Carleton Rallies
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Carleton Rallies
Carleton Rallies
While Benedict Arnold and his men prepared to attack Quebec in November 1775, Governor Guy Carleton was in despair inside the citadel.
Time was a pressing issue for the American army at Quebec City as nearly half of the soldiers were due to be released from their enlistment on New Year's Day 1776. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
Time was a pressing issue for the American army at Quebec City as nearly half of the soldiers were due to be released from their enlistment on New Year's Day 1776. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
He couldn't gauge the loyalty of the town: would the citizens fight the Americans or welcome them as they had in Montreal? As the city prepared for the fourth siege in its eventful history, Carleton issued a desperate proclamation, ensuring he'd have a city that would fight to the end.

"In order to rid the town of all useless, disloyal and treacherous persons... I do hereby strictly order all persons who have refused to enroll their names in the militia lists and to take up arms to quit the town in four days together with their wives and children under pain of being treated as rebels or spies."

Even when Brigadier-General Richard Montgomery arrived from Montreal with an army of 300 and joined with Arnold's force, Carleton refused to surrender.
Hidden by the driving snow, Canadian militiamen cut down American troops who attacked the Lower Town of Quebec on New Year's Eve 1775. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
Hidden by the driving snow, Canadian militiamen cut down American troops who attacked the Lower Town of Quebec on New Year's Eve 1775. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
Montgomery, who had taken Fort St. John and Montreal the month before, sent a letter to the governor demanding he give up the city but Carleton burned the message unopened.

The Americans hammered away at the city walls but the bombardment proved futile. Like British General James Wolfe before them, the attackers were pressed by winter to act quickly. They had another incentive; nearly half of the American army was due to be released when their enlistments expired on New Year's day. Those men would be free to return home and most would seize the opportunity. They were plagued by smallpox and pneumonia and the weather was numbing.

In late December, an American deserter came to Quebec and told James Bain, captain of the British militia, about the dispirited state of the attacking army.
A small group of Canadian militiamen and British seamen stopped the first wave of American soldiers to attack Quebec on New Year's Eve 1775. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
A small group of Canadian militiamen and British seamen stopped the first wave of American soldiers to attack Quebec on New Year's Eve 1775. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
"He says all the people from the old country wish to be at home," Bain recounted. "They are not fond of attacking the town.... This man says we'll be attacked on the first snowy or stormy night."

The last week of December started out clear and cold, a miserable, suspenseful Christmas. But on December 30, a blizzard arrived, and at 2:00 a.m. the next morning, two rockets were fired, their muted light signalling the attack.

Montgomery and his force of about 300 approached Lower Town from the southwest. The men wore hemlock twigs in their hats to distinguish them from the British, who had the same uniforms.
The only thing in Montgomery's way was a band of 30 Canadian militiamen, a few British seamen and a couple of cannon. But the cover he had been waiting for was his undoing.

In the driving snowstorm, Montgomery couldn't see the outnumbered enemy. The Canadians fired a single, fatal volley of grapeshot and musketballs that ripped through the unsuspecting American army. Montgomery was shot through the head and most of his officers were killed. The rest fled back to camp leaving the wounded and dead in the snow.

Arnold's 700 men came from the other side of Lower Town, below the walls of the fortress, with the plan of meeting Montgomery then moving up and taking the Citadel. Some had papers pinned to their hats which read, "Liberty or Death."

Above them, Carleton's ad hoc force fired down from the ramparts through the falling snow.
"We could see nothing but the blaze from the muzzles of their muskets," wrote American Private John Henry. Arnold fell, hit in the leg with a musketball and was carried from the field. His men staggered on to the rendez-vous point and waited for Montgomery and his army, unaware of their fate.

Carleton used the time to outflank them, bringing in a small force behind the Americans and firing down the street.

"Confined in a narrow street," Henry wrote, "hardly more than 20 feet wide... scarcely a ball, well aimed or otherwise, but must take effect upon us. The enemy having the advantage of the ground in front, a vast superiority of numbers and dry and better arms, gave them an irresistible power in so narrow a space...

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British Reinforcements Save Quebec
Introduction
Introduction
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Fort St. Jean Falls
Fort St. Jean Falls
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Montgomery Takes Montreal
Montgomery Takes Montreal
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Benedict Arnold marches on Quebec
Benedict Arnold marches on Quebec
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British Reinforcements Save Quebec
British Reinforcements Save Quebec
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