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General Richard Montgomery and the American Revolution

From Redcoat to Rebel

Hal Shelton

Publication Year: 1996

Brave, humane, and generous . . . still he was only a brave, humane, and generous rebel; curse on his virtues, they've undone this country.
--Member of British Parliament Lord North, upon hearing of General Richard Montgomery's death in battle against the British

At 3 a.m. on December 31, 1775, a band of desperate men stumbled through a raging Canadian blizzard toward Quebec. The doggedness of this ragtag militia--consisting largely of men whose short-term enlistments were to expire within the next 24 hours--was due to the exhortations of their leader. Arriving at Quebec before dawn, the troop stormed two unmanned barriers, only to be met by a British ambush at the third. Amid a withering hale of cannon grapeshot, the patriot leader, at the forefront of the assault, crumpled to the ground. General Richard Montgomery was dead at the age of 37.
Montgomery--who captured St. John and Montreal in the same fortnight in 1775; who, upon his death, was eulogized in British Parliament by Burke, Chatham, and Barr; and after whom 16 American counties have been named--has, to date, been a neglected hero. Written in engaging, accessible prose, General Richard Montgomery and the American Revolution chronicles Montgomery's life and military career, definitively correcting this historical oversight once and for all.

Published by: NYU Press

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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pp. xi

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pp. xiii-xiv

Like all authors, I amassed a tremendous debt of gratitude during the production of this volume. The many persons who contributed to the fulfillment of this work are too numerous to individually credit here. However, some deserve singular recognition...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-7

At 3 A.M. on December 31, 1775, a band of desperate men stumbled forward in the middle of a dark night and during the worst of a Canadian winter storm. In the midst of gale-driven snow and sleet, the men's labored breathing soon covered their faces with ice. The...

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2. Ancestry and Early Life

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pp. 8-16

Richard Montgomery was born on December 2, 1738, at his father's country estate, near Swords in County Dublin, Ireland. Thus, he joined a respectable family of Irish gentry as the son of Thomas Montgomery and Mary Franklin (Franklyn) Montgomery...

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3. Duty in the Seven Years' War

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pp. 17-34

The nagging imperial rivalry between Great Britain and France in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries led ultimately to the Seven Years' War between these two contending national powers as they struggled for world supremacy. Although global in overall scope...

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4. Decision for the Patriot Cause

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pp. 35-50

In late 1772 or early 1773, Richard Montgomery migrated to America. Before making this major change in his life, he explained his reasons for leaving England in a letter to his cousin, John Montgomery: "As a man with little money cuts but a bad figure in this country...

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5. Service in the Provincial Congress

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pp. 51-64

Having swayed him to the patriot cause, prevalent events coaxed Montgomery's entrance into politics to serve in the New York Provincial Congress. This extralegal body had evolved from several precedent assemblies that New Yorkers called to consider the...

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6. The Patriot Call to Arms

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pp. 65-78

After choosing George Washington to head the Continental army on June 15, 1775, the Continental Congress turned next to selecting the senior military commanders to serve under the new commander in chief. The delegates found it necessary to represent all...

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7. The March to Canada

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pp. 79-96

On his way northward, Schuyler wrote George Washington from Saratoga revealing his thoughts about shaping his new corps into an efficient military force: "Be assured my general that I shall use my best endeavors to establish order and discipline in the troops...

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8. Struggle and Success against St. Johns

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pp. 97-115

As the formidable responsibility of invading Canada settled on his shoulders, Montgomery quickly took stock of the situation. The terrain was familiar to him. Fifteen years earlier, he had campaigned in this same area while in the British army...

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9. On to Quebec

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pp. 116-132

It was important for Montgomery not to allow his troops to rest on their accomplishments and delay their advance on Montreal. Weather would become an increasing liability to his enterprise as winter set in. In addition, Arnold, whom he planned to join in attacking Quebec...

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10. Attack on Quebec

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pp. 133-150

After receiving no satisfaction in his attempts to arrange a peaceful capitulation of Quebec, Montgomery turned to an artillery cannonade of the city. Erecting batteries with the guns he had brought from Montreal, he emplaced five small mortars behind protective...

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11. Aftermath of Quebec

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pp. 151-171

The bodies of Montgomery and his men lay undisturbed where they fell for the rest of the day. The blockhouse guards did not realize the significance of the action in which they had been involved—that one prong of the American army had been turned back...

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12. Epilogue

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pp. 172-181

After Montgomery's repulse at Quebec, the American government experienced an awakened intensity regarding the Canadian campaign and began funneling resources to the northern army. Slowly, troops and materiel built up. On the first of April 1776, when...


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pp. 183-188


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pp. 189-226


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pp. 227-238


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pp. 239-245

E-ISBN-13: 9780814788868
E-ISBN-10: 0814788866
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814780398
Print-ISBN-10: 0814780393

Page Count: 245
Publication Year: 1996