American Invasion

In the year 1775, when the thirteen American Colonies had risen in arms

against the Motherland, it was to be expected that they would desire to

have the assistance of those north of the forty-ninth parallel. Being so

recently laid under British allegiance, it was supposed there would be

much sympathy for the young cause in the Canadian Colonies. But, whether

the treaty which had been made had been considered gracious in its
r /> terms, or that the horrible memories of war had not had time to die

away, or from a combination of causes, the French-English provinces

refused to take up the Colonial grievances. To compel them to do this,

an expedition, consisting of Col. Ethan Allen and his "Green Mountain

Boys," was detached against Montreal. Arriving on the opposite bank of

the river, just below the town, with about one hundred and fifty men, he

crossed over from Longueuil and reached the eastern suburbs at about

ten o'clock p.m., when he proceeded to billet his men in private houses.

That was before the days of telephones, so it was some time before the

news reached the city and the gates were closed. The rash project of so

small a force attempting to beleaguer a walled town of fourteen thousand

inhabitants could have but one outcome, and it resulted in the capture

of Ethan Allen. He was brought in through the Quebec Gate, or Porte St.

Martin, sent to England and lodged in Pendennis Castle, where he could

hear the moan of the wide sea that separated him from the land he loved

and longed to fight for.

But the expedition was not abandoned on account of this repulse, for

soon General Montgomery appeared. Rattray describes Montgomery as a

brave officer of generous and exemplary character. He was an Irishman, a

lieutenant in the 17th Foot, but resigned his commission in the year

1772, owing, it is said, to some grievance connected with promotion;

when he settled and married in the State of New York. Crossing the

Canadian lines he captured Forts St. Jean and Chambly, the latter a

stone fortress on the site of a post built by Tracey's men, and thus he

became possessed of ammunition and other military stores of which he

stood in need. The French-Canadian Noblesse were the first to offer to

defend the country against the invader, but Sir Guy Carleton,

Commander-in-Chief of the forces, being without sufficient troops to

successfully resist attack at this point, determined to retire to Quebec

and make a resolute stand within its walls. He therefore dismissed to

their homes the Canadians under arms, spiked the cannon and burned the

bateaux he could not use. Three armed sloops were loaded with

provisions and baggage to be ready for emergency. He felt it was a point

of honour to remain at Montreal as long as possible, but it was of the

utmost importance to the cause that his person should not fall into the

hands of the enemy. He therefore remained until news arrived that the

Americans had landed on a small island in the river, a short distance

above the city, now called Nun's Island, and then hurried arrangements

were made for his departure. As he left the Chateau, passing out of the

main entrance and down the path that led to the river, he was followed

by groups of friends and citizens, whose sad countenances evinced their

forebodings of the future. The historian Bouchette, whose father was one

of those in attendance on the Commander, relates the incidents of the

perilous and momentous journey in the following words:--

"It was through the intrepidity of a party of Canadian boatmen that the

Governor of the country was enabled, after escaping the most critical

perils, to reach the Capital of the Province, where his arrival is well

known to have prevented the capitulation of Quebec and the surrender of

the country. In reverting to the history of the Revolutionary contest,

no event will be found more strikingly illustrative of the extraordinary

chances of war than the perilous, though fortunate, adventure of the

Commander-in-Chief of the army in Canada, whose descent by water from

Montreal to Quebec was effected with safety in the very teeth of

danger. The shores of the St. Lawrence for upwards of fifty miles below

the city were possessed by the enemy, who had constructed armed rafts

and floating batteries at the junction of the Sorel with the St.

Lawrence, to cut off communication with the Capital. Upon the successful

issue of so hazardous an attempt depended the preservation of Canada,

and the taking of General Carleton, which appeared nearly certain, would

have rendered its fate inevitable; but the happy arrival of the Governor

at Quebec at so critical a juncture, and the well-advised and active

steps which he immediately adopted, secured to Britain a footing in that

beautiful portion of America which circumstances threatened to forever

deny her. A clandestine escape from the surrounding enemy was the only

alternative left, and an experienced officer, distinguished for his

intrepidity and courage, was immediately sent for to concert measures

for the General's precipitate departure. Captain Bouchette, the officer

selected for this purpose, then in command of an armed vessel in the

harbour, and who was styled the 'wild pigeon' on account of the celerity

of his movements, zealously assumed the responsible duty assigned him,

suggesting at the same time the absolute necessity of the General's

disguise in the costume of a Canadian peasant fisherman. This was deemed

prudent as increasing the chances of escape, if, as seemed probable,

they should fall in with the enemy, whose gun-boats, chiefly captures,

were cruising in various parts of the river.

"It was a dark and damp night in November, a light skiff with muffled

paddles, manned by a few chosen men, provisioned with three biscuits

each, lay alongside the waiting vessel." Under cover of the night, the

disguised Governor embarked, attended by an orderly sergeant, and his

devoted Aide-de-Camp, Charles Terieu de la Perade, Sieur de Lanaudiere,

Seigneur de Ste. Anne, and a lineal descendant of de Ramezay. The skiff

silently pushed off, the Captain frequently communicating his orders in

a preconcerted manner by silently touching the shoulder or head of the

man next to him, who passed on the signal to the one nearest, and so on.

"Their perplexity increased as they approached the Berthier Islands,

from the knowledge that the enemy had taken up strong positions at this

point, especially in the islands which commanded the channel on the

south-west of Lake St. Peter, which compelled their adoption of the

other to the northward, although the alternative seemed equally fraught

with peril, as the American troops were encamped on the banks. The most

eminent danger they experienced was passing through the 'Narrows' at

Berthier, the shores of which were lined by American bivouacs, whose

blazing fires, reflecting far out on the surface of the waters, obliged

them to stoop, cease paddling and allow themselves to drift down with

the current, imitating the appearance of drifting timber frequently seen

in the St. Lawrence. So near did they approach, that the Sentinel's

exulting shout of 'All's well' occasionally broke upon the awful

stillness of the night. Their perilous situation was increased by the

constant barking of dogs that seemed to threaten them with discovery. It

evidently required the greatest prudence and good fortune to escape the

vigilance of an enemy thus stationed. The descent was, however, happily

made by impelling the skiff smoothly along the water, and paddling with

the hands for a distance of nine miles. After ascertaining that the

enemy had not yet occupied Three Rivers (a point half way to Quebec),

they repaired thither to recruit from their fatigue, when the whole

party narrowly escaped being made prisoners by a detachment of the

American Army which was then entering the town. Overcome by exhaustion,

the General leaned over a table in an inner room and fell asleep. The

clang of arms was presently heard in the outer passage, and soon

afterward American soldiers filled the adjoining apartment to that in

which the General himself was, but his disguise proved his preservation.

Captain Bouchette, with peculiar self-possession and affected

listlessness, walked up to the Governor, and with the greatest

familiarity beckoned him away, at the same time apprising him of the

threatened danger. Passing through the midst of the heedless guards, and

hastening to the beach, they moved oft precipitately in the skiff and

reached unmolested the foot of the Richelieu Rapids, where an armed brig

was fortunately found lying at anchor, which on their arrival

immediately set sail with a favouring breeze for Quebec.

Arrived at the Citadel, they proceeded to the Chateau St. Louis, where

the important services just rendered the country were generously


It is remarkable that the man who shared so largely in the risk involved

in this dramatic scene should have been a Frenchman, Carleton's

Aide-de-camp. Between him and his Chief a warm attachment continued to

exist until the end of their lives, an uninterrupted correspondence

being kept up between this noble soldier, Charles Terieu de Lanaudiere

and Lord Dorchester, after the latter with the title bestowed upon him

for his success on this occasion had retired from active service in the

colonies. De Lanaudiere's career was a remarkable one. He began with the

rank of Lieutenant in the Regiment de la Sarre, and was wounded in the

battle of Ste. Foye. He was afterwards received with royal favour by

King George the Third, being present at the state dinner when His

Majesty with the dignity which he knew how to assume when the occasion

required, rang for the carriage of his sometime favourite, the

fastidious Beau Brummel, who had presumed on his august good nature by

undue familiarity.