Canadian Campaign > Siege of Fort Saint Jean

Siege of Fort Saint Jean


The Siege of Fort Saint Jean, also known as the Siege of St. John's, was a significant military engagement during the early stages of the American Revolutionary War. It took place from September 17 to November 3, 1775, and was a key component of the American invasion of Quebec. The successful siege led to the capture of Fort Saint Jean (St. John's) and paved the way for the American advance into Canada.


  1. Strategic Context:

    • The American Continental Congress authorized an invasion of Quebec to bring the Canadian population into the revolutionary cause and to preempt British plans to use Canada as a base for launching attacks into the American colonies.
    • Fort Saint Jean, located on the Richelieu River south of Montreal, was a crucial British stronghold and a gateway for controlling access to the province of Quebec.
  2. American Objectives:

    • The American plan aimed to capture Montreal and ultimately Quebec City. Controlling Fort Saint Jean was essential for securing the route along the Richelieu River and cutting off British supply lines.
    • The American invasion force was led by General Richard Montgomery, with support from Colonel Benedict Arnold, who was leading a separate expedition through the Maine wilderness to Quebec City.

The Siege:

  1. American Forces:

    • General Richard Montgomery led the American forces, which initially numbered around 1,000 men but grew to approximately 2,000 with reinforcements. The troops included Continental Army soldiers and militia from New York and New England.
    • The American forces were poorly supplied and faced challenges such as disease, harsh weather, and supply shortages.
  2. British Defenses:

    • The British garrison at Fort Saint Jean, commanded by Major Charles Preston, consisted of about 600 regulars, militia, and Indigenous allies. The fort was well-fortified with earthworks and artillery.
    • The British forces had prepared for a prolonged defense, stockpiling supplies and strengthening their fortifications.
  3. Initial American Assaults:

    • The siege began on September 17, 1775, with the Americans constructing siege works and artillery positions to bombard the fort. Early attempts to breach the defenses were repelled by the well-entrenched British.
    • The Americans established blockades on the Richelieu River to prevent British reinforcements and supplies from reaching the fort.
  4. Prolonged Siege:

    • The siege dragged on for weeks, with both sides enduring hardships. The Americans faced supply shortages and disease, while the British garrison was increasingly isolated and running low on provisions.
    • General Montgomery's forces captured the nearby Fort Chambly on October 18, securing additional artillery and supplies, which bolstered the American siege efforts.
  5. Final Assault and Surrender:

    • As the siege wore on, the British garrison's situation became untenable. The American forces intensified their bombardment and continued to tighten their encirclement.
    • On November 3, 1775, Major Preston, recognizing that further resistance was futile, surrendered Fort Saint Jean to the Americans. The garrison was taken prisoner, and the Americans gained control of the fort and its valuable supplies.

Aftermath and Impact:

  1. Casualties:

    • The siege resulted in relatively light casualties compared to other battles. American losses were estimated at around 20 killed and 40 wounded, while British casualties included around 20 killed and 50 wounded, with the remaining garrison taken prisoner.
  2. Strategic Consequences:

    • The capture of Fort Saint Jean opened the way for the American advance on Montreal, which fell to Montgomery's forces without significant resistance on November 13, 1775.
    • The successful siege boosted American morale and demonstrated the viability of the invasion of Quebec.
  3. Impact on the Invasion of Quebec:

    • The fall of Fort Saint Jean was a key victory in the American invasion of Quebec, facilitating the subsequent march towards Quebec City.
    • However, the American invasion ultimately stalled with the failed assault on Quebec City on December 31, 1775, where Montgomery was killed and Arnold was wounded.


The Siege of Fort Saint Jean remains an important episode in the American Revolutionary War, highlighting the challenges and successes of the early American military campaigns and the strategic importance of controlling key fortifications in the conflict.

Canadian Campaign


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