Montgomery, Richard (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

MONTGOMERY, RICHARD (1736–1775), major-general, born in Swords, near Feltrim, co. Dublin, on 2 Dec. 1736, was third son of Thomas Montgomery, M.P. for Lifford, and his wife Mary Franklin, and was younger brother of Captain Alexander Montgomery ('Black Montgomery'), who for thirty years represented Drogheda in the Irish parliament. He was educated at St. Andrews and Trinity College, Dublin, and on 21 Sept. 1756 was appointed ensign in the 17th foot, in which he became lieutenant on 10 July 1759, and captain on 6 May 1762. He served with his regiment at the siege of Louisburg, Cape Breton, in 1757, and in the expedition against the French posts on Lake Champlain in 1759, and was regimental adjutant in the force under General (then Colonel) William Haviland [q. v.], sent from Crown Point to join the forces under Murray and Amherst converging on Montreal. After the fall of Montreal he was present with his regiment at the capture of Martinique, and at the siege and capture of the Havana. At the peace of 1763 he went with his regiment from Cuba to New York, and in 1765 returned home with it. While at home he appears to have made the acquaintance of Colonel Isaac Barré [q. v.], Edmund Burke [q. v.], Charles James Fox [q. v.], and other men of liberal views. Seeing no prospects of professional advancement he sold out of the army in 1772, and bought a farm of sixty-seven acres at King's Bridge, now a part of the city of New York, and soon after married. He then purchased a handsome estate on the river Hudson, but spent the few years of his married life at his wife's residence, Grassmere, near Rheinbeck. In 1775 Montgomery was sent as a delegate to the first provincial congress at New York, and in June of the same year 'sadly and reluctantly' consented to be made a brigadier-general in the ontinental (i.e. American) army, ranking second among the eight appointed, and being the only one not a native of New England. He consoled himself with the reflection that 'the will of an oppressed people, compelled to choose between liberty and slavery, must be respected.' He parted from his young wife at Saratoga, and started as second in command of the expedition under Major-general Philip Schuyler, which was instructed 'to take possession of St. John's, Montreal, and pursue ariy other measures in Canada to promote the furtherance and safety of the American cause.' The expedition aroused great resentment in Canada, as congress a short time before had expressly disavowed any intention of invading Canada, and had caused the disavowal to be widely circulated there. The Americans took Isle aux Noix, but failed at St. John's. Schuyler then fell sick, and the change in the command was soon apparent. The troops (chiefly New England men) were of the worst character, 'every man a general, and not one of them a soldier,' Montgomery wrote. Supplies were bad and desertion rife. Nevertheless, Montgomery took Fort Chamblai, where was a stock of ammunition, of which the Americans were much in need, and afterwards captured St. John's, a more important conquest, where were taken, among other captures, the colours of the British royal fusiliers (7th fusiliers), the first British regimental colours taken in the war. 'Till Quebec is taken, Canada remains unconquered,' Montgomery wrote to congress. In December 1775 he effected a junction with Benedict Arnold [q. v.], at Point aux Trembles, and laid siege to Quebec. The American effectives are said to have numbered about eight hundred. Small-pox was in the camp; the men's engagements were coming to an end. It was decided to try an assault. On 31 Dec. 1775, Montgomery, starting from Wolfe's Cove, in a blinding snowstorm, led an attack on the southern part of the lower town, while Arnold attacked the upper town. Calling on the 'men of New York' to follow, Montgomery dashed on, but, with two officers by his side, was struck down by the first discharge of artillery. Both attempts failed, and Arnold drew off to the Plains of Abraham, where he kept up a desultory sort of blockade until the spring of 1776, when the Americans withdrew from Canada. Montgomery's body was recognised and buried with full military honours, the governor and the officers of the garrison of Quebec attending. Congress, 'desiring to transmit to future ages' the 'patriotic conduct, enterprise and prowess' of Montgomery, desired a memorial in marble to be erected to him in the graveyard of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, New York. The memorial was ordered in Paris by Benjamin Franklin. In 1818 congress passed an 'Act of Honour,' by which permission of the Canadian government was obtained for the removal of Montgomery's remains, which were then laid in St. Paul's Church, New York. An inscription on the rocks at Cape Diamond shows the spot where he fell.

Parkman states that some writers have confused him, ignorantly and most unjustly, with Captain Alexander Montgomery, 43rd regiment (his elder brother?), who incurred the censure of his brother officers for inhumanity to some prisoners that fell into his hands when serving under Wolfe before Quebec (see Montcalm and Wolfe, vol. ii.)

Montgomery married Jane, daughter of Judge R. R. Livingstone of New York, but left no issue. His widow survived 'her soldier,' as she called him, fifty-three years, dying in 1828.

[Burke's Landed Gentry, 1886 ed., under 'Montgomery of Beaulieu;' English Annual Army Lists; Jesse's Life and Times of George III , vol. ii.; Bancroft's Hist. United States; Appleton's Encycl. American Biog., with portrait.]

H. M. C.