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On this Day: June 8th, 1776

The Battle of Trois-Rivieres

As the nation’s 241st birthday creeps up on July 4th, and our imaginations turn to fireworks displays, grilling in the backyard at the pool party and ice cold beverages, let’s think a bit about what’s it’s all about, why we’re celebrating.

Yankee Doodle 1776 by Archibald M. Willard
Corbis via Getty Images

As you can imagine June was a busy month for the comparatively small band of men committing death defying treasonous acts against the King of England in open secrecy.  In addition to all the debating, bickering, compromising and arguing that was going on inside Philadelphia’s meeting house – out in the field the Continental Army on this day lost the Battle of Trois-Rivieres.

On the 8th of June 1776 the Continental Army was driven basically out of Quebec for all-time with a loss at the Battle of Trois-Rivieres.  The Americans had invaded and occupied Quebec the previous year; the idea was to get the Canadians to go in with the Philadelphia conspirators or what we now call The Continental Congress against the King of England, and remove Canada from British rule, and not have to worry about a British army to our North.

Map Of The Siege Of Quebec
Getty Images

The American plan was to cross the Saint Lawrence River and sneak up on the British troops at Three Rivers, where the Saint Lawrence River are in confluence with the Saint-Maurice River. Wait that’s only two rivers! – as it happens there are two islands in the mouth of the Saint-Maurice where it comes into the Saint Lawrence so it looks like … three rivers are coming in.

The plan was going pretty good too, but a farmer with ties to the Canadian Militia spotted the soldiers under General Thompson, and purposely led them into a swamp while signaling his comrades.  This allowed the British to be alerted and have ample time and opportunity to rush extra troops into the area and pretty much trap the Americans in the swamp.

War and Conflict. Illustration.The American War of Independence. pic: 16th August 1777. This illustration shows the Battle of Bennington which resulted in an American victory over the British.
Popperfoto/Getty Images

The British set up a firing line on one side of the swamp and then sat waiting on the other until the Americans came sloshing up, eaten-alive by mosquitoes and snake bit and leech bitten and found themselves in the deadly crossfire.  Because of the British positions they took a number of prisoners including General Thompson and his staff.

The Americans that got away were led back to Fort Ticonderoga to regroup.  It was the last battle inside Canada the Americans would ever wage during the fight for independence from England. As you now know the Canadians never did side with the Americans and remained under British control on the Continentals northern flank.

By the 17th of June the Americans would be quickly traversing the countryside in a southerly direction and abandoning the province entirely.  On the way out of the country they burned parts of Montreal and any boats they thought might be able to navigate the rivers and Lake Champlain, thus cutting off supplies for a while.

The Americans left Three Rivers with about 2,500 effective soldiers intact, two-hundred and forty-one years ago today.

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