Ticonderoga, Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen led a force of colonial militia that captured Fort Ticonderoga and Fort Crown Point, and raided Fort St. Johns, all of which were only lightly defended at the time.  Ticonderoga and Crown Point were garrisoned by 1,000 Connecticut militia under the command of Benjamin Hinman in June.

Nathan BALCOM (1741 Attleboro – 1787 Attleboro)

Nathan Balcom was part of Capt Sedgwick’s company, Col. Benjamin Hinman ’s regiment which went from Winchester CT to Fort Ticonderoga in 1775.’

Fort Ticonderoga from Mount Defiance

With the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, Hinman  was commissioned in May 1775 as a captain of the 4th Connecticut Regiment. In May 1775 Benedict Arnold had stabilized Fort Ticonderoga which had been captured by the Americans. On June 17, 1775 Hinman arrived with a thousand troops from Connecticut to rebuild the fort. Because of his rank he claimed authority but Benedict Arnold objected until the three man committee of inspection including Silas Deane from Congress told him he must allow Hinman to command. Benedict Arnold later disbanded his troops and returned home.

4th Connecticut Regiment– Authorized 27 April 1775 in the Connecticut State Troops. Organized 1-20 May 1775 to consist of ten companies from Litchfield and Hartford Counties. Each company to consist of 1 captain or field grade officer. 2 lieutenants, I ensign, 4 sergeants, 4 corporals, 1 drummer. 1 fifer, and 100 privates.

COMMANDER: Colonel Benjamin Hyman (Hinman) May 1, 1775-Dec  20,1775.

Adopted 14 June 1775 into the Continental Army.  Took part in the Invasion of Canada, Battle of Quebec (Autumn and Winter 1775). Two companies from this regiment were garrisoned at Fort Ticonderoga.

Disbanded in December 1775 in Canada, less two companies disbanded 19-20 December 1775 at Cambridge, Massachusetts. These latter two were Lieutenant Colonel Ozias Bissell’s and Captain Hezekiah Parsons’ Companies, which stayed behind to serve at the Siege of Boston.

The Siege of Fort St. Jean, conducted by American Brigadier General Richard Montgomery on the town and fort of Saint-Jean in  Quebec  lasted from Sep  17 to Nov 3, 1775.

After several false starts in early September, the Continental Army established a siege around Fort St. Jean. Beset by illness, bad weather, and logistical problems, they established mortar batteries that were able to penetrate into the interior the fort, but the defenders, who were well-supplied with munitions, but not food and other supplies, persisted in their defence, believing the siege would be broken by forces from Montreal under General Guy Carleton.  On Oct 18, the nearby Fort Chambly fell, and on Oct 30, an attempt at relief by Carleton was thwarted. When word of this made its way to St. Jean’s defenders, combined with a new battery opening fire on the fort, the fort’s defenders capitulated, surrendering on Nov 3.

The fall of Fort St. Jean opened the way for the American army to march on Montreal, which fell without battle on Nov 13. General Carleton escaped from Montreal, and made his way to Quebec City to prepare its defences against an anticipated attack.

Arnold’s Expedition

Benedict Arnold (1741-1801)

Benedict Arnold, who had been rejected for leadership of the Champlain Valley expedition, returned to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and approached George Washington with the idea of a supporting eastern invasion force aimed at Quebec City.  Washington approved the idea, and gave Arnold 1,100 men, including Daniel Morgan‘s riflemen, for the effort.   Arnold’s force sailed from Newburyport, MA to the mouth of the Kennebec River and then upriver to Fort Western (present day Augusta, Maine).

Arnold’s expedition was a success in that he was able to bring a body of troops to the gates of Quebec City. However, the expedition was beset by troubles as soon as it left the last significant outposts of civilization in present-day Maine. There were numerous difficult portages as the troops moved up the Kennebec River, and the boats they were using frequently leaked, spoiling gunpowder and food supplies. The divide between the Kennebec and the Chaudière River was a swampy tangle of lakes and streams, where the traversal was complicated by bad weather, resulting in one quarter of the troops turning back. The descent down the Chaudière resulted in the destruction of more boats and supplies as the inexperienced troops were unable to control the boats in its fast-moving waters.

Ebenener’s FOSTER‘s son Bartholomew died on the way to the Siege of Quebec in Oct 1775

Benjamin NEWCOMB’s grandson Tryal Tanner (1751-1833)  was a sergeant in Gen. Arnold’s disastrous campaign in Canada, and in common with all the soldiers with him, suffered incredible hardships in the retreat of 500 miles. At the close of this campaign he enlisted in a Continental Connecticut regiment as a lieutenant and was promoted to the adjutancy of the regiment, and in this capacity was in the battle of Monmouth.

Thomas JEWELL III’s grandson Joseph Jewell (1759 – 1812) was a private in Capt William H. Ballard’s company, Col. James Frye‘s 10th Massachusetts Regiment May 1775, It served in the Siege of Boston until its disbandment at the end of 1775. Col. Frye’s report of Oct 6 1775 places Joseph Jewell as having gone on the Quebec Expedition

John BRADLEY (1736 Haverhill, Mass – bef. 1830 New Brunswick, Canada)

A tall strong man with a fiery temper, John joined Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain boys in Vermont. When the Revolutionary war began, Bradley was with Ethan Allen at the capture of Ft Ticonderoga.

The Flag of the Green Mountain Boys is still used by the Vermont National Guard

When Benedict Arnold started his march through Maine, Bradley was chosen as a scout and hunter. Arnold expected to find enough wild game to feed his men, but game was scarce. After hunting all day, Bradley returned with only one partridge. Arnold sent for him and called him a worthless loafer. Bradley talked back to the commander who then drew his sword, which Bradley knocked from his hand. The fighting continued and Aaron Burr came with a file of soldiers and had Bradley arrested and bound to a tree. A man had been shot that morning and Bradley had no doubt that he would also be shot. He finally managed to twist the straps free from his wrists and attempted to escape. A guard tried to stop him and he killed the guard. Bradley had no weapons and his enemies were behind him as he ran into the woods. (See more of Bradley’s fantastic tale on his page)

By the time Arnold reached the outskirts of civilization along the Saint Lawrence River in November, his force was reduced to 600 starving men. They had traveled almost 400 miles through untracked wilderness. When Arnold and his troops finally reached the Plains of Abraham on November 14, Arnold sent a negotiator with a white flag to demand their surrender, but to no avail. The Americans, with no cannons, and barely fit for action, faced a fortified city. Arnold, after hearing of a planned sortie from the city, decided on November 19 to withdraw to Pointe-aux-Trembles to wait for Montgomery, who had recently captured Montreal.

Battle and Siege of Quebec

On Dec 2, Montgomery finally came down the river from Montreal with 500 troops, bringing captured British supplies and winter clothing. The two forces united, and plans were made for an attack on the city.  Three days later the Continental Army again stood on the Plains of Abraham and began to besiege the city of Quebec.

The Battle of Quebecfought on Dec 31, 1775 , was the first major defeat of the war for the Americans, and it came at a high price. General Richard Montgomery was killed, Benedict Arnold was wounded, and Daniel Morgan and more than 400 men were taken prisoner. The city’s garrison, a motley assortment of regular troops and militia led by Quebec’s provincial governor, General Guy Carleton, suffered a small number of casualties.

Governor Carleton had escaped from Montreal to Quebec,  and last-minute reinforcements arrived to bolster the city’s limited defenses before the attacking force’s arrival. Concerned that expiring enlistments would reduce his force, Montgomery made the end-of-year attack in a blinding snowstorm to conceal his army’s movements. The plan was for separate forces led by Montgomery and Arnold to converge in the lower city before scaling the walls protecting the upper city. Montgomery’s force turned back after he was killed by cannon fire early in the battle, but Arnold’s force penetrated further into the lower city.

Death of Montgomery

Arnold was injured early in the attack, and Morgan led the assault in his place before he became trapped in the lower city and was forced to surrender. Arnold and the Americans maintained an ineffectual blockade of the city until spring, when British reinforcements arrived.

In the battle and the following siege, French-speaking Canadiens were active on both sides of the conflict. The American forces received supplies and logistical support from local residents, and the city’s defenders included locally raised militia. When the Americans retreated, they were accompanied by a number of their supporters; those who remained behind were subjected to a variety of punishments after the British re-established control over the province.

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3 Responses to Invasion of Canada – 1775

  1. Pingback: Ebenezer Foster | Miner Descent

  2. Pingback: Benjamin Newcomb | Miner Descent

  3. Pingback: Thomas Jewell III | Miner Descent

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