The Invasion of Canada in 1775
The invasion of Canada in 1775 saw the newly created Continental Army of the United States launch their first military action in the American Revolutionary War. It also marked the first major defeat of the Americans in the Revolutionary War. The invasion led by Colonel Benedict Arnold and General Richard Montgomery, was staged in the city of Quebec with the aim of protecting Canadians from British rule. Americans also hoped to persuade Canadians to join their campaign in revolting against England.
Events leading to the Invasion of Canada in 1775
After the forces led by Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen captured Fort Ticonderoga in the spring of 1775, Americans got wind that a British Army was being created in Canada under the command of Sir Guy Carleton. Owing to the American resistance of British rule, they thought that by invading Canada, a rebellion would be triggered. Through the invasions, they hoped British plans for war with rebellious colonies would be disrupted.
With the approval of the Congress, George Washington authorized the attack on Canada in 1775 under General Philip Schuyler. The offensive was to be led by Richard Montgomery, advancing with troops from Ticonderoga.
How the 1775 American Invasion of Canada Occurred
Also known as the Battle of Quebec or Canadian Campaign, the invasion of Canada in 1775 started late August when Gen. Schuyler led American troops up Lake Champlain and captured St. Johns. However, the battle impacted ill health on the General, forcing him to wait for Montgomery’s forces before making further advancement.
Montgomery and Arnold finally met and joined their troops in early December 1775, outside Quebec City demanding the city to surrender. However, their demands were rejected by the then governor of the province of Quebec, General Guy Carleton.
With the looming expiry of the enlistment of American troops, they continued the march towards Quebec under snowfall cover in the wee hours of December 31. As the troops approached and surrounded the city, the British were ready and fire erupted between the two forces.
Montgomery was unable to make it through the first assault, and after several unfruitful attempts to penetrate through the British defenses, his troops were turned back.
At the time of Montgomery’s defeat, Arnold and his men were also taking heavy fire on the northern wall, forcing them to retreat. Apart from losing several troops, Arnold also got wounded on the leg. His role was taken up by Patriot Daniel Morgan who continued the assault but got held back at the second wall in wait for reinforcement. As Arnold’s men arrived, the British had reorganized and the Patriots were forced to discontinue the invasion.
Arnold and his men had to stay fortified outside the city amidst raging cold and lack of supplies. Thanks to their counterparts, reinforcements arrived in spring but there were no further orders to proceed with the invasion.
Instead, the American troops moved back to Montreal to team up with other forces, from where they all marched to Crown Point for safety. During this time, British forces and Carleton were still in pursuit. However, they later decided to return to Montreal after failing to capture the Americans who survived the battle.
Results and Significance of the Invasion of Canada in 1775
The greatest impact of the invasion of Canada in 1775 was on the Americans, considering their defeat. Of the about 1,200 American soldiers who took part in the war, more than 400 were taken into captivity, suffered wounds or died. Apart from losing a number of men, American troops also lost one of their Generals, Montgomery. Colonel Arnold left the battle filed with a broken leg while Morgan was captured.
Casualties on the side of the British were low
Canadians did not stage an uprising against the British as expected by the Americans. Canada remained as a British colony.
Americans had not planned well for the invasion of Quebec and this was clearly shown in their defeat. Besides, they had not properly analyzed the information about anti-British sentiments in Canada.
However, the actions of Arnold and his men while retreating to Montreal on Lake Champlain bore great impact by holding back the British Army from staging a counter-attack until 1777.
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