This Week in History


Americans Attack!

For the week of Monday December 28, 1998

Before dawn, on December 31, 1775, American revolutionary soldiers attacked the town of Québec, QC. Deserters had revealed the Americans' plans, and by day's end their attack was stopped and their general was dead. This was a important Canadian victory!

The Americans were in revolt against Great Britain, fighting to establish their own government and laws. Britain had only won Canada from France in 1763, and many of the American rebels expected Canada to break away too. To their surprise, many English and French Canadians mistrusted the independence movement; few helped the invaders, and many continued to support Britain.

Fortifications of Québec

Fortifications of Québec
© Parks Canada

Because of the damages war caused, the Americans did not want to fight on their own land. Britain was an ocean away, and it was no secret her Navy was the strongest in the world! Instead, the American armies began attacking Canada.

By the autumn of 1775, American forces captured much of the St. Lawrence River and the city of Montréal. Moments before the city fell, Canada's governor, Sir Guy Carleton, escaped with his army and withdrew to Québec. He knew that if Québec fell, the British Empire could lose Canada!

As Carleton prepared his position, American General Richard Montgomery moved east along the St. Lawrence, while Colonel Benedict Arnold brought a small force up from the south. Just outside of Québec they waited for the right moment to strike. As December ended, however, Montgomery saw his advantage trickling away – if he waited any longer, many of his militiamen would go home in January when their term was up. In the middle of a blizzard, Arnold and Montgomery ordered their men to begin what they believed would be a sneak attack.

Colonel Benedict Arnold

Colonel Benedict Arnold
© Library and Archives Canada / C-14831

As the Americans crept through the lower town, not a sound came from the city's defenders. Canadian and British soldiers had spotted the advance and were waiting patiently. Before the rebels reached the town gates, the defenders fired. Almost instantly, General Montgomery was killed, and Colonel Arnold was wounded. Without their leaders, it was not long until the American soldiers retreated. This was a great win for both the British regulars and the Canadian militiamen.

The city of Québec is the only fortified city remaining in North America. Representing three centuries of defence, the Walls and Fortifications of Québec have been designated a National Historic Site, while the old city they surround is designated a World Heritage Site. The Americans' Siege of Québec has also been commemorated.

For more information on the Fortifications of Québec National Historic Site, visit the Parks Canada Web Page

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