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CHAP. V. what appeared to be a point of woods, but was 1776. in reality a deep morass three miles in extent.
They were detained some time in these bad grounds, and thrown into considerable con.. fusion. These delays gave general Frazer full time to land some field pieces, and prepare completely for their reception, while general Nesbit fell in their rear, and entirely cut off their return to the boats. They advanced to the charge, but were soon repulsed, and find.
ing it impracticable to return the way they Battle of the came, were driven some miles through a deep
swamp, which they traversed with inconceiv. able toil, and every degree of distress. The British at length gave over the pursuit.
In this unfortunate enterprise, general Thompson, and colonel Irwin, second in command, with about two hundred men were made prisoners; and irom twenty to thirty were killed. The loss of the enemy was extremely inconsiderable."
The whole military force in Canada now amounted to about eight thousand men, but of this not one half were fit for duty. The rest were in hospitals, principally under the smallpox. About two thousand five hundred effectives were with general Sullivan at the Sorel. The whole were in a state of total insubordination, much harassed with fatigue, and dispirited by their late losses, by the visible superiority
u Annual Register.
of the enemy, and by the apprehension that chap. V. their retreat would be entirely cut off. Under 1776. all these discouraging circumstances, general Sullivan formed the rash determination of defending the post at Sorel; and was only induced by the unanimous opinion of his officers, and a conviction that the troops would not support him, to abandon it a few hours before the enemy took possession of it. The same causes June 14. drew him reluctantly from Chambleé and St. Johns; but he resolved to remain at the isle Eighteenth. Aux Noix until he should receive orders to retreat. He had been joined at St. Johns by general Arnold, who had crossed, over at Longueisle just in time to save the garrison of Montreal from falling into the hands of the enemy.
The isle Aux Noix is a low unhealthy place badly supplied with water, where the troops were so universally seized with fevers, as to compel general Sullivan to retire to the isle Lamotte, where he received the orders of general Schuyler to embark on the lakes for Crown Point.
The armed vessels on the Sorel and St. Lawrence were destroyed, and the fortifications of Chambleé and St. Johns set on fire. All the baggage of the army, and nearly all the military stores were saved.
The British army, during this whole retreat, had followed close in the rear, and took possession of the different posts the Americans had
CHAP. V. occupied, immediately after they were evacu. 1776. ated.
On the Sorel the pursuit stopped. The Americans had the command of the lake, and the British general deemed it prudent to wrest it from them before he advanced further. To effect this, it was necessary to construct a number of vessels, which required time and labour. Meanwhile, general Gates was ordered to take command of this army, which was directed to be re-enforced with six thousand militia. Of these, three thousand were to be furnished by Massachussetts, fifteen hundred by Connecticut, seven hundred and fifty by New Hampshire, and the same number by New York. .
Thus terminated the enterprise against Canada. It was a bold, and at one period promised to be a successful effort, to annex that extensive province to the United Colonies. The dispositions of the Canadians greatly favoured the measure, and had Quebec fallen, there is reason to believe the whole colony would have entered cordially into the union. Had a few incidents turned out fortunately; had Arnold been able to reach Quebec a few days sooner, or to have crossed the St. Law. rence on his first arrival; or had the gallant Montgomery not fallen in the assault of the 31st of December; it is probable the expedition would have been crowned with complete success. But the radical causes of failure, putting
fortune out of the question, were to be found chap. V. in the lateness of the season when the troops 1776. ' were assembled, in a defect of the preparations necessary for such a service, and still more in the shortness of the time for which the men were inlisted. A committee of congress, appointed to inquire into the causes of the miscarriages in Canada, reported, “that the short inlistments of the continental troops in Canada, have been one great cause of the miscarriages there, by rendering unstable the number of men engaged in military enterprises, by making them disorderly and disobedient to their officers, and by precipitating the commanding officers into measures which their prudence might have postponed, could they have relied on a longer continuance of their troops in service:
“That the want of hard money had been one other great cause of the miscarriages in Canada, rendering the supplies of necessaries difficult and precarious, the establishment of proper magazines absolutely impracticable, and the pay of the troops of but little use to them.
" That a still greater, and more fatal source of misfortunes, has been the prevalence of the small-pox in that army; a great proportion whereof has thereby been usually kept unfit for duty.”
A committee was also appointed to inquire into the conduct of general Wooster, who acquitted him of all blame. VOL. II.
CHAP. V. But had the expedition been crowned with 1776. the most complete success, the practicability
of maintaining the country, is very much to be doubted. Whilst general Montgomery lay before Quebec, and counted on obtaining pos. session of the place, he extended his views to its preservation. His plan required a permanent army of ten thousand men, strong fortifications at Jaques Cartier and the rapids of Richelieu, and armed vessels in the river above the latter place. With this army, and these precautions, he thought the country might be defended, but not with an inferior force.
Experience has fully demonstrated the utter impossibility of keeping up such a force at that time, at such a distance from the strong parts of the union. The want of specie alone, had there not been other causes powerfully cooperating with it, would have forced the Americans to evacuate the country, unless the Canadians could have been prevailed on to consider themselves as principals in the war, and to give paper money the same currency which it received in the United Colonies.
It seems then to have been an enterprise, requiring means beyond those in the command of congress; and the strength exhausted on it would have been more judiciously employed, in preparing to secure the command of the lakes, and the fortified towns upon them.