Battle of Quebec

Battle of Quebec

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Battle of Quebec Taking place during early in the American Revolutionary War, the Battle of Quebec was the culmination of the troops of the United Colonies attempting to take Quebec City. The battle took place on December 30th and 31st of 1775, and the garrison of British troops were able to repel the attack successfully and the outcome was declared a British victory. 

Quebec Battle Facts and Summary | American Battlefield Trust

Revolutionary forces were led by Richard Montgomery and Benedict Arnold and totaled 1,200 men. Having just captured Montreal the previous month, Montgomery chose to push on to Quebec City hastily as many of his conscript’s contracts were close to expiring. The trek through the Canadian winter was long and arduous, taking a tough toll on the troops of the United Colonies. An illustration of Quebec City, with many buildings surrounding the waterfront to the bottom left. City walls may be observed in the background.

A half-height portrait of Carleton. He wears a red coat with vest, over a white shirt with ruffles. His white hair is drawn back, and he faces front with a neutral expression.

The British garrison in Quebec City totaled 1,800 troops, commanded by Guy Carleton(pictured above), a governor who escaped the fall of Montreal, and brigadier-general Allan Maclean. The initial force defending the city was much weaker, but reinforcements in the form of militia were sent to defend the city after news broke about the impending attack. 

The militia were recruited by the means of mandatory draft, including 200 British and 300 Canadians who were put under strong leadership to address their inexperience. Carleton further bolstered the city’s defenses by setting up barricades and cannons in defensive positions.

Illustration of late-18th century soldiers marching, with several officers observing from the side.

Benedict Arnold’s(pictured below) forces arrived on November 9th, having trekked from Boston to Quebec City in the vicious winter cold via the Chaudière River(pictured below). 

A knee-length mezzotint engraved portrait of Arnold. This portrait is likely an artist's depiction and was probably not made from life. Arnold is shown in uniform, wearing a blue jacket with epaulets, light-coloured pants and shirt, and a red sash. A sword handle is visible near his left hip, and his right hand is held out. In the near background a tree is visible, and there is a town off in the distance behind him.

As he was outnumbered 2 to 1 with his current force, he decided to wait for reinforcements. Richard Montgomery arrived on December 6th and resupplied Arnold’s under equipped troops, then promptly put the city under siege. Although the United Colonies set up artillery to fire upon the city, the effect was negligible and when a storm formed on the evening of December 30th Montgomery gave the order to attack.

In this street battle scene, blue-coated American and British troops face each other in a blizzard. The high city walls are visible in the background to the left, and men fire from second-story windows of buildings lining the narrow lane. A body and scaling ladders lie in blood-stained snow in the foreground.

Montgomery and his men eventually made it to the city’s walls in the storm, and sawed their way inside. On the first charge towards a building however, cannon and musket fire killed Richard Montgomery and two of his most senior officers instantly, as well as many of his men. The next in command deemed the situation hopeless and ordered a retreat back behind a palisade in the city. 

Quebec's restored city wall is gray stone about 20 feet (6.5 meters) high. The St. John's gate has a modern road going through it, and has a copper-roofed turret on the left bastion. A paved path goes through a grassy area below the wall.

Arnold’s force was attacking the Northern side of the city simultaneously, and had more success getting inside the walls without getting detected. They met heavy resistance once at the palace gates, which compounded by the heavy blizzard made any further advances impossible. Arnold redirected with forces to take a lightly defended barricade, but in the moments before the attack he was struck in the leg by a musket shot and transferred command to Daniel Morgan. 

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Montgomery's route started at Fort Ticonderoga in eastern upstate New York, went north along Lake Champlain to Montreal, and then followed the Saint Lawrence River downstream to Quebec. Arnold's route started at Cambridge, Massachusetts, went overland to Newburyport and by sea to present-day Maine. From there, it went up the Kennebec River and over a height of land separating the Kennebec and Chaudière River watersheds to Lac Mégantic. It then descended the Chaudière River to Quebec City.

Daniel Morgan was eventually able to take the barricade and continued to advance down the street. This success was short-lived as soon a force of 500 defenders retook the first barricade and trapped Morgan’s forces within the city. Subsequently, Morgan was forced to surrender as his forces were heavily outnumbered and surrounded. The battle concluded in the morning of December 31st.

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The Battle of Quebec marked the worst defeat the United Colonies would face in the Revolutionary War, with the loss of Richard Montgomery, 84 casualties and 400 captured. The British would only suffer 19 killed or wounded. Although shot, Benedict Arnold would survive the battle and make it back to friendly territory. The defeat at Quebec would mark the end of the Revolutionary campaign to invade what was present day Canada. Although a second campaign was considered later in the war, ultimately no decisions were made to actually commit to an invasion due to the need for immense manpower to do so.

Battle of Quebec Written by Tony Cao

7 Years War & George Washington with New York Times’ Harlow Unger