Richard Montgomery

Richard Montgomery (1736-1775), a colonial general in the American Revolutionary War, was known for his leadership of the attack upon Canada.

Richard Montgomery was born in Dublin, Ireland, on Dec. 2, 1736. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and retained throughout his life "a studious habit, preferring the library … to the camp and the field." In 1756 he entered the British army as an ensign and went with his regiment to America to fight in the French and Indian War. He saw action in several major engagements. He returned to England in 1765. Seven years later he left the service and emigrated to America. He married Janet Livingston, daughter of a wealthy and socially prominent landowner in New York, and settled down on his wife's estate in Rhinebeck on the Hudson River.

By the time Montgomery arrived in America, the difficulties between England and the Colonies were brewing; Montgomery quickly adopted the colonists' cause. When hostilities broke out, he offered his services and was appointed by the Continental Congress in June 1775 as one of eight brigadier generals. He was sent to join Gen. Philip Schuyler as second-in-command of the expedition against Canada. He arrived at Ticonderoga, Schuyler's headquarters, to find Schuyler busily gathering troops and supplies, but soon Montgomery became impatient to move. Information from scouts indicated that the time to strike had come. Taking advantage of Schuyler's absence in Albany, Montgomery started the army on the way to Canada on August 28 without his chief's permission. When Schuyler received the news, he not only gave his approval but joined the advancing army.

In a superbly executed operation, Montgomery first took two forts on the Richelieu River. Next, he turned on Montreal, which he captured on November 13. The final objective was Quebec, where he was to be joined by Gen. Benedict Arnold, who had come up by way of the Maine woods. On December 3 the two forces met a few miles up the St. Lawrence River and began the siege of Quebec. Several factors, however, caused the two generals to decide in favor of storming the city rather than waiting for it to surrender. On December 31 they attacked in two columns in a blinding snowstorm. As Montgomery advanced at the head of his force, he was met by artillery fire, and in the first discharge he was killed. The British found his body in the snow and buried it on the spot. In 1818 it was removed to St. Paul's Church in New York.

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Further Reading on Richard Montgomery

A recent study with extensive material on Montgomery is Harrison Bird, Attack on Quebec: The American Invasion of Canada, 1775 (1968). Also useful is Donald B. Chidsey, The War in the North: An Informal History of the American Revolution in and near Canada (1967). See also Justin H. Smith, Our Struggle for the Fourteenth Colony: Canada and the American Revolution (2 vols., 1907), and John R. Alden, A History of the American Revolution (1969).

Additional Biography Sources

Shelton, Hal T. (Hal Terry), General Richard Montgomery and the American Revolution: from redcoat to rebel, New York: New York University Press, 1994.