Sunday, February 13, 2011

Fruits of Victory

The guns at Fort Saint-Jean fell silent late on November 1, 1775. The next day was spent in negotiations, and the formal surrender took place on the 3rd.

The surrender ceremony was brief. At 10 AM the Americans assembled their regiments and marched to within 50 yards of the fort. There, according to an American artilleryman, “we halted and was all drawn up in a rank and stood there till the regulars got ready and marched out with all their arms and 2 field pieces.” [1]

The British troops are then embarked in a number of bateaux and taken into captivity. For them, it is a bitter defeat. One Juchereau dit Duchesnay, a militia officer, wrote bitterly to a friend, “Notre résistance nous a fait obtenir les honneurs de la guerre et la douce satisfaction d'être traînés à Connecticut: un coup de fusil au travers du corps à Montréal me ferait beaucoup moins de peine et de tort.” (Roughly: ‘Our resistance has obtained us the honors of war and the sweet satisfaction of being dragged to Connecticut; a shot through the body in Montreal would cause much less pain and harm’). [2]

The victorious American commander, Brigadier-General Richard Montgomery, soon pressed on to conquer the rest of Canada. By the 7th, most of Montgomery’s men streamed into the village of La Prairie, across from Montreal. On the 11th, a large contingent crossed from La Prairie to L'île St. Paul in the middle of the St. Lawrence. British Governor Guy Carleton realized the futility of trying to hold Montreal any longer, and he embarked the city’s garrison and a large amount of supplies on 11 vessels. Late in the day this flotilla heads down the St. Lawrence towards Quebec.

On the 12th, the city of Montreal entered into surrender negotiations with Montgomery. With Carleton gone, the city walls were defended by local militia. The Montrealers were primarily concerned about property rights and the continued free exercise of religion. The negotiations proceeded smoothly, and the surrender took place the following day.

Winter weather hit the area at this time, which caused much hardship for the Americans, as recorded by journalists:

  • Aaron Barlow on November 7th: “The weather being cold makes it very uncomfortable living in tents.”
  • Benjamin Trumbull on November 9th: “It begins to rain, the Ways are dirty and Slippery so that it is difficult to Walk without falling. The Whole Country is water and mud & not a dry Spot to be found.”
  • John Fassett on November 12: “Went to a Dutchman’s house to get a dram… where were a number of Yorkers of the First Battalion, cursing and swearing and damning themselves and one another. It seemed like a hell upon earth. Fair weather but cold.”


While working on this project, I've painted a number of 15mm miniatures to represent soldiers from the British garrison and the American army. Some of these appeared in past posts; here are some that I don't believe I've posted before.

The Garrison. Pictured are troops of the 26th Foot, an officer of the 7th Foot with a brass 24-pounder, a Royal Artillery officer, and the officer's wife.

The Besieging Army. Pictured are one of Lamb's cannoneers with a brass 12-pounder, General Montgomery, and some Connecticut Continentals.


The victory at Fort Saint-Jean was a remarkable achievement for a Continental army that was not yet 5 months old.

The garrison that surrendered included the following:

  • 7th Regiment of Foot: 259 men [3]
  • 26th Regiment of Foot: 215 men [3]
  • Canadian Gentleman Volunteers, Officers, and Militia: 75 men [4]
  • Royal Artillery: 38 men [3]
  • Royal Highland Emigrants: 19 men [3]
  • Other Canadian Volunteers: 12 men [4]
  • Native Americans: 2 men [4]

In addition to these land forces, the Americans captured a Royal Navy contingent led by Captain Hunter, and a group of carpenters and artificers, led by Captain Thompson.

The Americans also captured the half-sunk Royal Savage, a row galley, a number of smaller vessels, and a large train of artillery.


1. From the “True journal of Barwick’s Company from New York to Quebec, August 4, 1775 to September 25, 1776.” Robert Barwick was a cannonneer in Lamb’s artillery.

2. From Hospice-Anthelme-Jean-Baptiste Verreau's (1873) Invasion du Canada.

3. From a return dated November 1, 1775, at Fort Saint-Jean. Published in A history of the organization, development and services of the military and naval forces of Canada from the Peace of Paris in 1763 to the present time. Vol. 1.

4. From a “Liste des Messieurs les Officiers & Gentilhommes Canadiens qui ont servit en qualite de Volontaires sous les ordres de Mr. Belletre & pris prisonniers dans la Garnison de St. Jean sous le Commandement du Major Preston.” Published in A history of the organization, development and services of the military and naval forces of Canada from the Peace of Paris in 1763 to the present time. Vol. 1.

A large Native American contingent was present at Fort Saint-Jean when the Americans first advanced on the fort. These men participated in a hard-fought September skirmish, but most left the garrison soon thereafter.


  1. A terrific series of posts, AD. I confess I hadn't heard of the Fort Saint-Jean engagement until reading about it hear. Very interesting. Great figures too - the officer's wife is a nice touch!

    Best wishes


  2. Thank you both for the kind words.

  3. But there is no explanation why American revolutionary troops, supplies and ammunition were wasted on an expedition to attack the French-speaking people of Quebec and Montreal. You describe them as British, but then quote one of their militia officers, Juchereau, who speaks French. The British Governor, Carleton, and his militia (who really are British) come off looking like cowards as they abandon Montreal. And the American commander Montgomery looks like a fool for claiming victory over a campaign that doesn't appear to be anything but an ill-conceived wild goose chase. The only ones that come off looking half decent are the French inhabitants who are caught in a needless comedy of errors perpetrated by the Americans and the British, who are all running around Canada, when they ought to be slugging it out in the American colonies.

  4. Thank you for writing, and I’ll do my best to clarify:

    This series of posts was limited to chronicling the military events of this campaign. I don’t say much about the personalities or touch upon the broader issues. There is a host of reasons why the Americans decided to invade Canada in 1775. To name one: the Americans convinced themselves that Canada would fall quickly because it was garrisoned by few British regulars and because they believed that the “habitants” would support them. They believed that capturing Canada, along with driving the British from Boston, would compel Britain to meet their demands.

    I use the term “British” and “American” very loosely on this blog. The garrison at Fort Saint-Jean consisted of British regulars, French Canadians, British Canadians, and Native Americans. I found it easiest to simply describe them as “British” forces in the sense that they were all acting, in some sense, on behalf of the British king.

    It wasn’t my intention to portray either Carleton or Montgomery in a negative light.

    Carleton abandoned Montreal because he saw it as a military necessity once Fort Saint-Jean fell. His reasoning was not described in this post. In brief, at Montreal the garrison could be easily besieged and the city walls were not designed to withstand a cannonade. Therefore, he preferred to concentrate the remaining British forces in Canada at Quebec (town) which could not be so easily besieged, and whose walls were formidable.

    Montgomery’s victory was significant – I think of it as the most important American military victory between the battle of Lexington and Concord and the ejection of the British from Boston. Although the capture of the fort did not lead to the capture of Canada, the Americans did capture heavy guns and naval vessels, and they were able to occupy a great deal of Canadian territory. These gains were of consequence because a British army ended up spending a good part of the 1776 campaign essentially getting the British back to where they had been a year before. Arguably, the capture of Fort Saint-Jean even helped set the stage for the crucial Saratoga campaign.