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«pedient to kindle up a small fire at Albany, where we
may hear each other's voice, and disclose our minds fully to one another."
The other remarkable transactions of this Congress, were the ultimate refusal of the conciliatory proposal made by lord North, of which such sanguine expectations had been formed by the English ministry ; and the appointment of a generalissimo to command their armies which were now very numerous.
The person chosen for this purpose was, George Washington, a man universally beloved; he was raised to the high station of Commander in Chief, by the unanimous voice of Congress, in 1775 : and his subsequent conduct shewed him every way worthy of it. Horatio Gates, and Charles Lee, two English officers of considerable reputation, were also chosen , the former adjutant-general, the latter major-general. Artemas Ward, Philip Schuyler, and Israel Putnam, were likewise nominated major-generals. Seth Pomeroy, Richard Montgomery, David Wooster, William Heath, John Thomas, John Sullivan, and Nathaniel Green, were chosen brigadier-generals at the same time.
About this period Georgia sent deputies to congress expressing their desire to join the confederacy. The reasons they gave for their renouncing their allegiance to Britain was, that the conduct of parliament towards the other com lonies had been oppressive; and though the obnoxious acts had not been extended to them, they could view this only as an omission because of the seeming little consequence of their colony; and therefore looked upon it rather as a slight than a favour. At the same time, they framed a petition to the king, similar to that sent by the other colo, nies, and which met a similar reception.
The success which had hitherto attended the Americans now emboldened them to act offensively against Great Britain. The conquest of Canada appeared to be practicable, and which would be attended with many advantages ; and as Crown Point and Ticonderoga were already in their hands, the invasion that way might be easily effected, and supposed that Quebec might be reduced during the winter, before the fleets and armies, which they were well as syred would sail thither from Britain, should arrive,
Congress therefore ordered three thousand men under the command of generals Montgomery and Schuyler, to proceed to Lake Champlain, from whence they were to be conveyed in flat-bottomed boats to the mouth of the river Sorel, a branch of the river St. Lawrence, and on which is situated a fort of the same name with the river. On the other hand they were opposed by general Carleton, governor of Canada, a man of great activity and experience in war; who with a small number of troops, had been able to keep in awe the disaffected people in Canada, notwithstanding all the representations of the colonists: He had now augmented his army with a number of Indians, and promised, even in his present situation, to make a formidadable resistance.
When General Montgomery arrived at Crown point, he received information that several armed vessels were stationed at St. Johns, a strong fort on the Sorel, with a view to prevent his crossing the lake : on which he took possession of an island which commands the mouth of the Sorel, and by which he could prevent them from entering the lake. In conjunction with General Schuyler, he next proceeded to St. Johns ; but finding that place too strong, it was agreed in a council of war, to retire to Isle aux Noix, where general Schuyler being taken ill, Montgomery was left to command alone. His first step was to gain over the Indians, whom General Carleton had employed, and this he in part accomplished ; after which, on receiving the full number of troops appointed for the expedition, he determined to lay siege to St. Johns; in this he was the more encouraged by the reduction of Chamblee, a small fort in the neighbourhood, where he found a large supply of powder. An attempt was made by General Carleton to relieve the place ; for which purpose, he collected about one thousand Canadians, while colonel Maclean proposed to raise a regiment of the Highlanders, who had emigrated from their own country to America.
But while General Carleton was on his march with these new levies, he was attacked by the provincials, and defeated; which being made known to Macdonald's party they abandoned him without striking a blow, and he was obliged to retreat to Quebec. The defeat of General Carleton was considered as a sufficient recompense for that of colonel Ethan Allen, which had happened a short time previous to this.
The success of colonel Allen against Crown point and Ticonderoga had emboldened him to make a similar attempt on Montreal ; but the militia of the place supported by a detachment of regulars, entirely defeated him, and he was taken prisoner.
The garrison of St. Johns being informed of the defeat of general Carleton, and seeing no hope of relief, surrendered themselves prisoners of war. They were in number five hundred regulars snd two hundred Canadians, among whom were many of the French nobility, who had been very active in promoting the cause of Britain, among their countrymen. General Montgomery next took mea. sures to prevent the British shipping from passing down the river from Montreal to Quebec. This he accomplished so effectually, that the whole were taken. The town surrendered at discretion ; and it was with the utmost difficulty that general Carleton escaped in an open boat, favoured by a dark night. No obstacle now remained to impede their progress to the capital, except what arose from the nature of the country ; and these indeed were very considerable.
But it seems that nothing could damp 'the fardour of the provincials. Although it was the middle of November, and the depth of winter at hand, colonel Arnold formed the design of penetrating through the woods, and morasses, from New England to Canada, by a nearer route, than that which Montgomery had chosen ; and this he accomplished in spite of every difficulty, to the astonishment of all who saw or heard of the attempt. A third part of his men, under another colonel, had been obliged to leave him by the way, for want of provisions ; the total want of artillery, rendered his presence insignificant before a place so strongly fortified ; and the smallness of his army, rendered it doubtful whether he could take the town by surprize.
The Canadians were amazed at the exploit ; but none of them as yet took up arms in behalf of America. The consternation into which the town of Quebec was thrown Was detrimental to the Americans, as it doubled the vigi."
lance of the inhabitants to prevent any surprize ; and the appearance of common danger, united all parties, who, before the arrival of Arnold, were violentiy contending with one another. He was, therefore, obliged to content him. self with blocking up the avenues of the town, with hopes of distressing the inhabitants for want of provisions; and even this he was not able effectually to accomplish, with such a small number of men.
The arrival of general Montgomery, although it raised the spirits of the party, yet the small force he had with him, when joined to that of Arnold, was too weak to reduce a place so strongly fortified ; they having oniy a few mortars and field pieces, which were not to be depended upon,
Tlie siege having continued through the nionth of De. cember, general Montgomery, still finding he could not accomplish his end any other way than by surprize, resol. ved to make the attempt on the last day of the year 1775. He advanced by break of day, in the midst of a heavy fall of snow, which covered his men from the sight of the enemy. Two real attacks were made by himself and colonel Arnold ; at the same time two feigned attacks were made in other places, hoping thereby to distract the garri. son, and divide their forces. One of the real attacks was made by the New York troops, and the other by those of New England under Arnold. By a mistake in the signal for the attack being given too soon, their hopes of surprizing the town were defeated.
General Montgomery himself had the most dangerous place, being obliged to pass between the river and some high rocks on which the upper town stands; so that he made all the haste he could to close with the enemy. His fate was soon decided. Having forced the first barrier, a violent discharge of musquetry and grape shot from the second, killed him, the principal officers and the most of the party he commanded : those who remained, immedi. ately retreated. Colonel Arnold, in the mean time, made a desperate attack on the lower town, and carried one of the barriers, after an obstinate resistance for an hour; but in the action he was himself wounded, which obliged him to withdraw. The attack, however, was continued by the efficers whom he had left, and another barrier was
forced : but the garrison, now perceiving that nothing was to be feared but from that quarter, collected their whole force against it ; and after a desperate engagement for three hours, overpowered the provincials and obliged them to surrender. Such a terrible disaster lefi no hope remaining of the accomplishment of their purpose.; as general Arnold could not muster more than eight hundred mca under his command.
He did not, however, abandon the province, but removed about three miles from Quebec, where he found means to annoy the garrison bs intercepting their provi. sions.
The Canadians still continued friendly, notwithstanding the bad success of the American arms; which enabled bim to sustain the hardships of a winter encampment in that most severe climate.
Congress, far from passing any censure on his conduct, created him a brigadier-general.
While hostilities were thus carried on in the north, the flame of contention was gradually extending itself to the south. Lord Dunmore, the governor of Virginia, was involved ini disputes similar to those which had taken place in, the other colonies.. He dissolved the assembly, which in this province was attended with a consequence unknown to the rest. The slaves in Virginia were numerous, it was necessary that a militia should be kept constantly in readiness to keep them in awe. During the dissolution of the assembly, the militia laws expired, and the people, after complaining of the danger they were in from the negroes, formed a convention, which enacted, that each county shoald raise a quota for the defence of the province. Dunmore, upon this, removed the powder from Williamsburgh ; which created such discontents, that an immediate quarrel would have ensued, had not the merchants of the town undertaken to obtain satisfaction for the supposed injury done to the community.
This tranquillity was soon interrupted: the people were alarmed by a report; that an armed party were on their way from the man of war, to where the powder had been leposited, they assembled' in arms, determined to oppose iny further removals..