Richard Montgomery

Portrait by Artist to Come

QUICK FACTS
BORN:
2 December 1738 in Swords, Ireland
  DIED:
31 December 1775 in Quebec City, Quebec
Buried at Quebec City; remains moved in 1818 to St. Paul’s Chapel, New York, NY

Richard Montgomery, British soldier in the Seven Years’ War and Continental Army officer during the American Revolution, was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1736.

Educated at St Andrew’s and at Trinity College in Dublin, he entered the British army in 1756. He became captain six years later. He saw war service at Louisbourg (a fortress in Nova Scotia, Canada) in 1757 and in the Lake Champlain expedition of 1759. As an adjutant of his regiment (the 17th foot) he shared in the final threefold advance upon Montreal. Later he was present at Martinique and Havana.

In 1772 he left the army, settled in New York, and married a daughter of Robert R. Livingston. Three years later he was a delegate to the first Provincial Congress of New York and became brigadier-general in the Continental Army.

Montgomery was sent with General Philip Schuyler on the disastrous Canadian expedition to take Quebec City. And when Schuyler fell ill, the command became his. Hampered by the inclemency of the season and the gross indiscipline of the troops, he went forward, gaining a few minor successes and capturing the colors of the 7th (Royal) Fusiliers. At Point aux Trembles, he met up with Benedict Arnold’s contingent, and together they pushed on to Quebec. Barely 800 strong they nonetheless made an assault on 31 December 1775.

At almost the first discharge Montgomery was instantly killed.

The body of the American general was honorably interred by the Quebec garrison. Congress approved a memorial to be erected at St Paul’s Chapel in New York. And in 1818 his remains were transferred from Quebec and buried in the churchyard.

ADAPTED FROM:
Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911 ed.

The French years provided Franklin’s detractors precisely what they needed: proof that the ur-American was un-American. Franklin was the Founding Father who had come the furthest, which makes him today the most compelling; he was also the Founding Father who traveled the farthest, which in his own century made him the most suspect. Few other homes in Philadelphia sported both Réaumur and Fahrenheit thermometers. The story goes that when Franklin proposed that Congress open its meetings with a prayer, Alexander Hamilton quipped that that body had no need of foreign aid. The story may be apocryphal but the sentiment was real. The expatriate patriot, Franklin was associated in many minds with the dependent chapter of American independence, one better expunged from the record.

Stacy Schiff
A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America (2005)