« PreviousContinue »
weak to maintain its ground; and when the Char V. time for saving the sick and military stores \776. had passed away.
The siege of Quebec, instead of being persevered in longer, ought certainly to have been abandoned at an earlier period. This was the real fault of those who commanded at this station. It is to be ascribed to the extreme reluctance always felt by inexperienced officers to disappoint the public expectation, by relinquishing an enterprise, concerning which sanguine hopes have been entertained, even after every reasonable prospect of success had vanished, and to encounter the obloquy of giving up a post, although it can no longer be with prudence defended. In the perseverance with which the siege of Quebec was maintained, these motives operated with all their force, and they received an addition, from the unwillingness felt by the Americans to abandon those of their friends who had taken so decisive a part in their favour, as to be incapable of remaining in safety behind them.
Whilst the power of the United Colonies in Canada was thus visibly declining, and their troops were driven by superior numbers from the vicinity of Quebec, a calamity entirely unlooked for befell them in a different quarter of the same province.
As the English were still in possession of several military posts in upper Canada, many
Ciiap.v. considerations rendered it proper to station a
1776. body of troops above Montreal. ■ A point of land called the Cedars, about forty miles above that place, which was recommended by the facility with which it might be defended, was • selected for this purpose. It projected deep into the St. Lawrence, and could only be approached on one side. To this place colonel Bedel had been detached, with three hundred and ninety continental troops, and two field pieces, which he mounted in some slight works he had thrown up for security. Against this post, general Carleton had very early in the spring planned an expedition, the execution of which was committed to captain Forstcr, who commanded at a post held by the English on
M^yii. Oswegachie. He set out with a company of regulars, and a few savages, and having prevailed on the warriors of a tribe of Indians inhabiting the intermediate country to join in
May It. the expedition, he appeared before the works of the Americans with about six hundred men. Two days previous to his appearance, colonel Bedel had received intelligence of his approach, and leaving the fort to be commanded by major Butterfield, had proceeded himself to Montreal to solicit assistance. Arnold, who then commanded at that place, immediately detached major Sherburne to the Cedars with one hundred men, while he prepared to follow in person at the head of a much larger force.
Captain Forster on his first appearance, sent Chap.v in a flag requiring a surrender, and major 1776. Butterfield offered to capitulate and give up the fort, on being permitted to withdraw with the garrison and all their baggage, to Montreal. These terms were refused, and, the assailants being entirely destitute of artillery, the fort was attacked with musketry. By this mode of attack no serious impression could possibly be made, and in the course of two days only one man was wounded. Yet major Butterfield, intimidated by the threat, that if any Indians should be killed during the siege, it would be out of the power of captain Forster to restrain them from massacreing every individual of the garrison, consented to a capitulation, by which he and his whole party were made prisoners of war, only stipulating for their baggage and their lives.
The next day, major Sherburne approached without having received any information that "Butterfield had surrendered. Within about four miles of the Cedars, he was attacked by a considerable body of Indians, and he too, after a conflict of near an hour, in the course of which a party of the enemy gained his rear, surrendered at discretion.
Having obtained information of these untoward events, Arnold, at the head of seven hundred men marched against the enemy then at Vaudreuil, in the hope of recovering the
Vol. Ii. '3a'.
Chap.v. American prisoners. When preparing for the 1776. engagement, he received a flag, accompanied. by major Sherburne, giving him the most positive assurances, that if he persisted in his design to attack the enemy, it would be entirely out of the power of captain Forster to prevent his savages from pursuing their horrid customs, and disencumbering themselves of their prisoners by putting every man to death. This massacre was already threatened, and major Sherburne confirmed the communication in a manner too serious to admit of its being questioned. Under the influence of this threat, Arnold desisted from his purpose, and agreed to a cartel, by which the prisoners were delivered up to him, he agreeing, among other things, to deliver others in exchange for them, and that they should immediately return to their homes. Hostages were given as a security for the performance of these stipulations; but congress long discovered much unwillingness to observe them.5
At the mouth of the Sorel, after the death of
general Thomas, re-enforcements assembled,
Junc4- which increased the army to about four or five .sumTM thousand men. General Sullivan now came up, co^Sl and the command devolved on him.
The friendly Canadians in that part of the country, who had supposed themselves abandoned, manifested great joy on seeing general
• Journals *>f Congress.
Sullivan arrive with re-enforcements which' ap- Chap. v. peared to them very considerable; and* offered 1776. every assistance in their power. He calculated on their joining him in very great numbers, and entertained .sanguine hopes of recovering and maintaining the post of De Chambeau. As a previous measure, it was necessary to dislodge the enemy at the Three Rivers.
Carleton was not immediately in a situation to follow up the blow given the Americans at Quebec, and to drive them entirely out of the province; but the respite allowed them was not of long duration.
Towards the end of May, large re-enforcements arrived from England and Ireland, so that the British army in Canada amounted to about thirteen thousand men. The general rendezvous appointed for these troops was at the Three Rivers, a long village about midway between Quebec and Montreal, which receives its name from its contiguity to a river that empties itself, by three mouths, into the St. Lawrence.' The army was greatly divided. A considerable body had reached the Three Rivers, and was stationed there under the command of general Frazer. Another under general Nesbit lay near them on board the transports. A greater than either, with the generals Carleton, Burgoyne, Philips, and the German