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Roque; while Montgomery, with the residue of his forces, was to pass below the bastion at Cape Diamond, defile along the river, carry the defenses at Drummond's Wharf, and thus enter the lower town on one side, while Arnold forced his way into it on the other. These movements were all to be made at the same time, on the discharge of signal rockets; thus distracting the enemy, and calling their attention to four several points.
On the 31st of December, at two o'clock in the morning, the troops repaired to their several destinations, under cover of a violent snowstorm. By some accident or mistake, such as is apt to occur in complicated plans of attack, the signal rockets were let off before the lower divisions had time to get to their fighting ground. They were descried by one of Maclean's Highland officers, who gave the alarm. Livingston, also, failed to make the false attack on the gate of St. John's, which was to have caused a diversion favorable to Arnold's attack on the suburb below.
The feint by Major Brown, on the bastion of Cape Diamond, was successful, and concealed the march of General Montgomery. That gallant commander descended from the heights to Wolfe's Cove, and led his division along the shore of the St. Lawrence, round the beetling promontory of Cape Diamond. The narrow approach to the lower town in that direction was traversed by a picket or stockade, defended by ́ Canadian militia; beyond which was a second defense, a kind of block-house, forming a battery of small pieces, manned by Canadian militia, and a few seamen, and commanded by the captain of a transport. The aim of Montgomery was to come upon these barriers by surprise. The pass which they defended is formidable at all times, having a swift river on one side and overhanging precipices on the
other; but at this time was rendered peculiarly difficult by drifting snow, and by great masses of ice piled on each other at the foot of the cliffs.
The troops made their way painfully, in extended and straggling files, along the narrow footway, and over the slippery piles of ice. Among the foremost were some of the first New York regiment, led on by Captain Chesseman. Montgomery, who was familiar with them, urged them on. "Forward, men of New York!" cried he. "You are not the men to flinch when your general leads you on!"
In his eagerness, he threw himself far in the advance, with his pioneers and a few officers, and made a dash at the first barrier. The Canadians stationed there, taken by surprise, made a few random shots, then threw down their muskets and fled. Montgomery sprang forward, aided with his own hand to pluck down the pickets, which the pioneers were sawing, and having made a breach sufficiently wide to admit three or four men abreast, entered sword in hand, followed by his staff, Captain Cheeseman, and some of his men. The Canadians had fled from the picket to the battery or block-house, but seemed to have carried the panic with them, for the battery remained silent. Montgomery felt for a moment as if the surprise had been complete. He paused in the breach to rally on the troops, who were stumbling along the difficult pass. "Push on, my brave boys," cried he, "Quebec is ours!"
He again dashed forward, but, when within forty paces of the battery, a discharge of grapeshot from a single cannon made deadly havoc. Montgomery and McPherson, one of his aides, were killed on the spot. Captain Cheeseman, who was leading on his New Yorkers, received a canister shot through the body; made an effort to rise and push forward,
but fell back a corpse; with him fell his orderly sergeant and several of his men.
This fearful slaughter, and the death of their general, threw everything in confusion. . The officer next in lineal rank to the general was far in the rear; in this emergency, Colonel Campbell, quartermaster-general, took the command, but, instead of rallying the men, and endeavoring to effect the junction with Arnold, ordered a retreat, and abandoned the half-won field, leaving behind him the bodies of the slain.
While all this was occurring on the side of Cape Diamond, Arnold led his division against the opposite side of the lower town, along the suburb and street of St. Roque. Like Montgomery, he took the advance at the head of a forlorn hope of twenty-five men, accompanied by his secretary Oswald, formerly one of his captains at Ticonderoga. Captain Lamb and his artillery company came next, with a field-piece mounted on a sledge. Then came a company with ladders and scaling implements, followed by Morgan and his riflemen. In the rear of all these came the main body. A battery on a wharf commanded the narrow pass by which they had to advance. This was to be attacked with the field-piece, and then scaled with ladders by the forlorn hope; while Captain Morgan, with his riflemen, was to pass round the wharf on the ice.
The false attack which was to have been made by Livingston on the gate of St. John's, by way of diversion, had not taken place; there was nothing, therefore, to call off the attention of the enemy in this quarter from the detachment. The troops, as they straggled along in lengthened file through the drifting snow, were sadly galled by a flanking fire on the right, from walls and pickets. The field-piece at length became so deeply embedded in a snowdrift that it could not
be moved. Lamb sent word to Arnold of the impedient; in the meantime, he and his artillery company were brought to a halt. The company with the scaling ladders would have halted also, having been told to keep in the rear of the artillery; but they were urged on by Morgan with a thundering oath, who pushed on after them with his riflemen, the artillery company opening to the right and left to let them pass.
They arrived in the advance just as Arnold was leading on his forlorn hope to attack the barrier. Before he reached it, a severe wound in the right leg with a musket ball completely disabled him, and he had to be borne from the field. Morgan instantly took the command. Just then Lamb came up with his company, armed with muskets and bayonets, having received orders to abandon the field-piece and support the advance. Oswald joined him with the forlorn hope. The battery which commanded the defile mounted two pieces of cannon. There was a discharge of grape-shot when the assailants were close under the muzzles of the guns, yet but one man was killed. Before there could be a second discharge, the battery was carried by assault, some firing into the embrasures; others scaling the walls. The captain and thirty of his men were taken prisoners.
The day was just dawning as Morgan led on to attack the second barrier, and his men had to advance under a fire from the town walls on their right, which incessantly thinned their ranks. The second barrier was reached; they applied their scaling ladders to storm it. The defense was brave and obstinate, but the defenders were at length driven from their guns and the battery was gained. At the last moment one of the gunners ran back, linstock in hand, to give one more.shot. Captain Lamb snapped a fusee at him. It missed
fire. The cannon was discharged, and a grape-shot wounded Lamb in the head, carrying away part of the cheek-bone. He was borne off senseless to a neighboring shed.
The two barriers being now taken, the way on this side into the lower town seemed open. Morgan prepared to enter it with the victorious vanguard; first stationing Captain Dearborn and some provincials at Palace Gate, which opened down into the defile from the upper town. By this time, however, the death of Montgomery and retreat of Campbell had enabled the enemy to turn all their attention in this direction. A large detachment sent by General Carleton sallied out of Palace Gate after Morgan had passed it, surprised and captured Dearborn and the guard, and completely cut off the advanced party. The main body, informed of the death of Montgomery, and giving up the game as lost, retreated to the camp, leaving behind the field-piece which Lamb's company had abandoned, and the mortars in the battery of St. Roque.
Morgan and his men were now hemmed in on all sides, and obliged to take refuge in a stone house from the inveterate fire which assailed them. From the windows of this house they kept up a desperate defense, until cannon were brought to bear upon it. Then, hearing of the death of Montgomery, and seeing that there was no prospect of relief, Morgan and his gallant handful of followers were compelled to surrender themselves prisoners of war.
Thus foiled at every point, the wrecks of the little army abandoned their camp and retreated about three miles from the town; where they hastily fortified themselves, apprehending a pursuit by the garrison. General Carleton, however, contented himself with having secured the safety of the place, and remained cautiously passive until he should be