Primary tabs

Letter from Colonel Campbell to General Wooster



[Read January 17, 1776.]

At Holland-House, Saturday, December 31, 1775.

DEAR SIR: It is with the greatest distress of mind, that I have the task of communicating to you the event of an unfortunate attempt that was made to storm the town of Quebeck, between the hours of two and seven this morning, by four different attacks; unfortunate, indeed, when, with bitterness of soul, I inform you that the gallant and amiable General Montgomery was killed the first fire, as, also, his valiant Aid-de-camp, Captain John Macpherson, and Captain Cheeseman, of the first New-Yorkers, with two or three more. All this happened in the attack on the lower town, at Anse de Meres, where were the three battalions of Yorkers, commanded by the General, whom I attended; and I found myself under the disagreeable necessity of drawing off the troops (too ready to depart) at about seven o' clock, after having passed the first barrier, and just opening to attempt the second.

In the other principal attack, made by Colonel Arnold, with the detachment under his command, Captain Lamb' s company of Artillery and two field-pieces, on sleighs, were at the Sole de Mattelan, where he succeeded so far as to force one gate, or barrier, and battery, with the misfortune of having his leg splintered, yet I hope not very dangerous, though, from his gallant conduct, he sustained a considerable loss of blood, and is now in the General Hospital, as, also, Brigadier Major Ogden, who was shot (a flesh wound) through the upper part of his shoulder, after a spirited and officer-like conduct, which was distinguishable in the whole of the officers, particularly Lieutenant-Colonel Green, Major Bigelow, and Major Meigs, as, also, Captain E˙ Oswald, Secretary to Colonel Arnold and a volunteer in the campaign; yet, after carrying that barrier


and a second one, they now remain in possession of the house from Limeburner' s Wharf, in the lower town, to the second barrier, where they now maintain themselves, with between three and four hundred men; and it is extremely difficult to support them till dark, when I shall hope to draw them off; for which purpose, I sent Colonel James Livingston, with some of his regiment, and Major Dubois, of the Third Yorkers, with upwards of two hundred men, down to the General Hospital, to endeavour to throw themselves in, between this and night, or get Lieutenant-Colonel Green and his party out.

The other attack was with Colonel Livingston and his Canadians, to endeavour burning St˙ John' s Gale with prepared faggots of combustible matter, which was not effected, owing to an early alarm in town. And the last was by another storm attack, from Major Brown' s detachment, on Cape-Diamond, commanded by Capt˙ Brown.

Thus you have the four attacks that were concerted between the dear deceased General Montgomery and Colonel Arnold, which was, in many respects, hurried, from the circumstance of the inlistment of the troops under Colonel Arnold, whose service expires this day. Our whole loss, as far as I can collect without returns, does not exceed fifteen or twenty men, killed and wounded, yet I think a reinforcement of two hundred men, immediately, from Montreal, would be very proper; at the same time, I leave it to you to judge of the propriety of disarming the Tories of Montreal, and, at the same time, to assure you, it is no pleasure to me to enjoy the command which falls on me from the death of the General, and Colonel Arnold' s keeping his bed; therefore, I request you will set out for this place as instantly as you can, as your presence is essential, on many accounts. I shall order every care of the troops, and disposition that may occur to me necessary. I must remind you of cash, as there is not above three or four hundred pounds here, from my recollection of what the General said a few days ago; but I have not yet examined any thing, and it is unfortunate, in a particular manner, that both are gone who had the charge of it. The great consumption of powder from the garrison is an object which the General had much at heart, and may be worthy of remark to the Congress, as well as full of force for this country, as you must be convinced the Canadians will never be so firmly on our side as when they are convinced we hold the scales. I hope the last affair will not strike them in the light it does me. I shall not make any alterations in commissions or officers, till I have the pleasure of seeing you here, though application has been made. The remaining Aid-de-camp, Mr˙Aaron Burr, I would gladly recommend to you, for the memory of the deceased General, as well as his own personal bravery and good conduct.

I thought to have sent Mr˙ Melchior' s express with this, but the bearer, Mr˙ Edward Antill, appointed by the General as Engineer, (whom I recommend to your favour and attention,) being well acquainted on the road, I prefer him, for sake of despatch, as I consider every moment important, and to whom I refer you to correct this hurried scroll, and give you particulars he was eye-witness to. My love to all friends and acquaintance, that inquire for me, and believe me to be, with love and esteem,

Your most obedient, humble servant,


To General Wooster.