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want of necessaries; to procure supplies he was compelled to resort to the paper money issued by Congress, which was uncurrent among the Canadians; he issued a proclamation making the refusal to take it in payment a penal offense. This only produced irritation and disgust. As the terms of their enlistment expired, the men claimed their discharge and returned home. Sickness also thinned his ranks; so that, at one time, his force was reduced to five hundred men, and for two months, with all his recruitments of raw militia, did not exceed seven hundred.
The failure of the attack on Quebec had weakened the cause among the Canadians; the peasantry had been displeased by the conduct of the American troops; they had once welcomed them as deliverers; they now began to regard them as intruders. The seigneurs, or noblesse, also, feared to give further countenance to an invasion which, if defeated, might involve them in ruin.
Notwithstanding all these discouragements, Arnold still kept up a bold face; cut off supplies occasionally, and harassed the place with alarms. Having repaired his batteries, he opened a fire upon the town, but with little effect; the best part of the artillerists, with Lamb, their capable com mander, were prisoners within the walls.
On the 1st day of April General Wooster arrived from Montreal with re-enforcements, and took the command. The day after his arrival Arnold, by the falling of his horse, again received an injury on the leg recently wounded, and was disabled for upward of a week. Considering himself slighted by General Wooster, who did not consult him in military affairs, he obtained leave of absence until he should be recovered from his lameness, and repaired to Montreal, where he took command.
General Thomas arrived at the camp in the course of April, and found the army in a forlorn condition, scattered at different posts and on the Island of Orleans. It was numerically increased to upward of two thousand men, but several hundred were unfit for service. The small-pox had made great ravages. They had inoculated each other. In their sick and debilitated state they were without barracks, and almost without medicine. A portion, whose term of enlistment had expired, refused to do duty, and clamored for their discharge.
The winter was over, the river was breaking up, re-enforcements to the garrison might immediately be expected, and then the case would be desperate. Observing that the river about Quebec was clear of ice, General Thomas determined on a bold effort. It was to send up a fire-ship with the flood, and, while the ships in the harbor were in flames and the town in confusion, to scale the walls.
Accordingly, on the 3d of May, the troops turned out with scaling ladders; the fire-ship came up the river under easy sail, and arrived near the shipping before it was discovered. It was fired into. The crew applied a slow-match to the train and pulled off. The ship was soon in a blaze, but the flames caught and consumed the sails; her way was checked, and she drifted harmlessly with the ebbing tide. The rest of the plan was of course abandoned.
Nothing now remained but to retreat before the enemy should be re-enforced Preparations were made in all haste to embark the sick and the military stores. While this was taking place, five ships made their way into the harbor on the 6th of May and began to land troops. Thus re-enforced, General Carleton sallied forth, with eight hundred or a thousand men. We quote his own letter for an account of his
sortie. "As soon as part of the 29th regiment, with the marines, in all about two hundred, were landed, they, with the greatest part of the garrison, by this time much improved, and in high spirits, marched out of the ports of St. Louis and St. John's to see what these mighty boasters were about. They were found very busy in their preparations for a retreat A few shots being exchanged, the line marched forward, and the place was soon clear of these plunderers."
By his own account, however, these "mighty boasters" had held him and his garrison closely invested for five months; had burned the suburbs; battered the walls; thrown red-hot shot among the shipping; made repeated and daring attempts to carry the place by assault and stratagem, and rendered it necessary for soldiers, sailors, marines, and even judges and other civil officers, to mount guard.* One officer declares, in a letter, that for eighty successive nights he slept in his clothes, to be ready in case of alarm.
All this, too, was effected by a handful of men, exposed in open encampments to the rigors of a Canadian winter. If in truth they were boasters, it must be allowed their deeds were equal to their words.
The Americans were in no condition to withstand Carleton's unlooked-for attack. They had no intrenchments, and could not muster three hundred men at any point. A precipitate retreat was the consequence, in which baggage, artillery, everything was abandoned. Even the sick were left behind; many of whom crawled away from the camp hospitals and took refuge in the woods, or among the Canadian peasantry.
General Carleton did not think it prudent to engage in
*Carleton to Lord George Germaine, May 14.
a pursuit with his newly landed troops. He treated the prisoners with great humanity, and caused the sick to be sought out in their hiding-places, and brought to the general hospitals; with assurances that, when healed, they should have liberty to return to their homes.
General Thomas came to a halt at Point Deschambault, about sixty miles above Quebec, and called a council of war to consider what was to be done. The enemy's ships were hastening up the St. Lawrence; some were already but two or three leagues distant. The camp was without cannon; powder, forwarded by General Schuyler, had fallen into the enemy's hands; there were not provisions enough to subsist the army for more than two or three days; the men-of-war, too, might run up the river, intercept all their resources, and reduce them to the same extremity they had experienced before Quebec. It was resolved, therefore, to ascend the river still further.
General Thomas, however, determined to send forward the invalids, but to remain at Point Deschambault, with about five hundred men, until he should receive orders from Montreal, and learn whether such supplies could be forwarded immediately as would enable him to defend his position.*
The dispatches of General Thomas, setting forth the disastrous state of affairs, had a disheartening effect on Schuyler, who feared the army would be obliged to abandon Canada. Washington, on the contrary, spoke cheeringly on the subject. "We must not despair. A manly and spirited opposition only can insure success, and prevent the enemy from improving the advantage they have obtained." †
* General Thomas to Washington, May 8.
He regretted that the troops had not been able to make a stand at Point Deschambault, but hoped they would maintain a post as far down the river as possible. The lower it was the more important would be the advantages resulting from it, as all the country above would be favorable, and furnish assistance and support, while all below would necessarily be in the power of the enemy.
The tidings of the reverses in Canada and the retreat of the American army had spread consternation throughout the New Hampshire Grants and the New England frontiers, which would now be laid open to invasion. Committees of towns and districts assembled in various places to consult on the alarming state of affairs. In a time of adversity it relieves the public mind to have some individual on whom to charge its disasters. General Schuyler, at present, was to be the victim. We have already noticed the prejudice and ill will, on the part of the New England people, which had harassed him throughout the campaign, and nearly driven him from the service. His enemies now stigmatized him as the cause of the late reverses. He had neglected, they said, to forward re-enforcements and supplies to the army in Canada. His magnanimity in suffering Sir John Johnson to go at large while in his power was again misconstrued into a crime: he had thus enabled that dangerous man to renew his hostilities. Finally, it was insinuated that he was untrue to his country, if not positively leagued with her enemies.
These imputations were not generally advanced; and, when advanced, were not generally countenanced; but a committee of King's County appears to have given them credence, addressing a letter to the commander-in-chief on the subject, accompanied by documents.
Washington, to whom Schuyler's heart had been laid