Excogitations On The Canadian Campaign.

by Daniel Russ on December 11, 2010

The Colonials were truly a divided people. Half of them were happy with their governance under a distant monarch who had never stepped foot in the New World and could levy taxes on them on a whim. The other half couldn’t quite process the notion that this country that reaped the harvests of the New World and sold the goods and resources from the

General Philip Schuyler

colonies could somehow also take a portion of their income. Of course there are always at least a multitude of points of view and its difficult to decide whose truth diminishes someone else’s truth. George III was 60,000,000 Crown Sterling in the hole and knew most of it was a result of doing the Colonials a huge favor and sending the British Fleet and the Marines to fight the French above the St. Lawrence River Valley so the Colonials wouldn’t have a monarch who didn’t even speak English.

That said, the history of the United States often omits the struggle to take Canada, the morality of it, or the wisdom of it. However, General Robert Schuyler raised a 2000 man force and sent them under General Robert Montgomery and a 1000 man force under Benedict Arnold and ordered the invasion into the north to make Canada the fourteenth colony. “Take it if at all practicable,” he said. The Colonials especially wanted to take control of the river network that connects the Hudson River with the St. Lawrence River as it served as a natural invasion route. These 3000 infantry and cannoneers and cavalry headed into Canadian territory in the early portion of the Revolutionary War. This would give the colonials more wealth, more soldiers, presumably the Canadians would volunteer to fight against the British, who had just defeated them in the French and Indian Wars. They would not as it turned out. So in 1776, most of the combat action on the North American Continent was happening in Canada.

The winter that bridged 1775 and 1776 was brutal. Tristful encampments were filled with men who were underpaid, under-dressed, sickly, and armed with muskets that were barely functional in bitter winter weather. But sickness, frostbite, outright desertion and disease thinned the invasion forces. By the time that the forces joined at their objective, there only 900 total left out of the original 3000 men. The Colonials almost took Canada with that tiny land force and it says as much about how few people lived in North America at the time, and how neutral the Indians really were when

General Daniel Morgan

Colonials and Brits, both invaders, shot each other to pieces. Washington should have taken note that this ragtag part time army would be the norm throughout the duration of the resistance.

Montgomery was able to take Montreal on November 13th in difficult winter fighting with the help of riflemen under Captain Daniel Morgan who would five years later defeat Bannister Tarleton at Cowpens. Montgomery advanced along Lake George, Lake Champlain and the Richelieu River basin. Montcalm, the British leader defending Montreal offered the blooded colonials battle and was soundly beaten. The rest of the scattered militias and British outposts all holed up and hunkered down inside their redoubts and waited out the Colonial Army and winter.

As Sun Tsu says, “Do not fight unless you know you have the advantage.” freezing by those campfires, starving, they weren’t sure and eventually retreated.

A new effort by the Continental Congress to raise troops for the Canadian campaign managed to bring 8000 recruits north. The Americans didn’t have the supply line discipline nor did they have the leadership to manage the movement of the forces and so their advance was poorly organized. The British struck back in a coordinated series of advances that sent the Colonials back to Fort Ticonderoga where they had begun their insurgency a year previously. The revolution was fought in Canada as well, and clearly demonstrated that the fuel was fired by more than aggravation over taxation. The Canada campaign was an out and out military land grab. It didn’t work, but it exposed the ambitions of the Colonials as well.

Battle For Montreal


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Louis September 1, 2017 at 4:55 am

I think you confuse the French and Indian wars battle for Quebec, with the skirmish before Montreal during the Revolutionary wars:
– Montcalm, the British leader defending Montreal – Montcalm was the french general who fought and died defending before Quebec, in the plains of Abraham battle in 1759.
The british commander during the invasion by the Colonials was General Carleton.

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