8 November

Carleton Evacuates Montreal, Heads for Quebec

Canada was in turmoil on November 8, 1775. Governor Carleton was preparing to evacuate Montreal, since he could not stop the American army after the break-through at St. Jean (see October 30). He and the people of Montreal did not know that General Benedict Arnold had just marched an American army across Maine and was ready to attack Quebec. Neither did the people of Quebec know about the situation in Montreal.

Carleton made an amazing run from Montreal to Quebec. After gathering supplies, ammunition, and about 130 officers and men, and loading them into a few small ships, he began his trip down the river. Soon after leaving Montreal, they were held up by head winds, and most of them were easily captured by American riflemen and congressistes, the Canadians who had joined the American invaders.

Carleton only managed to escape because one of the sloop captains, known as the "Wild Pigeon," offered to guide him through some treacherous channels at night in an open boat. Carleton was disguised as a Canadian habitant, wearing a blanket coat and sash, red bonnet, and moccasins. When the boat passed between Ile St. Ignace and Ile du Pas, the "Wild Pigeon" made his men stop rowing and paddle with their hands, so that they could pass the American guns undetected. Carleton reached Quebec on November 19, to find it besieged by Arnold's army, but he managed to get into the city safely.

Arnold's march through Maine and crossing of the river to Quebec was a great military achievement. It was a journey of 200 miles through rugged terrain. The troops had to drag their supplies in heavy boats, or carry them along trails made by hunters and trappers. Towards the end of October it began to snow and at times they had to wade in icy water up to their waists. The trip took thirty-one days, and nearly half of Arnold's force died of exhaustion or exposure, or deserted, before he reached the St. Lawrence.

Arnold surpassed Wolfe's feat, with help from Canadians and Indians, by ferrying 700 men across the river in canoes and small boats. He had his men drawn up on the Plains of Abraham on the morning of November 14, and, in the role of "liberator of oppressed Canadians," demanded the surrender of Quebec, which was refused. This was only the beginning of a long battle.


8 November

-1603    Pierre Du Gua, Sieur de Monts, received a royal commission to colonize L'Acadie (Acadia).

-1631    Cape Breton was given to Sir Robert Gordon to form the province of New Galloway.

-1832    Robert Campbell left on an expedition to buy sheep in Kentucky (see September 6).

-1861    Captain Wilkes took Confederates from the British ship Trent and nearly caused a war in which Canada would have been attacked (see May 20).

-1873    Winnipeg was incorporated as a city.

-1919    Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden left for a peace conference in Paris.

-1902    A railway was completed between Calgary and Edmonton. It was the first railway to reach Edmonton.

-1951    Broad disarmament proposals, which the United States offered to Russia on November 7, were formally presented to the United Nations General Assembly by Secretary of State Dean Acheson.

-1965    The Liberal Government was re-elected as a minority government in a general election. The Liberals won 131 seats, Conservatives 97, New Democratic Party (N.D.P.) 21, Creditistes 9, Social Credit 5, others 2.