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CHAPTER XI: Transactions in Canada. - David Ramsay, The History of the American Revolution, vol. 1 
The History of the American Revolution, Foreword by Lester H. Cohen (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund 1990). Vol. 1.
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Transactions in Canada.
The tide of good fortune which in the autumn of 1775 flowed in upon general Montgomery, induced Congress to reinforce the army under his command. Chamblee, St. Johns, and Montreal having surrendered to the Americans, a fair prospect opened of expelling the British from Canada, and of annexing that province to the united colonies. While they were in imagination anticipating these events, the army in which they confided was defeated, and the general whom they adored was killed.Jan. 8, 1776 The intelligence transmitted from general Montgomery, previous to his assault on Quebec, encouraged Congress to resolve that nine battalions should be kept up and maintained in Canada. The repulse of their army,  though discouraging, did not extinguish the ardor of the Americans. It was no sooner known, at headquarters in Cambridge, than general Washington convened a council of war by which it was resolved, “That as no troops could be spared from Cambridge, the colonies of Massachusetts, Connecticut and New-Hampshire, should be requested to raise three regiments and forward them to Canada.[”]Jan. 19 Congress also resolved to forward the reinforcements previously voted, and to raise four battalions in New-York, for the defence of that colony, and to garrison Crown-Point, and the several posts to the southward of that fortress. That the army might be supplied with blankets for this winter expedition, a committee was appointed to procure from householders, such as could be spared from their families. To obtain a supply of hard money for the use of the army in Canada, proper persons were employed to exchange paper money for specie. Such was the enthusiasm of the times that many thousand Mexican dollars were freely exchanged at par, by individuals for the paper bills of Congress. It was also resolved, to raise a corps of artillery for this service, and to take into the pay of the colonies one thousand Canadians, in addition to colonel Livingston’s regiment. Moses Hazen, a native of Massachusetts, who had resided many years in Canada, was appointed to the command of this new corps.
Jan. 24Congress addressed a letter to the Canadians in which they observed, “Such is the lot of human nature, that the best of causes are subject to vicissitudes; but generous souls, enlightened and warmed with the fire of liberty, become more resolute as difficulties increase.[”] They stated to them, “that eight battalions were raising to proceed to their province, and that if more force was necessary it should be sent.” They requested them to seize with eagerness the favourable opportunity then offered to co-operate in the present glorious enterprise, and they advised them to establish associations in their different parishes—to elect deputies for forming a provincial assembly, and for representing them in Congress.
The cause of the Americans had received such powerful aid from many patriotic publications in their gazettes,  and from the fervent exhortations of popular preachers, connecting the cause of liberty with the animating principles of religion,1776 that it was determined to employ these two powerful instruments of revolutions—printing and preaching, to operate on the minds of the Canadians. A complete apparatus for printing, together with a printer and a clergyman, were therefore sent into Canada.
Congress also appointed Dr. Franklin, Mr. Chase and Mr. Carrol, the two first of whom were members of their body, and the last a respectable gentleman of the Roman catholic persuasion to proceed to Canada with the view of gaining over the people of that colony to the cause of America, and authorised them to promise on behalf of the united colonies, that Canada should be received into their association on equal terms, and also that the inhabitants thereof should enjoy the free exercise of their religion, and the peaceable possession of all their ecclesiastical property.
The desire of effecting something decisive in Canada before the approaching spring, would permit relief to ascend the river St. Lawrence, added to the enthusiasm of the day, encountered difficulties which, in less animated times, would be reckoned unsurmountable. Arthur St. Clair who was appointed colonel of one of the Pennsylvania regiments received his recruiting orders on the 10th of January, and notwithstanding the shortness of the period, his regiment was not only raised, but six companies of it had, in this extreme cold season, completed their march from Pennsylvania to Canada, a distance of several hundred miles, and on the eleventh of April following, joined the American army before Quebec.
Though Congress and the states made great exertions to support the war in Canada, yet from the fall of Montgomery their interest in that colony daily declined. The reduction of Quebec was an object to which their resources were inadequate. Their unsuccessful assault on Quebec made an impression both on the Canadians and Indians unfavorable to their views.1776 A woman infected with the small-pox had either been sent out, or voluntarily came out of Quebec, and by mixing with the American soldiers  propagated that scourge of the new world to the great diminution of the effective force of their army. The soldiers inoculated themselves, though their officers issued positive orders to the contrary. By the first of May so many new troops had arrived that the American army, in name, amounted to 3000, but from the prevalence of the small-pox there were only 900 fit for duty. The increasing number of invalids retarded their military operations, and discouraged their friends, while the opposite party was buoyed up with the expectation that the advancing season would soon bring them relief. To these causes of the declining interest of Congress, it must be added that the affections of the Canadians were alienated. They had many and well founded complaints against the American soldiers. Unrestrained by the terror of civil law and refusing obedience to a military code, the hope of impunity and the love of plunder, led many of the invading army to practices not less disgraceful to themselves, than injurious to the cause in which they had taken arms. Not only the common soldiers but the officers of the American army deviated, in their intercourse with the Canadians, from the maxims of sound policy. Several of them having been lately taken from obscure life were giddy with their exaltation. Far from home they were unawed by those checks which commonly restrain the ferocity of man.
The reduction of Chamblee, St. Johns’, and Montreal, together with the exposed situation of Quebec, being known in England, measures were without delay adopted by the British ministry to introduce into Canada, as soon as possible, a force sufficient for the double purpose of recovering what they had lost, and of prosecuting offensive operations from that quarter against the revolted colonies.May 5 The van of this force made good its passage, very early in the spring, through the ice up the river St. Lawrence. The expectation of their coming had for some time damped the hopes of the besiegers, and had induced them to think of a retreat. The day before the first of the British reinforcements arrived, that measure was resolved upon by a council of war, and arrangements were made for carrying it into execution.
1776 Governor Carleton was too great a proficient in the art of war, to delay seizing the advantages which the consternation of the besiegers, and the arrival of a reinforcement, afforded. A small detachment of soldiers and marines from the ships which had just ascended the river St. Lawrence, being landed and joined to the garrison in Quebec, he marched out at their head to attack the Americans. On his approach, he found every thing in confusion. The late besiegers abandoning their artillery and military stores, had in great precipitation retreated. In this manner at the expiration of five months, the mixed siege and blockade of Quebec was raised. The fortitude and perseverance of the garrison reflected honour on both officers and privates.
The reputation acquired by general Carleton in his military char acter, for bravely and judiciously defending the province committed to his care, was exceeded by the superior applause, merited from his exercise of the virtues of humanity and generosity. Among the numerous sick in the American hospitals, several incapable of being moved were left behind.May 10 The victorious general proved himself worthy of success by his treatment of these unfortunate men, he not only fed and cloathed them, but permitted them when recovered to return home, apprehending that fear might make some conceal themselves in the woods, rather than by applying for relief, make themselves known, he removed their doubts by a proclamation, in which he engaged, “that as soon as their health was restored, they should have free liberty of returning to the respective provinces.” This humane line of conduct was more injurious to the view of the leaders in the American councils, than the severity practised by other British commanders. The truly politic, as well as humane general Carleton, dismissed these prisoners after liberally supplying their wants with a recommendation, “to go home, mind their farms, and keep themselves and their neighbours from all participation in the unhappy war.”
1776The small force which arrived at Quebec early in May, was followed by several British regiments; together with  the Brunswic troops in such a rapid succession, that in a few weeks the whole was estimated at 13,000 men.
The Americans retreated forty five miles before they stopped. After a short halt, they proceeded to the Sorel, at which place they threw up some slight works for their safety. They were there joined by some battalions coming to reinforce them. About this time general Thomas, the commander in chief in Canada was seized with the small pox and died, having forbidden his men to inoculate, he conformed to his rule, and refused to avail himself of that precaution. On his death, the command devolved at first on general Arnold, and afterwards on general Sullivan. It soon became evident, that the Americans must abandon the whole province of Canada.
From a desire to do something which might counterbalance in the minds of the Canadians, the unfavorable impression which this farther retreat would communicate, General Thomson projected an attack on the British post at the Three Rivers. This lies about half way between Quebec and Montreal, and is so called from the vicinity of one of the branches of a large river, whose waters are discharged through three mouths into the St. Lawrence. With this view a detachment of six hundred men was put under the command of colonel St. Clair. At their head he advanced to the village of Nicolette. When every thing was ready for the enterprise, intelligence was received that six transports escorted by two frigates from Quebec, had arrived and brought a large addition to the late force at the Three Rivers. This caused some new movements, and a delay till more troops could be brought forward. General Thomson then came on with a reinforcement and took the command of the whole. It was determined to make the proposed attack in four different places at the same time. One division commanded by colonel Wayne was to gain the eastern extremity of the town. One commanded by colonel Maxwell was to enter from the northward about the center, and the other two divisions commanded by colonels Sinclair and Irvine were to enter from the westward.1776 The whole  having embarked at midnight, landed at the Point du Lac, about three hours before day. At some distance from this point, there are two ways of approaching Three Rivers, one by a road that leads along the banks of the St. Lawrence, the other by a road almost parallel, but at a considerable distance. It had been determined to advance on the last. Intelligence was brought to general Thomson, soon after his landing that a party of 3 or 400 men were posted at three miles distance. The troops were instantly put in motion to dislodge them. The intelligence proved to be false but it had carried the detachment, some distance beyond the point, where the roads separated. To have returned, would have consumed time that could not be spared as the day was fast approaching. It was therefore resolved to proceed in a diagonal direction towards the road they had left. After being much retarded by very difficult grounds, they arrived at a morass which seemed impassable. Here the day broke, when they were six miles from the object. General Thomson suspecting the fidelity of his guides, put them under arrest—reversed the order of his march, and again reached the road by the river. He had advanced but a small distance before he was fired upon by two armed vessels. All expectation of succeeding by surprise, was now at an end. It was therefore instantly determined to make an open attack. The sun was rising. The drums were ordered to beat, and the troops moved on with the greatest alacrity. Having advanced three miles farther, the ships of war began to fire on them. The American officer who led the advance, struck into a road on the left, which also led to the town, and was covered from the fire of the ships. This last road was circuitous and led through a vast tract of woodland at that season almost impassable. He nevertheless entered the wood, and the rest of the detachment followed. After incredible labour, and wading a rivulet breast deep, they gained the open country north of the village. A party of the British were soon discovered about a mile to the left of the Americans, and between them and the town. Colonel Wayne, ardent for action immediately attacked them. The onset was gallant  and vigorous, but the contest was unequal.1776 The Americans were soon repulsed and forced to retreat. In the beginning of the action general Thomson left the main body of his corps to join that which was engaged. The woods were so thick, that it was difficult for any person in motion, after losing sight of an object to recover it. The general therefore never found his way back. The situation of colonel St. Clair, the next in command became embarrassing. In his opinion a retreat was necessary, but not knowing the precise situation of his superior officer, and every moment expecting his return, he declined giving orders for that purpose. At last when the British were discovered on the river road, advancing in a direction to gain the rear of the Americans, colonel St. Clair in the absence of gen. Thomson, ordered a retreat. This was made by treading back their steps through the same dismal swamp by which they had advanced. The British marched directly for the point du Lac with the expectation of securing the American batteaux. On their approach major Wood, in whose care they had been left, retired with them to the Sorel. At the point du Lac, the British halted and took a very advantageous position. As soon as it was discovered that the Americans had retired, a party of the British pursued them. When the former arrived near the place of their embarkation, they found a large party of their enemies posted in their front, at the same time that another was only three quarters of a mile in their rear. Here was a new and trying dilemma, and but little time left for consideration. There was an immediate necessity, either to lay down their arms or attempt by a sudden March to turn the party in front and get into the country beyond it. The last was thought practicable. Colonel St. Clair having some knowledge of the country from his having served in it in the preceding war, gave them a route by the Acadian village where the river de Loups is fordable. They had not advanced far when colonel St. Clair found himself unable to proceed from a wound, occasioned by a root which had penetrated through his shoe.1776 His men offered to carry him, but this generous proposal was declined.  He and two or three officers, who having been worn down with fatigue, remained behind with him, found an asylum under cover of a large tree which had been blown up by the roots. They had not been long in this situation when they heard a firing from the British in almost all directions. They nevertheless lay still, and in the night stole off from the midst of surrounding foes. They were now pressed with the importunate cravings of hunger, for they were entering on the third day without food. After wandering for some time, they accidentally found some peasants, who entertained them with great hospitality. In a few days they joined the army at Sorel, and had the satisfaction to find that the greatest part of the detachment had arrived safe before them. In their way through the country, although they might in almost every step of it have been made prisoners, and had reason to fear that the inhabitants from the prospect of reward, would have been tempted to take them, yet they met with neither injury nor insult. General Thomson was not so fortunate. After having lost the troops and falling in with colonel Irwine, and some other officers, they wandered the whole night in thick swamps, without being able to find their way out. Failing in their attempts to gain the river, they had taken refuge in a house, and were there made prisoners.
The British forces having arrived, and a considerable body of them having rendezvoused at the Three Rivers, a serious pursuit of the American army commenced. Had Sir Guy Carleton taken no pains to cut off their retreat, and at once attacked their post, or rather their fortified camp at Sorel, it would probably have fallen into his hands; but either the bold, though unsuccessful attack, at the Three rivers had taught him to respect them, or he wished to reduce them without bloodshed. In the pursuit he made three divisions of his army, and arranged them so as to embrace the whole American encampment, and to command it in every part. The retreat was delayed so long that the Americans evacuated Sorel, only about two hours before one division of the British made its appearance.
1776 While the Americans were retreating, they were daily assailed by the remonstrances of the inhabitants of Canada, who had either joined or befriended them. Great numbers of Canadians had taken a decided part in their favour, rendered them essential services, and thereby incurred the heavy penalties annexed to the crime of supporting rebellion. These, though Congress had assured them but a few months before “that they would never abandon them to the fury of their common enemies” were from the necessity of the case left exposed to the resentment of their provincial rulers. Several of them with tears in their eyes, expostulated with the retreating army, and bewailing their hard fate prayed for support. The only relief the Americans could offer was an assurance of continued protection, if they retreated with them, but this was a hard alternative to men who had wives, children and immovable effects. They generally concluded, that it was the least of two evils to cast themselves on the mercy of that government, against which they had offended.
The distresses of the retreating army were great. The British were close on their rear and threatening them with destruction. The unfurnished state of the colonies in point of ordnance, imposed a necessity of preserving their cannon. The men were obliged to drag their loaded batteaus up the rapids by mere strength, and when they were to the middle in water. The retreating army was also incumbered with great numbers labouring under the small-pox, and other diseases. Two regiments, at one time, had not a single man in health. Another had only six, and a fourth only forty, and two more were in nearly the same condition.
To retreat in face of an enemy is at all times hazardous; but on this occasion it was attended with an unusual proportion of embarrassments. General Sullivan, who conducted the retreat, nevertheless acted with so much judgment and propriety, that the baggage and public stores were saved, and the numerous sick brought off. The American army reached Crown-Point on the first of July, and at that place made their first stand.
1776 A short time before the Americans evacuated the province of Canada, General Arnold convened the merchants of Montreal, and proposed to them to furnish a quantity of specified articles, for the use of the army in the service of Congress. While they were deliberating on the subject, he placed centinels at their shop doors, and made such arrangements, that what was at first only a request, operated as a command. A great quantity of goods were taken on pretence that they were wanted for the use of the American army, but in their number were many articles only serviceable to women, and to persons in civil life. His nephew soon after opened a store in Albany, and publicly disposed of goods which had been procured at Montreal.
The possession of Canada so eminently favoured the plans of defence adopted by Congress, that the province was evacuated with great reluctance. The Americans were not only mortified at the disappointment of their favourite scheme, of annexing it as a fourteenth link in the chain of their confederacy, but apprehended the most serious consequences from the ascending of the British power in that quarter. Anxious to preserve a footing there, they had persevered for a long time in stemming the tide of unfavorable events.
Jun. 17General Gates was about this time appointed to command in Canada, but on coming to the knowledge of the late events in that province, he concluded to stop short within the limits of New-York. The scene was henceforth reversed. Instead of meditating the recommencement of offensive operations, that army which had lately excited so much terror in Canada, was called upon to be prepared for repelling an invasion threatened from that province.
The attention of the Americans being exclusively fixed on plans of defence, their general officers commanding in the northern department, were convened to deliberate on the place and means most suitable for that purpose. To form a judgment on this subject, a recollection of the events of the late war, between France and England, was of advantage. The same ground was to be fought over,  and the same posts to be again contended for. On the confines of Lake George and Lake Champlain two inland seas, which stretch almost from the sources of Hudson’s river to the St. Lawrence, are situated the famous posts of Ticonderoga and Crown-Point. These are of primary necessity to any power which contends for the possession of the adjacent country, for they afford the most convenient stand either for its annoyance or defence. In the opinion of some American officers, Crown-Point to which the army on the evacuation of Canada had retreated, was the most proper place for erecting works of defence, but it was otherwise determined, by the council convened, on this occasion. It was also by their advice resolved, to move lower down, and to make the principal work on the strong ground east of Ticonderoga, and especially by every means to endeavour to maintain a naval superiority in Lake Champlain. In conformity to these resolutions general Gates with about 12,000 men, which collected in the course of the summer, was fixed in command of Ticonderoga, and a fleet was constructed at Skenesborough.August 22 This was carried on with so much rapidity, that in a short time there were afloat, in Lake Champlain, one sloop, three schooners, and six gondolas, carrying in the whole 58 guns, 86 swivels, and 440 men. Six other vessels were also nearly ready for launching at the same time. The fleet was put under the command of general Arnold, and he was instructed by general Gates, to proceed beyond Crown-Point, down Lake Champlain, to the Split Rock; but most peremptorily restrained from advancing any farther, as security against an apprehended invasion was the ultimate end of the armament.
The expulsion of the American invaders from Canada, was but a part of the British designs in that quarter. They urged the pursuit no farther than St. John’s, but indulged the hope of being soon in a condition for passing the lakes, and penetrating through the country to Albany, so as to form a communication with New-York. The objects they had in view were great, and the obstacles in the way of their accomplishment equally so. 1776 Before they could advance with any prospect of success, a fleet superior to that of the Americans on the lakes, was to be constructed. The materials of some large vessels were, for this purpose, brought from England, but their transportation, and the labour necessary to put them together required both time and patience. The spirit of the British commanders rose in proportion to the difficulties which were to be encountered. Nevertheless it was so late as the month of October, before their fleet was prepared to face the American naval force, on Lake Champlain. The former consisted of the ship Inflexible, mounting 18 twelve pounders, which was so expeditiously constructed, that she sailed from St. John’s 28 days after laying her keel. One schooner mounting 14 and another 12 six pounders. A flat bottomed radeau carrying six 24 and six 12 pounders, besides howitzers, and a gondola with seven nine pounders. There were also twenty smaller vessels with brass field pieces, from 9 to 24 pounders, or with howitzers. Some long boats were furnished in the same manner. An equal number of large boats acted as tenders. Besides these vessels of war, there was a vast number destined for the transportation of the army, its stores, artillery, baggage and provisions. The whole was put under the command of captain Pringle. The naval force of the Americans, from the deficiency of means, was far short of what was brought against them. Their principal armed vessel was a schooner, which mounted only 12 six and four pounders, and their whole fleet in addition to this, consisted of only fifteen vessels of inferior force.
No one step could be taken towards accomplishing the designs of the British, on the northern frontiers of New-York, till they had the command of Lake Champlain.Oct. 11 With this view their fleet proceeded up the lake, and engaged the Americans. The wind was so unfavorable to the British, that their ship Inflexible, and some other vessel of force, could not be brought to action. This lessened the inequality between the contending fleets so much, that the principal damage sustained by the Americans, was the loss of a schooner and gondola.1776 At the  approach of night the action was discontinued. The vanquished took the advantage, which the darkness afforded to make their escape. This was effected by general Arnold, with great judgment and ability. By the next morning the whole fleet under his command was out of sight. The British pursued with all the sail they could croud. The wind having become more favorable, they overtook the Americans, and brought them to action near Crown-Point.Oct. 13 A smart engagement ensued and was well supported on both sides for about two hours. Some of the American vessels which were most ahead escaped to Ticonderoga. Two gallies and five gondolas remained and resisted an unequal force, with a spirit approaching to desperation. One of the gallies struck and was taken. General Arnold, though he knew that to escape was impossible, and to resist unavailing, yet instead of surrendering, determined that his people should not become prisoners, nor his vessels a re-inforcement to the British. This spirited resolution was executed with a judgment, equal to the boldness, with which it had been adopted. He ran the Congress galley, on board of which he was, together with the five gondolas on shore, in such a position, as enabled him to land his men and blow up the vessels. In the execution of this perilous enterprise, he paid a romantic attention to a point of honour. He did not quit his own galley till she was in flames, lest the British should board her, and strike his flag. The result of this action, though unfavorable to the Americans, raised the reputation of general Arnold, higher than ever. In addition to the fame of a brave soldier, he acquired that of an able sea officer.
The American naval force being nearly destroyed, the British had undisputed possession of Lake Champlain. On this event a few continental troops which had been at Crown-Point, retired to their main body at Ticonderoga. General Carleton took possession of the ground from which they had retreated, and was there soon joined by his army. He sent out several reconnoitering parties, and at one time pushed forward a strong detachment on both sides of the lake, which approached near  to Ticonderoga.1776 Some British vessels appeared at the same time, within cannon shot of the American works, at that place. It is probable he had it in contemplation, if circumstances favoured to reduce the post, and that the apparent strength of the works, restrained him from making the attempt, and induced his return to Canada.
Such was the termination of the northern campaign in 1776. Though after the surrender of Montreal evacuations, defeats, and retreats, had almost uninterruptedly been the portion of the Americans, yet with respect to the great object of defence on the one side, and of conquest on the other, a whole campaign was gained to them, and lost to their adversaries.
The British had cleared Canada of its invaders, and destroyed the American fleet on the lakes, yet from impediments thrown in their way, they failed in their ulterior designs. The delays contrived by general Gates, retarded the British for so great a part of the summer, that by the time they had reached Ticonderoga, their retreat on account of the approaching winter, became immediately necessary. On the part of the Americans, some men, and a few armed vessels were lost, but time was gained, their army saved, and the frontier of the adjacent states secured from a projected invasion. On the part of the British, the object of a campaign, in which 13,000 men were employed, and near a million of money expended, was rendered in a great measure abortive.