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he was able to move, and took the command at Montreal.
Some fire ships had been prepared, both at Orleans and Point Aux Trembles, to be used against the vessels in the harbour so soon as the ice would permit the operation. The difficulties usually attending such an enterprise were greatly augmented by the want of sailors, and of a skilful commander to conduct them. The attempt, however, was made with great boldness, and the ship from Orleans very nearly succeeded. Coming from below, she was at first mistaken for a friend, and proceeded, in the night, very near the Cul' de Sac, where the vessels lay, before her character was discovered. The fire from the enemy instantly opened; on receiving which, the train was immediately lighted; but the sails caught the flames so quickly, as to lose the benefit of the wind, and stop the progress of the vessel, just at which time the ebb tide commencing, carried her down the river. The American army which had been drawn up, prepared, if this plan had succeeded, to take advantage of the confusion it would occasion, had the mortification to witness its failure after the most sanguine and encouraging appearances.
. A considerable part of the army having become entitled to a discharge, no inducement could prevail on them to continue in so severe a service. This deduction from Wooster's force was the more E E 4
sensibly felt, because the present situation of the roads, the lakes, and the St. Lawrence, unavoidably impeded, for a time, the arrival of the reinforcements destined for his aid. The roads were so deep as to be nearly impassable, the ice had become too soft for the use of sleds, and had not broken up so as to admit the passage of boats.
Among the first who reached the camp, after this state of things took place, was General Thomas, who, after being appointed to the command in Canada, had made great exertions to join the army. He arrived on the first of May, and on examining its force, found it to consist of a total of nineteen hundred, of whom not one thousand, including officers, were fit for duty. Among the effectives, three hundred who were entitled to a discharge, refused to do duty, and insisted impor; tunately on being immediately dismissed. The sick were generally ill of the small-pox, in the hospital. This small force was still more enfeebled by being unavoidably divided, so as to occupy different posts which it had been deemed necessary to maintain, at great distances from each other, and on different sides of the St. Lawrence. la consequence of this division, it was impracticable to bring together more than three hundred men at any one point, which might be attacked by the whole force of the enemy. In all the magazines there were but one hundred and fifty barrels of
powder, and six days' provisions ; nor could ade: quate supplies from the country people be relied on, as the Canadians no longer manifested any disposition to serve them.
The river was now beginning to open below, and no doubt could be entertained but that the first moment of its being practicable would be scized by the enemy for the relief of this very important place. Amidst these unpromising circumstances, the hope of taking Quebec appeared to General Thomas to be entirely chimerical, and a longer continuance before the town both useless and dangerous. It was apparent, that the first reinforcements which should arrive would deprive him entirely of the use of the river, and consequently would very much embarrass the removal of his sick, and military stores. No object remained 10 justify this hazard..
Under these impressions, General Thomas called a council of war on the fifth of May, in which it was unanimously determined, that they were not in a condition to risk an assault, that the sick should be removed to the Three Rivers, and the artillery and other stores embarked in their boats, in order to move with the army higher up the river, to a more defensible position. On the evening of the same day certain intelligence was received, that a British fleet was below; and the Bext morning five of their ships, which had with
much labour and danger made their way up the river through the ice, before it was deemed practicable, appeared in sight. They soon entered the harbour and landed some men, whilst the Americans were assiduously employed in the embarkation of their sick and stores; an operation carried on the more slowly, because the first appearance of the ships in the river deprived them totally of the aid expected from the teams and carriages of the Canadians. · At one o'clock Carleton made a sortie at the head of about one thousand men, formed in two divisions, and supported by six field pieces.
No intrenchments had been thrown up for the defence of the camp, and three hundred men with one field piece, constituted the whole force which could be brought into action. Thus circumstanced, victory was scarcely possible, and could have produced no important effect, as the 'enemy would immediately retire under the cannon of the town; while defeat would certainly annihilate the republican army. General Thomas, therefore, with the advice of the field officers about him, determined not to risk an action, and ordered his troops to retreat up the river. This was done with much precipitation, and many of the sick, with all the military stores, fell into the hands of the enemy. Unfortunately two ton of powder just sent down by General Schuyler, and five hundred stand of
small arms, likewise augmented the booty of the captors.
to the honour of General Carleton, he pursued the wise and humane policy of treating with great gentleness the sick and other persons that fell into his hands.
The Fall of Richelieu had been contemplated as a place of great natural strength, which, by being fortified and defended by a few armed vessels, might, in the event of failing in the attempt on Quebec, stop the progress of the enemy up the river, and thus preserve the greater part of Canada. General Montgomery had strongly recommended an early attention to this position, and it had been determined to fortify it; but the measures resolved on had not been executed.
Some armed gondolas were building up the river, but had not been completed in time; and, in the present state of that place, it was entirely impracticable to maintain it.
The army continued its retreat to de Chambeau, where, on the seventh, another council was called, in wbich it was agreed that they should retire to the mouth of the Sorel. The ships of the enemy were pressing up the river, and were then at Jaques Cartier, about three leagues below de Chamḥeau, and, as they had no means of stopping them at the Fall of Richelieu, would soon be above, so as to subject the troops, in their present position, to the same disadvantages to which they had been ex