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General Richard Montgomery and the American Revolution

General Richard Montgomery and the American Revolution: From Redcoat to Rebel

Hal T. Shelton
Copyright Date: 1994
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 245
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  • Book Info
    General Richard Montgomery and the American Revolution
    Book Description:

    Brave, humane, and generous . . . still he was only a brave, humane, and generous rebel; curse on his virtues, they've undone this country.--Member of British Parliament Lord North, upon hearing of General Richard Montgomery's death in battle against the British At 3 a.m. on December 31, 1775, a band of desperate men stumbled through a raging Canadian blizzard toward Quebec. The doggedness of this ragtag militia--consisting largely of men whose short-term enlistments were to expire within the next 24 hours--was due to the exhortations of their leader. Arriving at Quebec before dawn, the troop stormed two unmanned barriers, only to be met by a British ambush at the third. Amid a withering hale of cannon grapeshot, the patriot leader, at the forefront of the assault, crumpled to the ground. General Richard Montgomery was dead at the age of 37. Montgomery--who captured St. John and Montreal in the same fortnight in 1775; who, upon his death, was eulogized in British Parliament by Burke, Chatham, and Barr; and after whom 16 American counties have been named--has, to date, been a neglected hero. Written in engaging, accessible prose, General Richard Montgomery and the American Revolution chronicles Montgomery's life and military career, definitively correcting this historical oversight once and for all.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-8886-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-x)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  4. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-7)

    At 3 a.m. on December 31, 1775, a band of desperate men stumbled forward in the middle of a dark night and during the worst of a Canadian winter storm. In the midst of gale-driven snow and sleet, the men’s labored breathing soon covered their faces with ice. The torturous weather caused physical pain and a numbness of the senses. They trudged along a narrow, jumbled path that followed the river lying below. A careless step could plunge a hapless individual onto the frozen stream that lay to one side of the slippery trail. Any rational being would have sought...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Ancestry and Early Life
    (pp. 8-16)

    Richard Montgomery was born on December 2, 1738, at his father’s country estate, near Swords in County Dublin, Ireland. Thus, he joined a respectable family of Irish gentry as the son of Thomas Montgomery and Mary Franklin (Franklyn) Montgomery. His father, who had inherited a title of baronet, was a former captain in the army. He was serving as a member of the Irish Parliament for Lifford, in County Donegal, at the time of Richard’s birth.² Many of the traits that Richard Montgomery would exhibit later in life may be explained by his ancestry. Richard was directly descended from a...

  6. CHAPTER THREE Duty in the Seven Years’ War
    (pp. 17-34)

    The nagging imperial rivalry between Great Britain and France in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries led ultimately to the Seven Years’ War between these two contending national powers as they struggled for world supremacy. Although global in overall scope, the part of the military conflict that occurred in North America became known as the French and Indian wars. This belligerency represented a series of protracted colonial wars between the British army, augmented by provincial militia, and French troops, assisted by their Indian allies.

    Competing British and French claims in the Ohio Valley on the colonial western frontier touched off the...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Decision for the Patriot Cause
    (pp. 35-50)

    In late 1772 or early 1773, Richard Montgomery migrated to America. Before making this major change in his life, he explained his reasons for leaving England in a letter to his cousin, John Montgomery: “As a man with little money cuts but a bad figure in this country among peers, nabobs, etc., I have cast my eye on America, where my pride and poverty will be much more at their ease.” Montgomery obviously understated his financial situation. Although lacking a title or influential patronage, he was far from impoverishment. He received a middling inheritance when his father’s will divided the...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE Service in the Provincial Congress
    (pp. 51-64)

    Having swayed him to the patriot cause, prevalent events coaxed Montgomery’s entrance into politics to serve in the New York Provincial Congress. This extralegal body had evolved from several precedent assemblies that New Yorkers called to consider the mounting crisis with England. Long before the Revolution, New Yorkers became accustomed to creating unauthorized political pressure groups to protest against and win concessions from the constituted government. Through the years, the process evolved as a means of redress against any autocratic governor. As the conflict between the colonists and the British government became more acute, New Yorkers formed committees, corresponding with...

  9. CHAPTER SIX The Patriot Call to Arms
    (pp. 65-78)

    After choosing George Washington to head the Continental army on June 15, 1775, the Continental Congress turned next to selecting the senior military commanders to serve under the new commander in chief. The delegates found it necessary to represent all sections of the country in this high command to assure as much support for the common cause as possible. The province of New York posed an important consideration because of its strategic location, connecting New England with the remaining colonies. Without New York committed to the Revolution, coordination between north and south would be difficult. During the selection process, the...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN The March to Canada
    (pp. 79-96)

    On his way northward, Schuyler wrote George Washington from Saratoga revealing his thoughts about shaping his new corps into an efficient military force: “Be assured my general that I shall use my best endeavors to establish order and discipline in the troops under my command. I wish I could add that I had a prospect of much success in that way. It is extremely difficult to introduce a proper subordination amongst a people where so little distinction is kept up.”³

    A number of American troops were garrisoning Ticonderoga when Schuyler arrived there on July 18. The soldiers under Col. Benjamin...

  11. CHAPTER EIGHT Struggle and Success against St. Johns
    (pp. 97-115)

    As the formidable responsibility of invading Canada settled on his shoulders, Montgomery quickly took stock of the situation. The terrain was familiar to him. Fifteen years earlier, he had campaigned in this same area while in the British army. The circumstances, however, had changed dramatically. Then, he served as an officer in a crack regiment of tightly controlled and disciplined soldiers, trained to strict obedience. Now, he found himself on the other side of the battle line in charge of an army of rebels that were quite different from the professional soldiers to whom he was accustomed. Clearly, Montgomery would...

  12. CHAPTER NINE On to Quebec
    (pp. 116-132)

    It was important for Montgomery not to allow his troops to rest on their accomplishments and delay their advance on Montreal. Weather would become an increasing liability to his enterprise as winter set in. In addition, Arnold, whom he planned to join in attacking Quebec, had been six weeks on his approach march through the Maine wilderness by this time.

    As Montgomery attempted to quickly consolidate his command after the fall of St. Johns, he encountered more problems with his troops. Many of the recruits, particularly the Connecticut men, had endured their fill of a combat soldier’s hardships, and they...

  13. CHAPTER TEN Attack on Quebec
    (pp. 133-150)

    After receiving no satisfaction in his attempts to arrange a peaceful capitulation of Quebec, Montgomery turned to an artillery cannonade of the city. Erecting batteries with the guns he had brought from Montreal, he emplaced five small mortars behind protective buildings in St. Roch, a few hundred yards from the walls of Quebec. Shelling of the city commenced on December 9 to provide a postscript to the unanswered messages of conciliation that Montgomery had sent to the inhabitants.

    Several days of sustained firing, however, failed to make a serious impact on the garrison or civilian population. Capt. Thomas Ainslie of...

  14. CHAPTER ELEVEN Aftermath of Quebec
    (pp. 151-171)

    The bodies of Montgomery and his men lay undisturbed where they fell for the rest of the day. The blockhouse guards did not realize the significance of the action in which they had been involved—that one prong of the American army had been turned back and its commanding general slain. They could observe some of the attackers fall under their guns and the survivors withdraw, but they had no way of discerning the extent of damage they had inflicted on their assailant or whether the opposition would launch another attempt at their position. Later that morning, when word came...

  15. CHAPTER TWELVE Epilogue
    (pp. 172-182)

    After Montgomery’s repulse at Quebec, the American government experienced an awakened intensity regarding the Canadian campaign and began funneling resources to the northern army. Slowly, troops and matériel built up. On the first of April 1776, when Wooster finally came to Quebec to assume command, the American force numbered two thousand troops. However, Arnold could not get along with Wooster because of personality conflicts. When Arnold reinjured his leg in an accident with his horse shortly after Wooster’s arrival, he used this excuse to retire to Montreal, leaving his superior in charge of the siege. Wooster bombarded the city with...

  16. Appendixes
    (pp. 183-188)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 189-226)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 227-238)
  19. Index
    (pp. 239-246)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 247-247)