On this day in 1776, Canadian Governor Sir Guy Carleton defeats American Patriot forces under John Sullivan, who were already in retreat from Quebec toward Montreal.
After General Richard Montgomery’s early success in Montreal, he and Colonel Benedict Arnold attempted to take Quebec in the middle of the night between December 31, 1775 and January 1, 1776. Montgomery lost his life and Arnold was wounded in the action; half of their men were also lost to death, injury or capture and Quebec remained in British control. The colonists’ ill-conceived, pre-emptive attack on Canada ended in disaster. Instead of winning French Canadians to the Patriot cause, it led only to a huge loss of life among Patriot forces.
After the defeat at Quebec, the battered and ailing Patriots remained outside the city with the help of additional supplies and reinforcements. As the Royal Navy sailed towards Quebec in May, the Patriots were already in retreat towards Montreal. Governor Carleton pursued the Patriots, who turned to fight on June 8 at Trois-Rivieres, halfway between the two cities. Although the highly trained Redcoats and German mercenaries made quick work of the colonists, killing 25, wounding 140 and capturing 236, Carleton allowed the rest of the 2,500-man force to complete their retreat to Montreal. It was a temporary respite for the Patriots: by June 15, Montreal too had returned to British control. Arnold saw that the Patriots’ priorities had changed and wrote to Sullivan, “let us quit and secure our own country before it is too late.”