Canadian Campaign > Invasion of Canada

Invasion of Canada


The American invasion of Canada during the Revolutionary War was a bold but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to bring the French-speaking Canadian population into the American revolutionary cause and to preempt British plans to use Canada as a base for attacks against the American colonies. The campaign, which took place primarily in 1775 and 1776, involved two main expeditions aimed at capturing key British positions in Canada, including Montreal and Quebec City.


  1. Strategic Context:

    • The Continental Congress authorized the invasion of Canada in June 1775, motivated by the desire to gain support from the French Canadians and to neutralize the British threat from the north.
    • The British had relatively few troops in Canada, and the Americans believed that a swift campaign could secure the region and encourage Canadian support for the American cause.
  2. American Forces:

    • The American invasion involved two main expeditions. The first was led by General Richard Montgomery, advancing from Fort Ticonderoga towards Montreal. The second, led by Colonel Benedict Arnold, involved a difficult march through the Maine wilderness towards Quebec City.

The Campaign:

  1. Montgomery's Expedition:

    • General Richard Montgomery's force, consisting of around 1,200 men, captured Fort St. Jean (Fort Saint-Jean) on November 3, 1775, after a protracted siege. This victory opened the way to Montreal.
    • Montgomery entered Montreal on November 13, 1775, without significant resistance, as the British garrison had retreated to Quebec City.
  2. Arnold's Expedition:

    • Benedict Arnold's expedition faced significant hardships during the march through the Maine wilderness, including difficult terrain, severe weather, and lack of supplies. Despite these challenges, Arnold's force of around 1,100 men reached the outskirts of Quebec City in November 1775.
    • Arnold's arrival outside Quebec City put pressure on the British defenders, but his force was too weakened and undersupplied to launch an immediate attack.
  3. Siege and Battle of Quebec:

    • Montgomery's and Arnold's forces united outside Quebec City in early December 1775, bringing the combined American strength to around 1,200 men.
    • The Americans laid siege to Quebec City but faced difficulties due to the well-fortified British defenses and harsh winter conditions.
    • On December 31, 1775, Montgomery and Arnold launched a coordinated assault on Quebec City during a snowstorm, hoping to surprise the defenders. The attack ended in disaster: Montgomery was killed, Arnold was wounded, and the assault was repelled with heavy American casualties.

Aftermath and Impact:

  1. American Retreat:

    • Following the failed assault, Arnold maintained a blockade of Quebec City, but his forces were too weakened to pose a significant threat. Reinforcements and supplies were slow to arrive, and the Americans faced increasing difficulties.
    • In the spring of 1776, British reinforcements under General John Burgoyne arrived in Quebec, prompting the Americans to retreat. The American forces withdrew towards Montreal and eventually back to Fort Ticonderoga.
  2. British Counteroffensive:

    • The British, now reinforced and strengthened, launched a counteroffensive to expel the remaining American forces from Canada. The Americans were forced to abandon their positions in Canada entirely by June 1776.
    • The British secured control over Quebec and Montreal, using Canada as a base for subsequent operations against the American colonies.
  3. Strategic Consequences:

    • The invasion of Canada ultimately failed to achieve its objectives. The American forces were unable to secure Canadian support or capture Quebec City.
    • The campaign stretched American resources thin and resulted in significant casualties, including the loss of key leaders like General Montgomery.
  4. Lessons Learned:

    • The invasion highlighted the challenges of conducting military operations in hostile and unfamiliar territory, including the difficulties of supply lines, harsh weather, and long marches.
    • It also underscored the importance of local support and intelligence in conducting successful campaigns.


The invasion of Canada remains a notable episode in the American Revolutionary War, illustrating both the bold ambitions and the significant challenges faced by the American revolutionaries in their quest for independence.

Capture of Fort Ticonderoga

See Capture of Fort Ticonderoga

Siege of Fort Saint Jean

See Siege of Fort Saint Jean

Battle of Longue-Pointe

See Battle of Longue-Pointe

Arnold's Expedition

See Arnold's Expedition

Battle of Quebec

See Battle of Quebec

Battle of Saint-Pierre

See Battle of Saint-Pierre

Battle of the Cedars

See Battle of the Cedars

Battle of Trois-Rivieres

See Battle of Trois-Rivieres

Battle of Valcour Island

See Battle of Valcour Island

Canadian Campaign


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