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LIFE OF WASHINGTON
Montgomery before Quebec-His Plan of Operations-A Summons to Surrender-A Flag Insulted-The Town Besieged-Plan of an Escalade-Attack of the Lower Town-Montgomery in the Advance-His Death-Retreat of Colonel Campbell-Attack by Arnold-Defense of the Lower Town-Arnold WoundedRetreat of the Americans-Gallant Resolve of Arnold
FROM amid surrounding perplexities, Washington still turned a hopeful eye to Canada. He expected daily to receive tidings that Montgomery and Arnold were within the walls of Quebec, and he had even written to the former to forward as much as could be spared of the large quantities of arms, blankets, clothing, and other military stores, said to be deposited there; the army before Boston being in great need of such supplies.
On the 18th of January came dispatches to him from General Schuyler, containing withering tidings. The following is the purport. Montgomery, on the 2d of December, the day after his arrival at Point aux Trembles, set off in face of a driving snow storm for Quebec, and arrived before it on the 5th. The works, from their great extent, appeared to him incapable of being defended by the actual garrison; made up, as he said, of "Maclean's banditti," the sailors VOL. XIII.—* * * 2
from the frigates and other vessels, together with the citizens obliged to take up arms; most of whom were impatient of the fatigues of a siege and wished to see matters accommodated amicably. "I propose," added he, "amusing Mr. Carleton, with a formal attack, erecting batteries, etc., but mean to assault the works, I believe toward the lower town, which is the weakest part."
According to his own account, his whole force did not exceed nine hundred effective men, three hundred of whom he had brought with him; the rest he found with Colonel Arnold. The latter he pronounced an exceeding fine corps, inured to fatigue, and well accustomed to a cannon shot, having served at Cambridge. "There is a style of discipline among them,' adds he, "much superior to what I have been used to see in this campaign. He, himself (Arnold), is active, intelligent, and enterprising. Fortune often baffles the sanguine expectations of poor mortals. I am not intoxicated with her favors, but I do think there is a fair prospect of success." "*
On the day of his arrival, he sent a flag with a summons to surrender. It was fired upon, and obliged to retire. Exasperated at this outrage, which, it is thought, was committed by the veteran Maclean, Montgomery wrote an indignant, reproachful, and even menacing letter to Carleton, reiterating the demand, magnifying the number of his troops, and warning him against the consequences of an assault. Finding it was rejected from the walls, it was conveyed in by a woman, together with letters addressed to the principal merchants, promising great indulgence in case of immediate submission. By Carleton's orders, the messenger was sent to prison for a few days, and then drummed out of town.
* Montgomery to Schuyler, Dec. 5.
Montgomery now prepared for an attack. The ground was frozen to a great depth, and covered with snow; he was scantily provided with intrenching tools, and had only a field train of artillery, and a few mortars. By dint of excessive labor a breastwork was thrown up, four hundred yards distant from the walls, and opposite to the gate of St. Louis, which is nearly in the center. It was formed of gabions, ranged side by side, and filled with snow, over which water was thrown until thoroughly frozen. Here Captain Lamb mounted five light pieces and a howitzer. Several mortars were placed in the suburbs of St. Roque, which extends on the left of the promontory, below the heights, and nearly on a level with the river.
From the "Ice Battery," Captain Lamb opened a wellsustained and well-directed fire upon the walls, but his fieldpieces were too light to be effective. With his howitzer he threw shells into the town and set it on fire in several places. For five days and nights the garrison was kept on the alert by the teasing fire of this battery. The object of Montgomery was to harass the town, and increase the dissatisfaction of the inhabitants. His flag of truce being still fired upon, he caused the Indians in his camp to shoot arrows into the town, having letters attached to them, addressed to the inhabitants, representing Carleton's refusal to treat, and advising them to rise in a body and compel him. It was all in vain; whatever might have been the disposition of the inhabitants, they were completely under the control of the military. On the evening of the fifth day, Montgomery paid a visit to the ice battery. The heavy artillery from the wall had repaid its ineffectual fire with ample usury. The brittle ramparts had been shivered like glass; several of the guns had been rendered useless. Just as they arrived at the
battery, a shot from the fortress dismounted one of the guns and disabled many of the men. A second shot immediately following was almost as destructive. "This is warm work, sir," said Montgomery to Captain Lamb. "It is indeed and certainly no place for you, sir." "Why so, captain?" "Because there are enough of us here to be killed, without the loss of you, which would be irreparable.'
The general saw the insufficiency of the battery, and, on retiring, gave Captain Lamb permission to leave it whenever he thought proper. The veteran waited until after dark, when, securing all the guns, he abandoned the ruined redoubt. The general in this visit was attended by Aaron Burr, whom he had appointed his aid-de-camp. Lamb wondered that he should encumber himself with such a boy. The perfect coolness and self-possession with which the youth mingled in this dangerous scene, and the fire which sparkled in his eye, soon convinced Lamb, according to his own account, that "the young volunteer was no ordinary man.
Nearly three weeks had been consumed in these futile operations. The army, ill-clothed and ill-provided, was becoming impatient of the rigors of a Canadian winter; the term for which part of the troops had enlisted would expire with the year and they already talked of returning home. Montgomery was sadly conscious of the insufficiency of his means; still he could not endure the thoughts of retiring from before the place without striking a blow. He knew that much was expected from him, in consequence of his late achievements, and that the eyes of the public were fixed upon this Canadian enterprise. He determined, therefore, to attempt to carry the place by escalade. One-third of his
*Life of John Lamb, p. 125.
men were to set fire to the houses and stockades of the suburb of St. Roque, and force the barriers of the lower town; while the main body should scale the bastion of Cape Diamond.
It was a hazardous, almost a desperate project, yet it has met with the approbation of military men. He calculated upon the devotion and daring spirit of his men, upon the discontent which prevailed among the Canadians, and upon the incompetency of the garrison for the defense of such extensive works.
In regard to the devotion of his men, he was threatened with disappointment. When the plan of assault was submitted to a council of war, three of the captains in Arnold's division, the terms of whose companies were near expiring, declined to serve, unless they and their men could be transferred to another command. This almost mutinous movement, it is supposed, was fomented by Arnold's old adversary, Major Brown, and it was with infinite difficulty Montgomery succeeded in overcoming it.
The ladders were now provided for the escalade, and Montgomery waited with impatience for a favorable night to put it into execution. Smallpox and desertion had reduced his little army to seven hundred and fifty men. From certain movements of the enemy, it was surmised that the deserters had revealed his plan. He changed, therefore, the arrangement. Colonel Livingston was to make a false attack on the gate of St. John's, and set fire to it; Major Brown, with another detachment, was to menace the bastion of Cape Diamond. Arnold, with three hundred and fifty of the hardy fellows who had followed him through the wilderness, strengthened by Captain Lamb and forty of his company, was to assault the suburbs and batteries of St.