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Americans Invade Canada!

For the week of Monday November 8, 2004

On November 13, 1775, the city of Montréal was occupied by American troops under General Richard Montgomery. This American invasion had put Canada's future at stake.

Attack on Québec by General Montgomery, Morning of December 31, 1775
© Library and Archives Canada / C-006046

In April 1775, New England colonists rebelled against the British troops, sparking the American Revolution. The 13 American colonies became increasingly concerned about an attack by the British, who had military bases in Canada, but decided not to act. Once the American colonies learned that British defences were weak, and that the Canadians and the Aboriginal people would probably remain neutral in the event of an American attack, they changed their policy. In June, they ordered two expeditions, one under Benedict Arnold and the other under Ethan Allen, to capture the British frontier forts of Ticonderoga and Crown Point in New York. Arnold and Allen accomplished their mission without much difficulty. The Revolutionary Army then headed for the new British colony, known today as the province of Quebec, and attacked Fort Saint-Jean, where a significant amount of desperately needed supplies were stored.

While the Americans launched a propaganda campaign to encourage Canadians to join their cause, the Catholic clergy also tried to convince them to remain loyal to the British Crown and defend the country against American raids. Regardless, most Canadians remained neutral, with the exception of Montréal residents, where there was a pro-American movement. The Governor of Canada, Sir Guy Carleton, experienced great difficulty in recruiting men to defend the region.

Québec (British Army arrived from sea, May 1776)
© Library and Archives Canada / C-046216

In the fall, the American forces, at that time under the command of Richard Montgomery and Benedict Arnold, attacked Montréal. Carleton was forced to surrender on November 12, 1775. He then led his troops to Québec, the last point of resistance. Meanwhile, Arnold and his men also set out for Québec. Montgomery joined him on December 3, and the siege began two days later. During the night of December 30, the rebels tried to capture the city, but had to beat a hasty retreat before the British forces, who were more disciplined and better supplied. After this defeat, the Americans lost all hope of convincing the Canadians to join their revolution.

In 1984, the Siege of Quebec was designated an event of national historic significance, and a commemorative plaque was erected in Québec in 1988.

For more information on the Siege of Quebec, visit Americans Attack! in the This Week in History Archives.

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