When 31 December 1775
Strength British – 1,800
Americans – 900 regulars / 300 militia
As the Continental army were blockading the British in Boston, two separate American armies led by Brigadier Richard Montgomery and General Benedict Arnold, invaded Canada. The purpose of the invasion of Canada was to bring the French-Canadian population into the war on the American side, to take control of the St. Lawrence River thus cutting off a vital supply route for the British, and to drive them out of Canada.
Shortly after the capture of Fort Ticonderoga, General Arnold captured Montreal after a forty-five-day siege. Hearing of the loss of Montreal, the Governor of Quebec – General Sir Guy Carleton – began mobilizing the colony’s defenses, consisting of regular infantry, militiamen, and Native Americans, to protect Quebec. Carleton followed the American invasion's progress, occasionally receiving intercepted communications between Montgomery and Arnold.
General Arnold arrived on a promontory across the St. Lawrence from Quebec, having lost a substantial part of his force on the punishing journey from New England. The Americans underestimated the distances they would be forced to travel and ran out of supplies. They were forced to eat their shoes and equipment, and many died.
On 13th November 1775, Arnold took his force across the St. Lawrence to the north bank, climbed onto the Plains of Abraham, and summoned the garrison to surrender or come out and fight. The garrison did neither and so he launched a night attack that was beaten back.
Then on 31st December 1775, with the addition of Montgomery’s troops, and in a snowstorm, Arnold launched night attacks at either end of the city. Arnold led the assault along the north-east side of Quebec, while Montgomery’s troops attacked along the southern shore. The British however had already been alerted to what was going on by premature fake attacks on other parts of the city’s perimeter. Montgomery’s assault was repelled with heavy cannon fire from the city walls and he was killed. Arnold’s attack penetrated the city-wall but he was wounded. A British force, having dealt with Montgomery’s assault, then arrived and led a counter attack. The American troops who had penetrated the walls were captured and the assault was driven off.
Both the Americans and British misunderstood the nature of French-Canadian society known as Canadien. This society was organized like medieval feudalism. Tenant farmers, known as habitants, rented land from lords and the Catholic Church. The British believed the habitants would deferentially obey their social superiors while the Americans believed that they would welcome them as liberators from their feudal society. In fact, most of the habitants wanted to remain neutral and live their lives in peace.
Following the battle, the Americans withdrew from Canada and they made no further attempts to bring Canada into the war on the American side.
British – 226 killed / 828 wounded Americans – 115 killed / 305 wounded / 30 missing or captured
The Battle of Quebec by C. W. Jefferys, 1916.