Battle of Quebec - The American Revolutionary War

Cannons from the Battle of Quebec in Quebec City,
Cannons from the Battle of Quebec in Quebec City,

5. Background

The Battle of Quebec was an important part of the famous Invasion of Canada campaign during the American Revolutionary War, and it took place on December 31st, 1775 at Quebec City. This battle was the first major war defeat for the Americans. and one that came with very heavy losses. The purpose of this invasion into Canada was partly to attract the population of Canada into supporting the American interests in the war.

4. Makeup

The combatants of this battle were American troops who attacked a force that was comprised of Canadian volunteers and British recruits. In command of the Canadian Loyalists in this battle was the Governor of Canada, Guy Carleton, in support of Colonel Allen Maclean, who was in command of the British forces. Brigadier Generals Richard Montgomery and Daniel Morgan and Major General Benedict Arnold were commanding the Continental troops, while New York-born then-Quebec-resident James Livingston led a Canadian regiment in support of the revolutionaries. In the battle, the Continentals had around 1,200 combined regular and militia troops on their side, while the British and Canadian Loyalist forces had about 1.5 times that many on hand. As far as their equipment, arms, and uniforms were concerned, neither side had a specific dress code, and they all wore the pieces of clothing that were available at that time to them, and many likely wore their own civilian clothes. It was only the British Regulars, who were just a small party in the battle, that would have worn their own unique uniforms. The weapons available to both parties included bayonets and muskets on both sides, but the British had the advantage of having some heavy guns on the fortifications of the city.

3. Description

The American advance was planned in such a way so that Montgomery was set to attack from the western side while moving along the waterfront of St. Lawrence. Arnold, meanwhile, was meant to start advancing from the northern side and march along the St. Charles River. The two attack teams were planning to reunite at the point where these two rivers joined, so as to attack the wall of the city. The Americans moved out on the night of December 30th, and the assault took place shortly after midnight. In an event that they had not planned for, as Montgomery’s force was pressing inside the Lower Town they met their first barricade, and the first British volleys stunned them and killed Montgomery. The British prepared for the attack by erecting several barricades that were meant to enhance the formidable defenses of the city under the supervision of Carleton.

2. Outcome

The British were the winners of the Battle of Quebec, as they managed to drive off the assault. The Montgomery-led assault was met with heavy grapeshot that killed him. Unaware of Montgomery’s death, the troops led by Arnold penetrated the city, now under the command of Captain Daniel Morgan since Arnold had been hit on his left ankle which left him temporarily incapacitated. The British and Loyalist troops focused all their energies on these Americans and surrounded them, and Morgan and his men ultimately had no other option other than to surrender. The casualties of the battle of Quebec stood at 5 killed and 14 wounded for the British and Canadian Loyalists, while Continental casualties totalled 50 killed, 34 wounded, and 431 captured.

1. Significance

After the Battle of Quebec, the Americans withdrew fully from Canada, and never made any other serious attempt at bringing the population of Canada into the American side of war. The arrival of over 4,000 British troops later on, under the command of Major General John Burgoyne, forced the American forces to retreat from this area and return back into New York. This marked the end of the invasion of Canada which, though independent from Britain, remains as part of the British Commonwealth and retains the British monarchy to this day.


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