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Attack on Quebec – Montgomery Killed – Arnold Wounded

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol I. Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

December 31. –The Americans have made an unsuccessful attack upon the town of Quebec. General Montgomery finding his cannon too light to effect a breach, and that the enemy would not hearken to terms of capitulation, formed a design of carrying the town by escalade. In this he was encouraged by the extensiveness of the works, and the weakness of the garrison. When every thing was prepared, while he was awaiting the opportunity of a snow-storm to carry his design into execution, several of his men deserted to the enemy. His plan, at first, was to have attacked the upper and lower town at the same time, depending principally for success upon the upper town. But discovering, from the motions of the enemy, that they were apprised of his design, he altered his plan, and, having divided his small army into four detachments, ordered two feints to be made against the upper town, one by Colonel Livingston 1 at the head of the Canadians, against St. John’s gate, the other by Captain Brown, at the head of a small detachment, against Cape Diamond, reserving to himself and Colonel Arnold, the two principal attacks against the lower town.

Quebec in 1775
Quebec in 1775 Engraved by A. H. Ritchie


At five o’clock this morning, the hour appointed for the attack, the general, at the head of the New York troops, advanced against the lower town. Being obliged to take a circuit, the signal for the attack was given and the garrison alarmed before he reached the place. However, pressing on, he passed the first barrier, and was just opening the attempt on the second, when, by the first fire from the enemy, he was unfortunately killed, 2 together with his aide-de-camp, Captain J. McPherson, Captain Cheesman, and two or three more. This so dispirited the men, that Colonel Campbell, on whom the command devolved, found himself under the disagreeable necessity of drawing them off.

In the meanwhile Colonel Arnold, at the head of about three hundred and fifty of those brave troops, (who with unparalleled fatigue had penetrated Canada under his command,) and Captain Lamb’s company of artillery, had passed through St. Roques’ gate, and approached near a two-gun battery, picketed in, without being discovered. This he attacked, and though it was well defended for about an hour, carried it, with the loss of a number of men. In this attack, Colonel Arnold had the misfortune to have his leg splintered by a shot, and was obliged to be carried to the hospital. After gaining the battery, his detachment passed on to a second barrier, which they took possession of. By this time the enemy, relieved from the other attack, by our troops being drawn off, directed their whole force against this detachment, and a party sallying out from Palace gate, attacked them in the rear. These brave men sustained the whole force of the garrison for three hours, but finding themselves hemmed in, and no hopes of relief, they were obliged to yield to numbers, and the advantageous situation the garrison had over them.

After this unfortunate repulse, the remainder of the army retired about eight miles from the city, where they have posted themselves advantageously, and are continuing the blockade, waiting for the reinforcements which are now on their march to join them. 3


1 Henry Livingston.
2 See “Death of General Richard Montgomery“, Pennsylvania Evening Post, January 25.
3 New York Packet, February 1, 1776.

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