Quebec 1775: The American Invasion of Canada
By Brendan Morrissey, illustrated by Adam Hook
Series: Osprey Campaign Series 128
Softcover, 96 pages, profusely illustrated
Published by Osprey Publishing, October 2003
Dimensions: 7.3 x 0.2 x 9.7 inches
The subtitle of this book is a misnomer as neither the United States of America nor Canada existed in 1775. Here is a convoluted but more accurate version: “The thirteen British colonies in rebellion (of seventeen total) in North America invade the British Province of Quebec.” There, all fixed.
The Province of Quebec was ceded by the French to the British by the Treaty of Paris in 1763. The people who lived there were organized in a feudal structure with the Catholic church owning the land and the French Canadien habitants working largely as tenant farmers. Added to this was an influx of small numbers of “Old Subjects” loyal to the crown, along with a few Regiments of British regulars. There was also a sizable population of indigenous peoples of various tribes in the region. The area of the province extended all around the Great Lake Region, including what is Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio today.
The Continental Congress, seeing an opportunity to eliminate a perceived British threat from the North and control a vast tract of land, authorized a two-pronged invasion under General Philp Schuyler and General Benedict Arnold (still under good graces at this point). The Continental leadership expected the French Canadien habitants to welcome them as liberators and rebel against British rule just as they themselves had done.
The expedition began well for the Continentals, with General Richard Montgomery (replacing Schuyler, who had fallen ill) taking Montreal in November. Provincial Governor Guy Charlton struggled to raise militia from the population to defend Quebec, but managed to fortify and garrison the city before the arrival of the Continental columns, which were weakened by disease and the arduous trek through the wilderness. The assaults began on 30 December as many of the Continental soldiers’ enlistments expired with the New Year. The attack failed to take the city and resulted in a siege, which eventually ended in the British reinforcement of Quebec and the Continental Army’s retreat.
This is one of those “nexus of history” moments – if Quebec fell and had remained in the hands of the Continental Army in 1782 would there even be a Canada today?
This book follows the standard format for volumes in the Osprey Campaign series. I found this one quite hard to follow, as the long series of skirmishes and minor battles involved a mish-mash of regular units and militias which the author has identified by their commanders. I had to re-read several passages as it wasn’t initially clear which unit commander was subordinate to whom, and on which side, in each small battle. Several of the commanders were described as having various shortcomings which were not explained or illustrated in any detail. More specifics or examples would have been very helpful. A useful, but confusing, introduction to a forgotten expedition during the American Revolution.