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.

No comments:

Post a Comment