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Letter from Colonel Ritzema to Peter V. B. Livingston


"Montreal, January 3, 1776.

"DEAR SIR: This morning we experienced a sad reverse of fortune. Mr˙ Antill arrived here, express from Quebeck, with the following intelligence: That General Montgomery, on the 31st ultimo, between the hours of five and seven in the morning, after a previous disposition of his small army, made two attacks upon the lower town, under a feigned one upon the upper. The first was conducted by one Captain Browne, with ninety-four men, one of the real attacks by the General himself, at or below Cape-Diamond, with four hundred and sixty-six men, and the other by Colonel Arnold, with the men he brought with him by the way of Kennebeck, and Lamb' s Artillery company, amounting to five hundred and sixty men, through St. Roque' s, at the other end of the town. The General forced his way through the first picket or barrier, without receiving a shot. At the next, which, if he had also forced, would have given him a free passage into the town, he was received with a heavy fire of musketry and two field-pieces, which caused his troops to fall back in disorder. The General, while he was endeavouring to rally these dastardly scoundrels, received his coup-de-grave,


as did also his Aids-de-camp, Macpherson and Captain Cheeseman, of my regiment. Thus fell one worthy and brave General. Weep, America, for thou hast lost one of thy most virtuous and bravest sons! When the General was missing, though the surviving officers exerted themselves to the utmost, they found it in vain to attempt bringing the men to a charge, which induced Colonel Campbell to bring them off. Colonel Arnold, with his party, passed the St. Roque' s, and approached near a two-gun battery, well picketed in, without being discovered. His men forced the pickets, and carried the battery, after an hour' s resistance. In the attack, the Colonel was shot through the leg, and was obliged to be carried off, after gaining the battery. His detachment pushed on to a second barrier, running from Limeburner' s Wharf, in the lower town, which they possessed themselves of, where they now maintain themselves in the houses, without any possibility of being supported; so that they must either carry the lower town, be made prisoners, or be cut to pieces.

"This, sir, is all the account we have hitherto received of this disastrous event. We are momently under the utmost anxiety of mind, expecting to hear the fate of those brave men. God grant it may be happy.

"Our misfortune is, in a great measure, owing to the anxiety some of the troops were under of returning home, they having declared (Arnold' s men) that they would remain no longer than to the 1st of this month, for which time they were engaged, which obliged the General to precipitate matters, and to change his intended mode of attack, which was to have attacked the upper and lower towns at the same time: the main attack to be upon the upper, which it was impossible for him to effect at that juncture, from the notice the enemy had of his intention, by deserters from us. This, I trust, will be a warning to America not to inlist men for any limited time, but for so long a time as they shall be wanted. No man, but one, in the service, can be sensible how fatal this limitation of time is to all military operations. Before the soldiers can be in any wise disciplined, their time of service is expired, and as that approaches they become mutinous and disobedient. I will venture to say that, unless a change takes place in this respect, America must fall a sacrifice to her enemies. Without discipline, no obedience; without obedience, no duty. In short, discipline gives confidence, and is the very soul of an army.

"Two months have now elapsed since we have had the least intelligence from the southward. General Montgomery, before he set out for Quebeck, acquainted the Continental Congress and his friends in New-York with our then miserable situation. The troops in general going home, those who remained naked and without clothing, and not a farthing to pay them with, I myself, at the General' s instance, acquainted Colonel McDougall with our weak state, and pressed him, with all the rhetorick I was master of, to exert himself to the utmost that we not only had money sent us to pay the troops, but men to reinforce our different garrisons, and augment the army. Our few English friends have been stripped of their money and goods, to clothe the men, and pay them their wages, in part. French friends, to assist us, we have none. The peasantry are, in general, at present, for us, but I believe from no other motive than that we are the strongest side. Some few may be attached to us from principle; sure I am the majority are not, and would, on the least reverse, as soon take arms, against as for us. We are now in a wretched plight: our excellent General dead and defeated; a great probability that the flower of his army is cut to pieces; our garrisons weak and feeble, not able to spare a man for the assistance of our friends; the soldiers mutinous, and with little discipline; not a sous to pay them with, which makes them so, and (shall I say it?) no one capable to command them. For God' s sake, sir, exert yourself. I have exaggerated nothing. Let us have men and money; otherwise, by Heavens, Canada is lost. Cast about for a General to command us. He must be a military man, of sound intellects, and an affable deportment. General Lee, in my opinion, is the man. I speak my sentiments freely. I mean to give no offence, nor to attack the character of any gentleman; but what I say proceeds from a real regard for the welfare of my country.

"I have more to write, but, as the express is going off,


I am obliged to stop. Pray be so kind as to remember me to my father, and acquaint him that I continue in health. Desire him, if there is no probability of a peace, that he gives up my house.

"I am, sir, with esteem, your humble servant,


"P. S. Though I have taken the liberty of addressing these lines to you, I shall be glad you would communicate it to our friends in Congress."