Saturday, January 29, 2011

Finding the Longue-Pointe Battlefield

In December, I discussed the location of Ethan's Allen defeat near Montreal (what is known as the battle of Longue-Pointe). I suggested in that post that the battle was fought at a stream known as Ruisseau Migeon in the 18th and 19th Centuries. I suggested several reasons why this spot appeared to be the site of the battle. They included that 1) the site was near the place Ethan Allen was thought to have landed, 2) the site was at the right distance from Montreal (judging from contemporary accounts of the battle), 3) physical features of the site are compatible with Ethan Allen's description of the battle, and 4) the site is at the right direction and distance from a house associated with Ethan Allen's capture.

Of course, none of these points is definitive. Allen's landing site was determined by supposition, not by statements present in the source material, statements about distance are subject to error, the physical features of the site were imperfectly described by participants, and different meanings can be ascribed to the house associated with Allen's capture.

I thought, however, that the convergent evidence was good enough to risk suggesting the Ruisseau Migeon site, even though I admitted there were other statements about the battle site that I could not evaluate. These additional statements included that the stream was known by some as Ruisseau Truteau and that the battle was fought near Christie's farm.

This map shows several places referred to in this post. A - Montreal (where the British troops assembled before the battle), B - Ruisseau Migeon (English: Migeon Creek), C - Original site of a house linked with Ethan Allen's capture, D - Ruisseau des Soeurs (English: Nun's Creek), later called Molson’s Creek.

Since posting this information, a reader alerted me to two sources of information that greatly reduces the likelihood that Ruisseau Migeon was the site of the battle.

The first source of information is a letter dated October 23, 1775 from Grand-Vicar Montgolfier to Bishop Briand that states, in part (per his translation):

"Our city troop met them on the road to Longue Pointe, at a place named the Soeurs Creek, which forms the precise boundary between the two parishes,..."

If Montgolfier's information was accurate, then the battle was fought at a stream that was known as Ruisseau des Soeurs during the 18th Century and that in the 19th Century became known as Molson's Creek.

The second source of information is a couple of maps that show how land was divided among residents living near Ruisseau des Soeurs (Molson's Creek) during the first part of the 18th Century. (These were retrieved from an online photo album; the original place of publication is unknown). I cropped and combined these maps to create the image below (click to enlarge). The left panel map shows the stream in question. The right panel shows this site was associated with a Truteau family -- probably the family of Pierre Truteau and Marie-Charlotte Ménard, to judge from family history websites. Members of the Truteau (or Trutteau or Trudeau) family evidently continued to be a part of the Longue-Pointe community throughout the remainder of the 18th Century. Thus, there is good reason to believe that Ruisseau Truteau was another name for Ruisseau des Soeurs.

Below is an early 19th Century painting of this stream. If this is where the battle of Longue-Pointe was fought (as seems likely), then the British would have been advancing towards Allen along the road in the right foreground.

Louise-Amelie Panet-Berczy's (1839) depiction of the Longue-Pointe battlefield (click to enlarge).

Monday, January 24, 2011

(Another) Look Ahead

Recently, I looked back at my blog postings from last year. In this post I consider future directions for this blog.

One thing that I’ve decided to do differently is to get away from is devoting dozens of posts to a single subject. There are a number of reasons for this change that range from what’s easiest and most enjoyable to me to what I think readers would most appreciate. One sign of this change was my relatively brief treatment last month of the battle of Port Royal Island (just three posts).

Before I begin any new topics, I intend to wrap up those subjects I started writing about last year. Over the coming weeks there will be a handful of concluding posts on the American invasion of Canada, and on the opening of the American Revolution at Lexington Green.

In March I will kick off my big spring project. This will be “big” not in the sense of generating dozens of posts, but big in the sense that it will involve hundreds of miniatures portraying one of the larger and better known battles of the war. In other words, I intend to be more visual and less verbose with this project than I have been with past ones.

Preparations for this project may or may not affect the frequency of my postings. I still have the equivalent of five regiments to paint, and I’m a slow painter. I also haven’t started making the miniature battlefield yet, which will be significantly larger than the one I made for Cowpens or Ramsour’s Mill.

I do anticipate posting on some other topics in the months ahead as well. One subject I’m keen to write about is the 1782 campaign for the island of St. Kitts in the West Indies. I’ve come across a fairly large amount of source material on this subject, and I think it would be interesting to explore combat conditions outside North America.

I might also write about one of the smaller battles in the southern campaign – there are so many interesting ones to choose.


Here are the latest figures I’m finishing up (American militia -- can one have too many?). These figures are by Essex and Peter Pig (two miniature lines that are quite compatible). I like how this batch is turning out. They are colorful – but the colors are desaturated.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Battle of Longueuil (3)

This is the third of three posts on the October 30, 1775, battle of Longueuil. For the first two parts, see here and here.

On the morning of October 30, 1775, British forces in Montreal boarded boats in the harbor and set out to do battle with American forces on the other side of the St. Lawrence River. A larger vessel (probably the schooner Gaspé and probably with Governor Guy Carleton himself on board) led the way. There were around 34 boats in total, most of them small craft. Claude-Nicolas-Guillaume de Lorimier, commanded the Canadian militia from one small boat, which contained “two rudders, eight rowers and others ready to fire.”

The Battle of Longueuil (click to enlarge). The numbers on the map correspond with the numbers below describing key events during the battle. The arrows indicate the approximate location of troop movements during the battle.

1. A little before noon, the small boats passed Île Ronde and became visible to the Americans. A crowd of civilians followed the boats and watched events from the northern shore.

2. The American forces were garrisoned at Longueuil on the southern shore. When the boats came into view, the troops marched down to the riverfront. They brought with them a recently arrived 4-pounder cannon. This functioned as a kind of secret weapon, which the soldiers hid by standing close around it.

3. The British boats did not make a direct descent on Longueuil. Instead, the schooner turned back upstream. The Americans dispatched a company-sized detachment to follow it. When the schooner neared the southern shore, the Americans began firing at it. The schooner then appeared to veer away, and the rest of the boats followed and “promenaded” past Longueuil.

When the British boats reached Île Ste Hélène, some of the Canadians and Native Americans disembarked. This group, under the command of de Lorimier’s brother (Jean-Claude-Chamilly) went down to the shallow water separating Île Ste Hélène from the southern shore. Meanwhile de Lorimier arranged the boats in a line of battle.

American Continentals of the 2nd New York Regiment follow the British boats.

4. More and more American infantry were sent upstream until only the 4-pounder gun and its crew were left in the village.

5. Carleton, however, did not immediately give the signal to attack (he was to fire two cannons). While de Lorimier waited, Chaptes La Corne Saint-Luc came alongside him in a canoe paddled by Algonquians. They were singing a war song. La Corne Saint-Luc was an experienced officer and part of Carleton’s inner circle. When de Lorimier asked him what was to be done, La Corne Saint-Luc pointed ahead and said “Voilà l'endroit où il faut se distinguer.” De Lorimier took this to be the general order, and at that moment, he recalled:

“I made the cry of attack - My brother, on the cry, rushed with all his Indians on the shoals to get to the mainland, from sandbar to sandbar and rock to rock…”

The boats then advanced “in line, all in the same order, all my boats on my left and to the right those Indians who might listen to my orders. We proceeded in that order.”

The Americans were now taking position on the southern shore opposite Île Ste Hélène. Many lay down behind the river bank, which formed in places a natural breastwork. Others crouched behind pine trees. Two Indians got to the shore as the Americans were deploying. One David Mallary of the Green Mountain Boys ran down and captured one. The other got away and hid in a barn (he was captured that night).

The Green Mountain Boys take position before British forces can get to shore.

Then the Americans opened fire as a number of Indians and Canadians neared shore. These men were horribly exposed, and they either ducked down behind rocks or took shelter on the small islands. They returned fire against an enemy they could barely see.

The Green Mountain Boys, prone behind the river bank, fire on British forces in the river.

Carleton was not pleased, and he soon gave the signal for the troops to withdraw. Some immediately fell back, but others found themselves pinned down close to shore. The boats did not uniformly respond either. De Lorimier was so focused on what lay ahead of him, that he initially missed the signal to retreat. When his boat did withdraw, he observed a boat containing some men of the 26th regiment that had gotten caught on the rocks. The men on board could not extricate themselves, and they lay down waiting for night to fall.

From out in the river, the British fired shot and shell on the Americans. None struck the well-protected Americans, although there were close calls. Lieutenant John Fassett of the Green Mountain Boys recalled, “There was one shell broke within a few feet of my head right over me. The pieces flew all around me and there were men lying very thick around me, but none received any harm.”

6. Carleton then ordered some of the boats to descend on the village, but when these boats neared shore, they were repulsed by the Americans’ cannon.

Sporadic musket fire continued along the shore. There, Fassett had another close call: “I had got my gun charged and was lying flat on my belly as all the rest were and was going to get up to see if I could see anybody to shoot at when one spoke and said: “There is a man running, shoot him!” I put my head a little higher when all at once our men fired very brisk and one that was behind me fired his gun over my head so that it seemed to shake my head, and Capt’n Stanton that was close behind me said that he expected I was killed. He said it did not go more than one inch from my head the whole charge, but it did not hurt me.”

The American infantry received some small reinforcements. Captain John Nicholson's company of the 3rd New York arrived from La Prairie. More importantly, the gun crew in Longueuil brought their cannon up river, and fired on some more boats and raked the small islands in the river.

By this time, Carleton had had enough, and he and his flotilla returned to Montreal. His last order was for “fires on the island [to be lit] to warm the Indians who might withdraw.”

According to Fassett:

“By this time it had begun to be dark. Then we hailed the Enemy (for there were some within 30 rods) and told them that if they would come ashore to us they could have good quarter, there were 3 behind one rock that said they would. We waited for them sometime. Then we called again. They said they had a wounded man they could not bring. Col. Warner [i.e., Lieutenant-Colonel Seth Warner] told them to leave him and come ashore and if they offered to run back, or if they fired a gun, Death was their portion. Then we see one stepping off the other way Col. Warner ordered us to fire. The gun cracked merrily at him. He fell down and crawled off, but whether we hit him I don’t know.”

The Vermonters then brought off the wounded man, a Mohawk that de Lorimier called, “my great chief Hotgouentagehte.” He was bleeding profusely from a leg wound, and he died soon after being brought on shore. The other man was Jean-Baptiste Lemoine dit Despins, who, according to Fassett, “was a gentleman… [whose] father is one of the richest men in Montreal.” Other men venturing out into the water took prisoner a militiaman named Lacoste.

The battle of Longueuil was a one-sided victory for the Americans. Captain Wait Hopkins of the Green Mountain Boys was slightly wounded. There were no other American casualties.

British casualties are uncertain. The Americans found two dead Native Americans after the battle (in addition to the Mohawk chief), and they captured two Native Americans and two Canadians. De Lorimier knew about the losses reported by the Americans, but he did not mention any other Canadian or Native American casualties. He did, however, state that there were two killed and three wounded in the stranded boat containing troops of the 26th regiment.

The Americans believed they inflicted heavy losses. According to Fassett, the Americans learned from a Canadian prisoner that “we killed 12 men in the first Boat that tried to land. They said they believed we killed 9 others and wounded about 50 men.” But where were the bodies? Either their deaths were imagined or the dead were carried away by the river. Their fire had certainly seemed devastating. During the battle, Fassett noted, “We saw numbers fall down and some never got up again.”

Fassett slept little that night, and the next day he witnessed the burial of the Native Americans:

“The 3 Indians were buried when we got there. Canadians were digging a grave for them. They dug it about 2 ft. and a half deep, then put them in stark naked with their faces downward, two at the bottom with their heads both one way, the other on top with his head at the others feet. Then they flung on dirt and then stones. ‘Twas such a funeral as I never saw before. Nothing extra, it is very cold.”


This account of the battle of Longueuil is constructed chiefly from the journal of John Fassett, and the memoirs of Guillaume de Lorimier and Simon Sanguinet (both published in Verreau's 1873 Invasion du Canada). Attention was also paid to brief descriptions of the battle appearing in a number of other places, such as this letter from Richard Montgomery to Philip Schuyler, and this letter from one of the men besieging Fort Saint-Jean.

Also helpful were the entries in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography on Claude-Nicolas-Guillaume de Lorimier, and Chaptes La Corne Saint-Luc.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Battle of Longueuil (2)

At the end of October, 1775, Guy Carleton, governor of Quebec, prepared to cross the St. Lawrence River and do battle with the American Continentals gathered on the far shore. To carry out this mission, he had a small army consisting of about 130 British regulars, 80 Native Americans, and around 500 Canadian militia [1]. He had also around 34 boats of various sizes to carry his troops across the river, plus the armed schooner Gaspé.

A significant problem facing Carleton was that the river did not lend itself to amphibious operations. Major Henry Livingston, who commanded the American forces at La Prairie, noted that the river “is very unsafe to navigate. The rocks often projecting just out of the water above a mile from either shore & some but a few Inches under the surface & very dangerous for Battoes or Canoes to strike on.” [2]

Perhaps for this reason, Carleton decided to make his attack near Longueuil, in a place where the water was so shallow that men could wade to shore from an island [Île Ste Hélène] well out in the river. This permitted the attack to be made in two parts: “a number were to wade and the rest to come with their boats.”

The nearest American defenders were 2 miles away in the village of Longueuil. This force, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Seth Warner, included all or nearly all of the Green Mountain Boys, and 5 or 6 companies of the 2nd New York regiment. There, the officers took lodging in some houses while the men encamped in or about an ancient stone fort. [4]

Carleton organized the Canadian militia into “brigades,” and asked the prominent citizens of Montreal to select one from their ranks to lead the Canadians and Indians. They chose Claude-Nicolas-Guillaume de Lorimier, a 31-year-old volunteer who had previously distinguished himself in operations around Fort Saint-Jean. [5]


A view of Montreal, from the St. Lawrence River.

A view of Montreal from Mont Royal. The city and its suburbs are visible in the middle ground. At center left is Île Ste Hélène. The battle of Longueuil was fought between this island and the far shore of the river.

The fort at Longueuil. This drawing shows the fort's appearance in the early 19th-Century, before it was demolished.

Maps of the area between Île Ste Hélène and the southern shore of the St. Lawrence, dating from 1866 (top), 1915 (middle), and 1952 (bottom). The river is quite shallow at this point, and in various places the sandbars create small islands. A comparison of the three maps suggests that these small islands would change over time.



1. Simon Sanguinet, a resident of Montreal, claimed in his memoir that there were 130 regulars, 80 Native Americans, and 800 Canadian militia. Other sources suggest that Carleton's army was smaller, especially in terms of Canadian militia. For example, the day after the battle Lieutenant John Fassett (a copy of his journal is available here) learned from a Canadian prisoner that Carleton had commanded “660 men, that 100 were Regulars, and the rest Canadians and a few Indians.”

2. A copy of Livingston's journal is available here.

3. Sanguinet and de Lorimier stated that the attack was made from Île Ste Hélène. The quoted passage is from Fassett's journal and it refers to a prisoner's description of Carleton's plan of attack.

4. cf. journals by Fassett and Livingston.

5. This description is based on de Lorimier's memoir. In September he co-led the party that halted the first American advance on Fort Saint-Jean. When Moses Hazen was captured by the British on September 18, de Lorimier was given the assignment of taking him back to Montreal. At this time, almost everyone making the journey between Montreal and Fort Saint-Jean was captured by the Americans; de Lorimier was successful despite having a prisoner in tow. Afterwards, de Lorimier claimed that John Brown offered him the position of major with the Americans if he would switch sides. He did not.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Battle of Longueuil (1)

The American Invasion of Canada has been a recurring theme of this blog. Last month I wrote about two events that took place during this campaign. On September 25, 1775, the Americans began to bombard Fort Saint-Jean. Most of the British regulars defending Canada were trapped in this fort. On the same day, the British defeated Ethan Allen’s men in the battle of Longue-Pointe. Afterwards, hundreds of Canadian militia rallied to the support of the British governor Guy Carleton.

By the beginning of October, Carleton had amassed a small army at Montreal which he hoped to use to raise the siege of Fort Saint-Jean. This army consisted of 900 or so militia, 100 Native Americans (Algonquians and Mohawk), and more than 100 British regulars [1].

However, Carleton took no immediate action.

  • He lacked reliable information on American numbers and deployment.
  • He doubted that his militia would overpower Montgomery’s Continentals.
  • He was hopeful of obtaining additional militia from the rural parishes.
  • He wanted Lieutenant-Colonel Allan Maclean to come to his assistance with British troops garrisoning the city of Quebec.

During mid-to-late October, the Americans built up a small force to defend the southern shore of the St. Lawrence river. This force consisted of the Green Mountain Boys, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Seth Warner, the 2nd New York regiment, and two companies of the 3rd New York regiment (those of Captains John Nicholson and Lewis Dubois).

British and American Positions in Mid-October (click to enlarge). Warner occupied Longueuil on October 15. Brown and Livingston attacked Fort Chambly on October 17. Around this time, Maclean arrived at Sorel.

While the Americans grew stronger, Carleton’s army grew weaker. Carleton’s efforts to force additional militia to join his army were unsuccessful. In addition, as the weeks went by without action, Carleton’s militia began to grow restless and started returning to their homes [2].

In mid-October, the British began sending armed boats along the southern shore of the St. Lawrence in what seem to have been efforts to probe the American defenses. Exchanges of fire took place on October 15, between Boucherville and Longueuil, and October 18 and October 26 at Longueuil.

Carleton finally launched a major attack at Longueuil on October 30. Details concerning this battle will be described in two upcoming posts.


Example of a probing attack (that of October 18), as described by Lieutenant John Fassett of the Green Mountain Boys:

“Seven Boats came down the river and made as if they were going to land on a point of an island or come across the river to us. A number of our officers went out towards the boats, and the Regulars from the boats fired their field pieces at us. The Balls and Grape Shot flew over our heads, but did us no harm. They shot two or three cannon balls thro' the roofs of some of the houses. Our men fired several small arms at them. Their Balls scooted along by their boats, some of them” [3].



1. Estimates of Carleton’s force varied widely. Carleton claimed 900; Simon Sanguinet, resident of Montreal, stated there twice as many men. Others, less credibly, claimed that Carleton had almost no assistance from the Canadian militia.

2. Carleton complained in a letter dated October 25 that the militia “disappear thirty or forty of a night.” However, it seems that he still had at least 500 Canadians available for the October 30 attack on Longueuil (see journals of John Fassett and Henry Livingston, and these letters by Henry Livingston and Timothy Bedel).

3. Fassett’s journal provides essential reading on the American invasion of Canada. A .pdf copy can be found here.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Article on Hanging Rock

Recently, I described my work of the past year, but in so doing, I omitted one subject. Last Spring I spent some time turning my multiple blog posts on the battle of Hanging Rock, South Carolina, into the kind of article that could be submitted for publication in a periodical. This evening I placed a draft version of that article online, and you can find it here.

The article is intended to be a concise description of the battle of Hanging Rock. It is also a bit more polished than my usual writing. However, you won't much that's new if you've already read my past posts on this topic.

I'm not sure if I will do anything with the article or not. For one thing, the article desperately needs more and better illustrations, but I haven't taken the time to develop those skills. If it should at some point get published (after further refinements), I'll mention it on this blog.

Monday, January 3, 2011

2010 Retrospective

New Year's greetings from North Dakota.

True to its name, A Miniature History of the American Revolution has covered only a small part of the totality of the American War of Independence. Posts last year were primarily concerned with the American invasion of Canada in 1775 and the late-war struggle for the Carolinas. My intention was to research those subjects extensively in the hope that I would be able to offer original perspectives on those subjects. I think I've had some success in this regard, and below I list some personal highlights of the past year. Perhaps this list will also be of some service to new readers as it points to what I think are some of my better posts.

In an upcoming post I will describe my plans for 2011.

2010 Highlights

1. I started the year by describing the battle of Hanging Rock, South Carolina, which I believe is one of the most dramatic battles of the war, and an inspiring case of rugged rebels taking on, and largely defeating, a superior force of British provincials and Loyalist militia. I started by offering a new interpretation of where the battle took place and then presented a blow-by-blow account of the fighting.

2. Last month I wrote about the battle of Longue-Pointe in Canada. This was a brief and one-sided affair, but I was pleased to once again be able to offer a new interpretation of where the battle took place.

3. Another personal highlight concerned the battle of Fishing Creek, South Carolina. I originally decided to write about this battle chiefly because I had written about the rest of Thomas Sumter's battles in the summer of 1780, not because I expected to have anything terribly interesting to say. However, in studying this battle I concluded that a historical injustice has been done to Sumter and he was not as culpable for the American defeat as some writers have asserted (see here and here, including comments made in footnotes).

4. Another subject about which I was surprised to be able to have something new to say concerned the American capture of Fort Ticonderoga in 1775. One of the more interesting tidbits: Samuel Adams and John Hancock probably played a more important role in the planning of the expedition than has been generally recognized (a relatively obscure journal by one James Jeffrey shows that Adams and Hancock could have learned about the weak state of the fort 4 days before they met with Silas Deane, Edward Mott, and other conspirators; a copy of the journal can be found here).

5. I also enjoyed reading and writing about the battle of Ramsour's Mill in North Carolina. I don't think my treatment of this subject yielded any great revelations, but at least I was able to provide food for thought on this subject.

6. Quite a few blog posts were devoted to the siege of Fort Saint-Jean in Canada and several minor engagements that took place around the fort. These skirmishes may have been small in size, but I was pleased to be able to describe them in considerable detail (see here, here, here, and here).

Some other interesting subjects that I touched upon only briefly included the battle of Port Royal, and the battle of Cowpens, in South Carolina, and a remarkable painting of French and British infantry in action on St. Kitts.