An effective propaganda campaign conducted by the Americans succeeded in eliciting some support, particularly in Montréal, where there was some pro-American activity. The French Canadian clergy, seigneurs and leading citizens adopted a policy of support for the British, but most of the common people remained neutral and reluctant to become involved. Bishop Briand issued an episcopal mandate denouncing the rebels and urging the people to more active support, but Governor Sir Guy CARLETON (Lord Dorchester) had little success raising the militia.
In September 1775 General Richard Montgomery led American forces northward, seizing Ticonderoga, CROWN POINT and FORT CHAMBLY. When Fort Saint-Jean capitulated in Oct, Carleton abandoned Montréal and the Americans took possession November 13/14. Meanwhile, General Benedict ARNOLD managed, despite hardships and desertions, to bring some 700 men via the Kennebec and Chaudière rivers to Québec.
Montgomery joined him in early December with another 300 men and during a snowstorm on 31 December 1775 launched a desperate assault. Arnold and his men penetrated some distance into Lower Town but surrendered under counterattack. Montgomery and his leading officers were killed in their attack from the other side of Lower Town. The remaining Americans kept up their desperate siege through the winter, but were easily routed when the spring thaw brought British reinforcements. They abandoned Montréal May 9.
The failure of the American invasion left bitter memories among Canadians and drove many sympathizers into exile. However, there had been little active support for the Americans: clergy and seigneurs remained staunchly loyal and, after some equivocation, so did the merchants. Most HABITANTS remained determinedly neutral, in defiance of Bishop Briand and Carleton. General John BURGOYNE led a British counterinvasion southward via Lake Champlain, but he overextended himself and, in the first great victory for the Americans, he surrendered at Saratoga 17 October 1777.
As in previous conflicts, Nova Scotia remained an uncertain battleground during the Revolution. The provincial Assembly voted addresses of loyalty, but illegal town meetings gave secret support to New England. Nearly every important outpost outside Halifax suffered from American PRIVATEERING. In 1775 rebels seized Partridge Island in Halifax harbour and they made a futile attack on Fort Cumberland (FORT BEAUSÉJOUR) in 1776, but by 1779 the British had cleared the Bay of Fundy of privateers.
After a protracted struggle, British forces surrendered in October 1781, and the TREATY OF PARIS, 1783, formally recognized the United States of America. The failure of the American invasion and the influx of some 40 000 LOYALIST refugees into Nova Scotia and Québec determined that the development of the remaining British colonies would differ profoundly from their southern neighbours.
Author D.N. SPRAGUE
J.B. Brebner, The Neutral Yankees of Nova Scotia (1937); M. Jensen, The Founding of a Nation (1968); G. Lanctôt, Canada and the American Revolution (trans 1967); G.F.G. Stanley, Canada Invaded, 1775-1776 (1973).
Links to Other Sites
French Canada and the Early Decades of British Rule (1760 - 1791)
A digitized copy of a booklet that examines the issues and policies that defined Britian's administration of its North American colonies in the decades preceeding the implementation of the Quebec Act and the Constitutional Act. From the Canadian Historical Association and Library and Archives Canada.
The United Empire Loyalists
The website for the United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada, an organization dedicated to promoting the history of the United Empire Loyalists and their contribution to the development of Canada.
This UNB website provides access to extensive references and resources about the United Empire Loyalists and their descendents.
This illustrated website features an extensive profile of Mary Brant. Produced by the Cataraqui Archaeological Research Foundation.
Canadian Geographic: Historical Maps
Take a walk through the history of Canada. Select a year to see the maps and the history related to that era. From the "Canadian Geographic" website.
Records of Old and Their Widows
The Provincial Archives of New Brunswick has within its holdings many highly interesting and valuable historical documents. Among these are records which relate to the soldiers who fought as loyalists in the American Revolution.
Arriving in Upper Canada
This online exhibit focuses on the migration of the Loyalists to Upper Canada. From the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
A profile of Guy Carleton, governor of Québec and leader of British North American Forces, during and after the American Revolution. From the "Black Loyalists" website.
A biography of John Butler army officer, office-holder, and Indian agent. From the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
The website for the Galafilm documentary series "CHIEFS," which is devoted to the life stories of First Nations leaders, including Sitting Bull, Pontiac, Joseph Brant, Black Hawk, and Poundmaker.
Joseph Brant Museum
A brief profile of Joseph Brant from the Joseph Brant Museum in Burlington, Ontario.
Revolution Rejected: Canada and the American Revolution
This illustrated Canadian War Museum website recounts the story of the failed American invasion of Canada in 1775–1776 and the migration of American Loyalists to Canada after 1783.
Sir John Johnson House National Historic Site
This Parks Canada website features a profile of Sir John Johnson and an illustrated tour of the national historic site in Williamstown, Ontario.
John Graves Simcoe
This Archives of Ontario website profiles John Graves Simcoe, leader of the Queen's Rangers during the American Revolution and the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada.
Fort Beauséjour National Historic Site of Canada
The website for Fort Beauséjour National Historic Site of Canada in New Brunswick. This historic site commemorates the role of the fort in the struggle between France and Britain, and subsequently between Britain and the American colonies, for North America, 1751-1783. From Parks Canada.
Fort Chambly National Historic Site of Canada
The website for the Fort Chambly National Historic Site of Canada. Features a history of the region with references to Samuel de Champlain, New France, the fur trade, the Seven Years' War, and related topics.
Fort Lennox National Historic Site of Canada
The website for Fort Lennox National Historic Site of Canada, located in Québec near the Canada-US border. Includes background notes about the American Revolution, the War of 1812 and related topics.
This website is dedicated to Fort Michilimackinac in Michigan State. Occupied by French and British military forces prior to the American Revolution. From the Mackinac Island State Park Commission.
The Atlantic Canada Virtual Archives
The Atlantic Canada Virtual Archives (ACVA) is designed to showcase some of Atlantic Canada's rich archival sources. From the University of New Brunswick.
The American War of Independence: The Rebels and the Redcoats
A brief historical account of the American Revolution from a British perspective. From the BBC website.
This Ottawa memorial honours fourteen valiant men and women who gave outstanding wartime service to Canada.
Treaty of Paris, 1783
Scroll down the page for an overview of the Treaty of Paris (1783.) Click on the “Treaty of Paris” link for more information. From the “Canada in the Making” website.
A brief history of the American Loyalist corps known as "Butler's Rangers." Also, check out "Butler's Barracks," for information about this historic building located in Niagara-on-the-Lake. From the website for the Lincoln and Welland Regimental Museum.
BookTV: Eliot Cohen, "Conquered into Liberty"
In this video clip, American author Eliot Cohen offers some interesting details about early American attempts to invade British territory in North America. From YouTube.