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Montgomery lays siege to Quebec.
CHAP. V. who had accompanied Arnold were expiring. 1775. His numbers were not sufficient to render suc
cess probable, according to any common prin. ciple of calculation; and the prospect of their being diminished by time was much greater than of their being increased. But relying on their courage, on himself and his fortune, and on the fears of the garrison; stimulated, too, by the high expectations formed by all America of his success, and by the dread of disappoint. ing those expectations, he determined to lay
immediate siege to the town. Montgomery In a few days he opened a six gun battery
within about seven hundred yards of the walls, but his artillery was too light to make a breach, and he did not calculate on any effect from it. His object was to amuse the enemy, and conceal his real design.
Although the excessive hardships to which the troops were exposed, hardships which seemed to surpass human bearing, were supported with great constancy and firmness; Montgomery feared that they would at length yield to the force of such continued sufferings; and as he would soon have no legal authority to retain a part of them, he apprehended that he should be abandoned by those who would have a right to leave him. Other considerations of a personal nature were, probably, not without their influence. Though he had embraced the American cause with enthusiasm,
· he had become wearied with its service. CHAP. V. 1 Trained to arms in a school, where strict dis. 1775.
cipline, and implicit obedience were taught and ei practised, all his habits, not less than his judg
ment, were shocked by the temper which the : American troops brought with them into the
field. A spirit of insubordination seemed to pervade the whole mass. Not only the quotas of different colonies, but in some cases even different regiments, appeared disposed to consider themselves as entirely independent of each other; and all thought themselves entitled to judge of the propriety of the measures to be adopted. The general himself possessed little other authority than was bestowed on him, by his personal talents, and his arts of persuasion. Nor was a much brighter prospect opening for the future. The cause to which the extremity of the evil was to be attributed, threatened still to continue, and the United Colonies seemed still determined to rest their defence on tempo. rary armies. With infinite judgment and address, he had heretofore successfully struggled with the difficulties attendant on this unpromis. ing state of things; but it is not unreasonable to suppose that he was unwilling that his life and his fame, should continue so much to depend on the wayward caprice of others. He had determined to withdraw from the army, and had signified, before marching from Montreal, his resolution to resign the commission which had
CHAP. V. been conferred on him. It is not improbable 1775. that the desire of closing his military career
with a degree of brilliancy suited to the eleva. tion of his mind, by the conquest of Quebec, and the addition of Canada to the United Colo. nies, strengthened those motives which were furnished by the actual state of American affairs, for a vigorous effort to terminate the war in that quarter. Impressed with the real necessity of taking decisive steps and impelled by his native courage, this accomplished and gallant officer determined to risk an assault.
Of such materials was his little army composed, that the most desperate hardihood could F not hope to succeed in the purposed attempt, unless it should receive the approbation of all his troops. It was therefore necessary, not only to consult the officers individually on this deli. cate subject; but to obtain also the cheerful assent of the soldiers, to the meditated enter. prise. The proposition was at first received very coldly by a part of Arnold's corps, who were by some means disgusted with their commanding officer; but the influence of Morgan, who was particularly zealous for the enterprise, and active in advocating it, and who held up to them as a very powerful inducement, the rights conferred by the usages of war, on those who storm a fortified town, at length prevailed; and the assault was almost unanimously assented to.
Whilst the general was making the necessary CHAP. V. preparations for that purpose, the garrison 1775. received intelligence of his intention from a deserter. This circumstance induced him to change the plan of his attack, which had been, originally, to attempt both the upper and lower towns at the same time. The plan now resolved on was, to divide the army into four parts, and while two of them, consisting of Canadians under major Livingston, and a small party under major Brown, were to distract the attention of the garrison by making two feints against the upper town, at St. Johns and cape Diamond; the other two, led, the one by Montgomery in person, and the other by Arnold, were to make real attacks on opposite sides of the lower town. After gaining possession of the lower town, it would yet have been extremely difficult to conquer the obstacles to be surmounted in forcing their way to the upper town; but as all the wealth of the city would then have been in their power, it was confidently expected that the inhabitants, to secure their property, would compel the governor to capitulate.
Between four and five in the morning, there signal was given; and the several divisions have moved to the assault, under a violent storm of the snow. The plan was so well concerted, that “ from the side of the river St. Lawrence along the fortified front round to the bason, every part VOL. II.
Unsuccessful cattack on
CHAP. V. seemed equally threatened."9 Montgomery, at 1775. the head of the New York troops, advanced
along the St. Lawrence by the way of Aunce de Mere, under Cape Diamond. The first barrier to be surmounted on this side was at the Pot Ash. It was defended by a battery, in which were mounted a few pieces of artillery, about two hundred paces in front of which, was a block-house and picket. The guard placed at the block-house, being chiefly Canadians, having given a random and harmless fire, threw away their arms and fled in confusion to the barrier. Their terrors were communicated to those who defended this important pass; and the intelligence afterwards received by the American prisoners in Quebec is, that the battery was for a time absolutely deserted.
Unfortunately, the difficulties of the route rendered it impossible for Montgomery, instantly, to avail himself of this first impression. Cape Diamond, around which he was to make his way, presents a precipice, the foot of which is washed by the river, where enormous and rugged masses of ice had been piled on each other, so as to render the way almost impassable." Along the scanty path leading under the projecting rocks of the precipice, the Americans pressed forward in a narrow file, until they reached the block-house and picket. Montgomery, who was himself in front, assisted with
9 Letter of governor Carleton.