The situation of the Americans who besieged this fortress was critical. Their force was divided and those on the Quebec side of the river were too few to completely invest the city, while the small number still at Point Levi, divided from their comrades by the river and the vessels of war, stood in imminent danger of capture or dispersion; the French-Canadian population seemed friendly, but suspicious persons, assumed to be spies, were constantly lurking about the camp, and it was deemed too hazardous to risk giving offense to the Canadians by making arrests. Meanwhile dissatisfaction with the rations was spreading. The riflemen thought Arnold fared too well, and claimed that the supplies were hardly more than the pittance they received on the Dead River. Morgan, Smith and Hendricks presented themselves before Arnold and represented the grievance of their men; a stormy altercation followed, but the result was a more favorable division for the riflemen.
On the morning of the 15th, Arnold, under the impression that the day previous his flag had been fired upon by accident, sent another flag towards the city. But this met with a like warm reception, and no more attempts were made to demand the surrender of the city. The proceeding had been little better than mere bluster at best, for Arnold's men were too few to seriously threaten the town, even had they been well supplied with the ammunition and military supplies of which they were almost destitute, and there is reason to suppose that the defenders knew pretty nearly as well as the American commander himself the inadequacy of his force and its armament. Whatever were the fears of Cramahè the lieutenant-governor, Colonel McLean was too old a soldier to be deceived by Arnold's attempt to magnify the strength of his following.
On the low grounds near the River St. Charles was a large building known as the General Hospital, a cloistered convent established in 1693 by Mgr. de St. Valier, presided over by a Lady Superior, and the abode of some forty nuns, who ministered there to the old and infirm and those diseased. It was about three-quarters of a mile from the city wall. Some fifty feet in front of this there was a spacious log building occupied by several priests headed by the Abbè de Rigaudville, chaplain of the nunnery. A party of stragglers first discovered these buildings, and had reason to consider the discovery a lucky one, since they were fed most generously by the nuns, whose pity overcame their fears and loyal resolutions not to aid the heretic enemy. These miserable, half-starved wretches seemed no part of the formidable army whose incursion they had been dreading for a week. The riflemen were immediately thrown forward to this log-house, which they used as a guard-house, under the shrewd and correct supposition that, as it stood directly between the town and the nunnery, which was still occupied by some thirty nuns, and contained many articles of value not yet removed, the enemy would not fire in that direction.
The guard put on duty here on November 16 consisted of twenty-two men from Smith's company, commanded by Lieutenant Simpson. Toward evening this detachment was relieved, but the new guard brought with them a villainous-looking Frenchman, who presented himself to Simpson with a written order from Arnold, commanding that officer, with his guard, to accompany the bearer, who would act as guide, across the River St. Charles and secure some cattle, belonging to the government, which were feeding beyond the stream. It was so dangerous an undertaking that at first the order was doubted, but, after a short consideration, obeyed. Calling "Come on, lads," to his guard, the lieutenant ran some hundreds of yards from the guard-house across the plains to the mouth of the St. Charles, where there was a ferry. A large windmill with a small house near it resembling a cooper's shop stood close by.
Two large carts heavily laden with household goods, and with women and children fleeing from the suburb of St. Roque, were passing the ferry. The carts were already in the scow, and the ferrymen, seeing the riflemen coming, were tugging hard at the ropes to get off the boat, which was aground. Simpson, inspired by the hope that the presence of the townspeople would protect his men from the fire of the enemy if once on board the boat, urged the race. Though the garrison had noticed the movement and opened fire with cannon, the agile riflemen reached the bank without casualty, and in a twinkling were masters of the ferryboat. But, as they rushed aboard, the weight of their bodies and arms served to fix the boat more firmly aground.
Private Henry and Sergeant Dixon remained in the boat; the former, as ordered, called the flashes of the cannon, while the latter tugged at the ferry ropes. Their companions sprang overboard, waist deep, and pushed and pulled, attempting to float the scow. The sun was setting in a clear sky, and the boat lay like a rock in the water; a target at pointblank shot, about three-quarters of a mile from Palace gate, which issues into the suburb of St. Roque.
High up on the battlements they could see the gunners ramming home their charges for another discharge. The men in the water were straining every nerve. Before Henry could announce the flash, a thirty-six pound ball, grazing the lower edge of a cart-wheel and descending a little, carried off Dixon's leg below the knee. He fell into the bottom of the boat, crying out to Simpson, "I am gone!" The lieutenant leaped into the boat, and with the assistance of his men bore Dixon to the windmill. A distant shout of triumph was heard from the city, accompanied by some fairly close shots. Dixon was carried on to the guard-house. The sad procession was under fire until it reached the protection of the nunnery, when the cannonade ceased. While the attention of the guard was distracted by Dixon's misfortune, the French guide fled from the windmill, and made good his escape to the city. The rascal, who it turned out was a government spy acting as a decoy, was unobserved until he had run several hundred yards along the beach of the Bay of St. Charles, and was beyond gunshot.
The wounded man was now borne on a lifter to the house of an English gentleman, about a mile distant. Dr. Senter, who attended him, found it necessary to amputate; lockjaw followed, which caused death about nine o'clock of the ensuing day. This was the first blood shed by hostile hands before Quebec. After the amputation the doctor advised the patient, in default of brandy, to drink some tea which would stimulate the desired reaction. The lady of the house brought a bowl of it, but Dixon, who had the patriot's detestation of the article through which England had tried to tax the colonies, shook his head and put it away from him, saying: "No, madam; it is the ruin of my country!" He could not be prevailed upon to alter his decision.
On the 17th the Americans captured two captains of the French militia, who had ventured out from Quebec to enlist recruits from the peasantry. On the same day a deserter from McLean's regiment came into camp and brought news of the state of affairs in the city. On the 18th the English sallied out upon some of the American sentinels, but they were, fortunately, discovered in time and driven back. Constant alarms, true and false, gave the men no rest that was not light and broken. Foraging on government and Tory stock, to which they strictly confined themselves, was the only relief from arduous and prolonged guard duty - arduous on account of the season of the year and the severity of the weather; prolonged because they were so few in numbers that there was only one relief before they were again obliged to go on duty. Those who were not on guard lay upon their arms in constant anticipation of an attempt of the enemy to surprise them. Hardship, anxiety, their meager supply of clothing, and the cold which every day became more severe, rendered their situation almost intolerable. To add to their uneasiness, a careful return made by Majors Bigelow and Meigs of their resources developed the fact that they had hardly five rounds of ammunition per man, and most of their muskets and rifles were without bayonets.
In view of these facts, a council of war decided that it was too hazardous to await any longer the arrival of Montgomery, and that it would be wiser to withdraw to Pointe aux Trembles, a hamlet on the St. Lawrence about twenty miles west of Quebec, and having formed a junction there with Montgomery to return and renew the siege. Accordingly, on the 19th, early in the morning, the little force decamped. Captains Thayer and Topham had been sent across the river during the night to bring over some invalids and supplies that were left behind, and on their return, to their great surprise, found the command already on the march. The decision of the council had been hastened by a report that the enemy were informed of their precarious situation, and, fully apprised of their poverty of arms and ammunition, were about to sally with seven field pieces. It was noticed, too, that the Lizard was sailing up the river, which made the American officers the more inclined to suspect the information to be true, for it certainly looked like an attempt to cut them off by throwing a force in their rear, or blocking Montgomery's progress down the river while the anticipated engagement was in progress before Quebec.
The army therefore took up its march at once on the road to Three Rivers. They had been in frequent receipt from the Canadian peasantry of expressions of friendship and encouragement, and these people watched their departure with great regret, not unmixed with anxiety. It was a sorry spectacle, this discouraging retrograde movement. The sympathetic Canadians spoke of the ragged battalions as "nos pauvres freres." The road to Pointe aux Trembles, along the bank of the St. Lawrence, led them through stretches of leafless woodland, relieved by patches of spruce and fir, though before their journey ended they passed numerous well-kept and finely situated farmhouses. The immense volume of water in the St. Lawrence, and the beautiful views which it presented, even in the winter-bound landscape, delighted and astonished the men, and helped to distract their thoughts from the pain caused by their naked feet on the icy, uneven road. Blood on the snow from chilblains and blisters marked their trail the whole distance. As they ascended the river, an armed sloop and a small schooner passed them coming down; later they were to learn that the sloop carried Governor Carleton, who entered Quebec safely the same day.
Carleton, hopeless of successfully defending Montreal, because of its want of fortifications, and also because of his distrust of its citizens and his want of confidence in the country train-bands of French peasantry which had gathered there, had abandoned the town to Montgomery, to the dismay of the loyal English Canadians. With about three hundred men and officers he boarded one of the fleet of vessels which were lying in the harbor, and having loaded these ships with all the munitions and provisions belonging to the government, he hurriedly set out for Quebec. But upon encountering Easton's guard and petty forts at Sorel and St. Ignace, about forty miles below Montreal, the Governor landed at Lavaltrie, a few leagues below Montreal, and accompanied by the Chevr. de Niverville and M. Lanaudière fils, entered a barge belonging to a coasting trader, named Bouchette, nicknamed "La Tourtre" (the wild pigeon), because he made very quick voyages. Dropping down stream with muffled oars, he slipped by Easton's guard at Sorel, and passing through the channel of the Isle du Pas by night, the crew paddling only with their hands so close were they to the shore, he reached Three Rivers, where he had landed a second time. Below Three Rivers at the foot of Richelieu rapids, he had boarded the Snow Fell, an armed sloop commanded by Captain Napier, and thus was landed at Quebec, to the great joy of the loyalists (who had had no news from him since the 5th of November), and, as it proved, to the salvation of all Canada.
No sooner had Carleton arrived at Quebec than he instituted astute and energetic measures for the safety and defense of the city. He ostracised persons of suspected disloyalty, or compelled them to take up arms for its defense; he extended and enforced a previous proclamation of embargo, and thus obtained not only the control of the merchant shipping then at Quebec, but added their crews to his garrison; he promised all the mechanics and other townsmen who had no provisions, to supply them and their families at the expense of the King, during the siege, and to give each twenty-eight coppers per day, and to clothe them to boot. His generosity, affable manners and address won the hearts of the citizens, and they resolved to support him with a will. We already understand the prompt and efficient measures which had been taken by his subordinates during his absence.
Easton, in the meantime, ignorant of the Governor's escape, threatened to board the fleet if it were not at once surrendered. Colonel Richard Prescott, who had been left in command, his pilots having mutinied and refused to pass the forts, flung overboard all his powder and ball and surrendered. Montgomery thus became possessed of the means of transporting his army to join Arnold at Pointe aux Trembles, for the fleet was immediately sent up to Montreal. There were eleven vessels, well armed and equipped. Several officers and one hundred and twenty regular troops of the 7th and 26th regiments, and about one hundred Canadians were surrendered with them.
The waters of the St. Lawrence were such good transmitters of sound that Arnold's men on the march could hear distinctly the reports of cannon fired by way of feu-de-joie at Montreal, upon Montgomery's entry. At evening they reached Pointe aux Trembles, a straggling village with a spacious chapel dedicated to St. Nicholas. Here they began to enjoy comfortable quarters in the village and outlying farmhouses, though they were obliged to disperse for a distance of some miles up and down the river. Provisions were plenty, particularly beef. But they could obtain no supply of clothing here, and some of the poor fellows were almost naked.
The Corveè of France was still maintained in this part of Canada and kept the roads in excellent order. In low grounds they were ditched on the sides and curved towards the center; every forty or fifty yards on each side of the road throughout its extent, young pines were stuck in the ground, to mark the safest passage, for in midwinter the snow often lay from three to five feet over the surface, covering the fences completely, and no one traveled during the months of December, January and February, except by these roads or upon snow-shoes.
The manner of living and fare of the peasantry has undergone little change since that day. The farmhouses were thatched and whitewashed as we now find them, whole families living in two or three rooms with a spacious garret above, where in the winter season fowl, killed in the fall and frozen in their feathers, hung suspended from the rafters with strings of parched corn and frozen meat. Over the close iron stove in the kitchen and living-room ran lines for the drying of disheloths and clothing. The common breakfast was sour black bread, salt and garlic, and the dinner a great pot of potatoes, cabbage and beef boiled to shreds. The cattle were close-housed in ample barns during the winter, and the live fowl stowed away in the warmest corner of the hay loft.
On the 20th an express from General Montgomery reached Pointe aux Trembles with the news that Governor Carleton had quitted Montreal to go to Quebec with the determination of holding that stronghold at all events; that the King's troops had abandoned the town and shipping just as Montgomery was about to attack them with row-gallies and boats with artillery mounted on them; that it was Carleton who had passed them on their march; that Montgomery had captured a large quantity of provisions and clothing and thirteen sail; and that he would immediately join Arnold with men and artillery. Those of Arnold's detachment yet remaining on the opposite bank of the St. Lawrence had received orders to march up the river along the bank. A man was now sent across the river to stop these troops, and they were transferred, when opportunity offered, to Pointe aux Trembles. On this day Arnold sent Captain Ogden to Montgomery with a letter acquainting him with the reasons which had led to the retreat to Point aux Trembles and urging that ammunition and clothing be sent forward as quickly as possible. The hope was also expressed that the junction of the two forces might not be long delayed, in order that active operations against Quebec might be undertaken.
"They are getting all the provisions they possibly can out of the country," he wrote, "and are doubtless determined to make the best defense. From the best accounts I can get their force is about 1,900 men, including 600 obliged to bear arms against their inclination, and who would join us if opportunity presented, and 400 neutrals. You will from the above account be better able to judge of the force necessary to carry the town. If my opinion is of any service, I should think 2,000 necessary, as they must be divided at the distance of three or four miles to secure the passes effectually. And as there is no probability of cannon making a breach in the walls I should think mortars of the most service, the situation for throwing shells being extremely good, and I think this course would soon bring them to compliance. If not, time and perseverance must effect it before they can possibly be relieved. My hard cash is nearly exhausted. It will not be sufficient for more than ten days or a fortnight; and as the French have been such sufferers by paper I do not think it prudent to offer it them at present." By way of clothing and supplies he asked for 600 pairs coarse yarn stockings, 500 yards woollen for breeches, 1,000 yards flannel or baize for shirts, 300 milled capes, 300 milled mittens or gloves, 300 blankets, powder and ball, one barrel of West India rum, and one barrel of sugar.
Montgomery's arrival was awaited for nearly a fortnight with ever-increasing impatience. The long, hard march from Quebec and the severity of the service had occasioned severe cases of pneumonia and angina, while too frequent indulgence in eating, after their long abstinence, produced no less dangerous inflammations, Numbers of the men improved the respite at Pointe aux Trembles by working on moccasins and shoes, but the leather was very poor and the cold, frosty ground wore out any foot-covering rapidly. They found the most satisfactory foot-gear to be moccasins of sealskin stuffed with dry grass or dead leaves. For the most part, however, there was nothing to do but stand their ground and await as calmly as might be the appearance of the sadly needed supplies and reinforcements. That Arnold still possessed the confidence of most of his men throughout this trying period of inaction and discomfort is plainly evidenced by ample testimony. One of his officers who, though more enthusiastic than most, still voiced the sentiment of many of his comrades, wrote from Pointe aux Trembles on November 21: "Our commander is a gentleman worthy of the confidence reposed in him, - a man, I believe, of invincible courage; a man of great prudence; ever serene, he defies the greatest danger to affect him, or difficulties to alter his temper; in fine, you will ever see him the intrepid hero, the unruffled Christian."
November 25 the Hunter, a brig, and a schooner hove in sight, beating up from Quebec; the vessels were armed. Arnold immediately despatched a sergeant and six men in a canoe to carry the intelligence to General Montgomery, and lest, by some mischance, his warning might miscarry, he sent a similar letter also by land. The vessels did not proceed far up the stream, however. A thin sheet of ice already covered the surface of the river, and the officers did not care to risk the chance of being frozen in for the winter so far from the guns of Quebec. A few days later they dropped down the river again and no further attempt was made to prevent the junction of the colonial forces.
On the 27th the long-expected express arrived with news that ammunition and cannon from Montgomery were at St. Anne's, thirty miles above Pointe aux Trembles, waiting to be transferred; and in the afternoon Lieutenant Hutchins and a detail of sixty men were sent off to meet these munitions, and bring them into the camp. Arnold himself followed next day, while Captain Goodrich, with two subalterns, four sergeants and sixty-four men, was despatched to meet General Montgomery's advance guard and to watch the movements of the vessels in the river. At the same time, in anticipation of the immediate return of the combined forces to Quebec, about the same number of riflemen, under the command of Captain Morgan, were despatched to the city to watch and report any movements of the enemy in that direction. The detail under Hutchins, midway on their second day's march, met the cannon and ammunition wagons, and escorted them the same day back to the village of Deschambault, whence they were hurried on to Pointe aux Trembles. Captain Jeremiah Duggan, once a hairdresser at Quebec, later a wheat dealer at Montreal, and an ardent rebel, was in command of the party which conveyed the ammunition.
On the 30th another letter was despatched to General Montgomery, whose delay in descending the river caused the energetic Arnold no little anxiety and impatience.
"I have not had the pleasure of hearing from you these ten days," it ran; "am very anxious for your safe arrival. The ammunition you ordered us has been strangely delayed and has not yet come to hand, but hourly expected. On receipt of it I intend returning to my old quarters near Quebec. Nothing has lately occurred worth notice except the burning of Major Caldwell's house, supposed to be done by order of Governor Carleton to deprive us of winter quarters. The inhabitants of Quebec are much disunited and short of provisions. We have many friends there, and if the place is attacked with spirit I believe will hold out but a short time."
This letter seems to have been carried to Montgomery by the young volunteer aide, Aaron Burr. Much has been made by Knapp, Davis and Parton of Burr's brilliant exploit in carrying dispatches from Arnold to Montgomery. Knapp says that he performed this service disguised as a young Roman Catholic priest, and that he made the journey from Point Levi on Arnold's first arrival there, while Davis is careless enough to state that Burr left Arnold on this mission at Chaudière pond. The story told by Davis is that Burr was a master of the Latin language, and had some knowledge of French, and knowing that the Roman Catholic priesthood were favorably disposed towards the rebels, he persuaded them to allow him to adopt this disguise, and to pass him on from one religious house to another, until he reached Montgomery. The story is prettily embellished by Davis and Parton and told with considerable exactness by Knapp. Unfortunately the letter of Arnold's quoted below discredits both dates and facts alike, and shows us that Burr must have had a much easier time in accomplishing his brilliant feat than his biographers have led us to suppose, for expresses had been passing to and fro over the route which he must have taken between Montgomery and Arnold for many days. His friend Ogden had preceded him by more than a week, and the journey from Pointe aux Trembles to Montgomery's camp as late as November 30, when this letter is dated, could not have been very hazardous. The letter, which is brief enough, runs thus:
"Dear Sir: - This will be handed you by Mr. Burr, a volunteer in the army, and son to the former President of New Jersey College.
He is a young gentleman of much life and a
has acted with great spirit and resolution on our fatiguing march. His conduct, I make no doubt, will be sufficient recommendation to your favor.
I am, dear Sir, your most obed't h'ble
Twice only among the numerous journals of the expedition through the wilderness do we find mention of Burr. His youth and insignificant stature, and the humble position he held as an unattached volunteer without a commission, readily explain this omission. Once we hear of him on the chain of lakes, and again on the Chaudière near the dying McClelland at the Falls of Sault, but it is merely to remark his presence and bearing. We are told by his biographers that as he was habitually obliged to be very abstemious in his diet, he stood the privations of the march much better than heavier and stronger men, while by his knowledge of boat-craft he won the respect of his comrades and found a sphere of usefulness in which he gained the good-will of his superiors, already attracted to him by his birth and breeding.
Jacataqua, the Indian girl who through fondness for Burr had, with some of her people, followed the army from Fort Western, was still faithful. A few days after the encampment at Pointe aux Trembles, according to an oft-repeated story, the promising young officer and Jacataqua, while on a hunting expedition, came to a brook of pure water in the forest. Having no cup, Burr was proceeding to use the top of his cap as a vessel in which to offer his companion water, when a British officer, hunting or scouting, who had come to the other side of the brook by chance at the same moment, saluted him politely and offered him the use of his drinking cup. The two struck up a friendship, and advancing to the middle of the stream shook hands and pledged one another, agreeing, once the war was over, to be good friends and to try to see more of one another. By private agreement, without injury to the cause of either, they met several times both before and after the assault on Quebec, and it is probable that during these interviews arrangements were made for the protection of Jacataqua and the child which it was now become apparent she had conceived, in one of the nunneries of the city. Such, at least, is the romantic account which Burr's biographers have handed down to us and which has at least the support of tradition.
On the 28th of November, the British vessels from Quebec having dropped down the river again, Montgomery embarked on board the captured sloop of war Gaspè, and in company with the schooner Mary set sail to join Arnold at Pointe aux Trembles. On board these two vessels were Cheesman's and Weisenfel's companies of Ritzema's regiment, one company of the 2d, and two of the 3d regiment, all of New York, and a part of Captain Lamb's company of artillery. They carried with them four field pieces and six mortars; cannon, other mortars, shells, shot and powder were to be brought from Chambly and meet them at Sorel. Three days later Major Zedwitz, with Mott's, Varick's, and Quackenboss's companies on another prize vessel, and four transports with further supplies of ammunition and stores, followed. On the first day of December General Montgomery reached Pointe aux Trembles. Arnold's detachment was ordered down to the chapel of St. Nicholas and paraded in two battalions in front of it, to welcome him. The sky was lowering and the weather very cold, but the soldierly appearance and manly bearing of Montgomery animated and encouraged the long-suffering, shivering battalions.
Richard Montgomery's father was Thomas Montgomery, an Irish gentleman of Donegal. His mother was an English lady of fortune. He was born near Dublin and was educated at Trinity College. He had seen service in America as a lieutenant and captain in the 17th British regiment, under General Amherst at the siege of Louisburg in 1758. After the war he returned to England. Fox, Burke, and Barrè were his friends, and he became an ardent admirer of republican institutions. When the Stamp Act was to be enforced, order was at first given to employ his regiment, then in England. All their service having been in America, Montgomery, with several others, declared publicly that they had lived so long in America that they would throw up their commissions if the order was persisted in.
In 1771 he had the promise of a majority,
and had lodged his money for the purchase, but he was overlooked
and another preferred over him. This treatment disgusted him
with the service and he immediately sold his commission. He emigrated
York, purchased a farm at Kingsbridge, and in July, 1773, married Janet, the daughter of Robert R. Livingston, one of the judges of the King's Bench in the colony of New York, and a man of influence and wealth. He then removed to Rhinebeck, on the Hudson, where he built a mill and laid the foundations of a home. He was chosen in 1775 one of the council of fifty from Duchess county, and when Schuyler was appointed a major-general, the appointment of brigadier-general was tendered Montgomery. Before accepting it he came into his young wife's room, and asked her to make up for him the ribbon cockade which was to be placed on his hat. He noticed her emotion, and saw that tears were starting. With persuasive gentleness he said to her, "Our country is in danger. Unsolicited, in two instances, I have been distinguished by two honorable appointments; as a politician I could not serve them, as a soldier I think I can. Shall I, then, accept the one and shrink from the other in dread of danger? My honor is engaged." Mrs. Montgomery took the ribbon, and he continued, "I am satisfied. Trust me. You shall never blush for your Montgomery." Such was the strong sense of duty and the sensitive temper of the chivalrous soldier who was now to assume command of the American forces.
Montgomery had just reached his thirty-ninth year. He was tall and slender, well formed, handsome of feature, and of a most soldierly bearing. He made the troops a short but energetic and well-chosen speech, in which he applauded their courage in passing through the wilderness, complimenting them on their good appearance, their perseverance and their spirit. The men were most favorably impressed with their new commander and though shivering with the cold, cheered him lustily. The same day Captain Ogden returned with stores of all sorts for the soldiers from Montreal, and matters assumed at once a still more cheerful aspect. Among the supplies were a quantity of uniforms captured at St. John's, and the provincials, long without whole clothing of any sort, were only too glad to compromise with their pride and assume the livery of the King.
The force with Montgomery that now joined Arnold was only about three hundred in number, Montgomery having deemed it necessary to leave the rest of his army under General Wooster to garrison Montreal and hold other strategic points in the surrounding country. With the exception of Lamb's artillery, the New York troops were far inferior to those under Arnold, measured by every military standard. Many were very young boys. Montgomery had found himself often at his wit's end to control the turbulent, independent spirit they and their officers as well, too often displayed. He was, therefore, unprepared for the picked troops of Arnold, and wrote to General Schuyler, under date of December 5: "Colonel Arnold's corps is an exceedingly fine one, and he himself is active, intelligent and enterprising - with a style of discipline much superior to what I have been used to see in this campaign."
The united forces, still less than a thousand strong, now retraced the route to Quebec, beginning their march on the morning of the 2d. Snow had fallen all night and continued during the day. The countermarch on the untrodden snow was hardly less trying than the march on the icy roads. Their moccasins had, of course, no heels to support the position of the foot, and so produced great fatigue to wearers unaccustomed to their use; snow-shoes would have been of great assistance, but they had none. Evening brought them to the parish of St. Foy, about three miles from Quebec; Morgan was lodged a little nearer the city. He had quartered his men in some low and pretty country houses, where they were very comfortable.
Before leaving Point aux Trembles Arnold ordered
Captain Handchett to convey down some arms, provisions and cannon
in bateaux to Celears, within a league of Quebec, while the field
artillery were sent down by road. After the bateaux crews had
unloaded the cannon, they were to cross to Point Levi for scaling
ladders. Handchett flatly refused to obey the order, alleging
the danger of the undertaking to be too great. Arnold, enraged
at the refusal, sent for Captains Topham and Thayer, swearing
he would put Handchett under arrest. Upon their appearance he
requested one of them to perform the duty. Both eagerly accepted,
and, being emulous of the honor, could only settle which should
go by turning "heads or tails." The coin, to the vexation
of Captain Topham and the satisfaction of Captain Thayer, came
down in favor of the latter.
So Thayer loaded the bateaux and towards evening, the tide serving, started on his perilous voyage. His crews cut through the ice for about a quarter of a mile, until they reached clear water, and then rowed and drifted with the tide eighteen miles, rowing with the utmost eagerness to keep from freezing. Such a fierce snow-storm raged that the bateaux became separated from one another. Captain Thayer ordered some guns to be fired and, guided by the flashes, the boats, with great difficulty, reassembled and then made for the shore near Cape Rouge. The bateaux being very heavy and now covered with ice went aground among the rocks, and the men, very impatient and unwilling to remain aboard, jumped into the icy water up to their arm-pits and with great difficulty reached shore. There they brought some horses, threw out a line, and hauled the bateaux on shore, thus enabling the Captain and the rest of his detail to land without much difficulty.