On November 9, the 600 survivors of Arnold’s march from Boston to Quebec arrived at Point Levis, on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River opposite Quebec City. Despite the troops’ terrible condition following their difficult trek, Arnold immediately began to gather boats so they could cross the river. Arnold was prepared to cross the river on the night of November 10, but a storm arrived, delaying the crossing for three days. After crossing the river, Arnold moved his troops to within a mile and a half (2 km) of the walls, on the Plains of Abraham.
Despite being outnumbered two to one, Arnold demanded the city’s surrender. However, both envoys he sent were targeted by British cannons, signifying that the request was declined. Arnold lacked any artillery, each man had only 5 cartridges, and over 100 of his muskets were unserviceable. Arnold concluded that he could not take the city by force, so he blockaded the city on its west side. On November 18, the Americans received news (which was in fact untrue) that the British were planning to attack them with 800 men. A council of war decided that they could not continue the blockade, and Arnold began to move his men 20 miles upriver to Pointe-aux-Trembles (“Aspen Point”), where they could find shelter.
n the wake of the fall of Fort St. Jean, Carleton abandoned Montreal and returned to Quebec City on November 19, passing Arnold’s camp at Point-aux-Trembles. He immediately took command. Three days after his arrival, he issued a proclamation stating, in essence, that any able-bodied man within the town that did not take up arms would be assumed to be a rebel or a spy, and would be treated as such. Men not taking arms were given four days to leave. The result of this proclamation was that about 500 inhabitants (including 200 British and 300 Canadiens) joined the defense.
Carleton also set out to address the weak points of the town’s defensive fortifications. He had two log barricades and palisades erected along the St. Lawrence shoreline, covering them with his cannons. He assigned his forces to defensive positions along the walls and the inner defenses. He also made sure the under-trained militia in his forces were under well-trained leadership.
On December 2, Montgomery arrived at Pointe-aux-Trembles from Montreal. Montgomery brought with him 300 troops, as well as the 300 militia under the command James Livingston and Jacob Brown, as well as clothing, winter uniforms, ammunitions, provisions, and artillery that had been seized from the British. The commanders quickly turned towards Quebec, and put the city under siege on December 6.
Montgomery sent a personal letter to Carleton, demanding surrender. He used a woman as the messenger, but the request was declined, and the letter burned. Ten days later, he tried again, with the same result. The besiegers continued to send messages, primarily intended for the populace in the besieged city, indicating the hopelessness of their situation, and suggesting that if they rose to assist the Americans, conditions would improve.
NEXT MONTH: BATTLE OF QUEBEC (CONT.)