Siege of Fort St. John's (aka St. Jean)

Septemper 18 to November 3, 1775 in St. Johns, Quebec (Present-day Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec)

The Siege of Fort St. John's (aka St. Jean) was carried out by American Brigadier General Richard Montgomery on the fort Saint-Jean in the British province of Quebec. The siege lasted from September 17 to November 3, 1775.

The fall of St. John's opened the way for the Continental army to march on Montreal, which fell without battle on November 13. General Guy Carleton escaped from Montreal, and made his way to Quebec City to prepare its defenses.

Facts about Siege of Fort St. John's (aka St. Jean)

  • Armies - American Forces was commanded by Brig. Gen. Richard Montgomery and consisted of between 1,500 to 2,500 Continental Army. British Forces was commanded by Gen. Charles Preston and consisted of 850 British Soldiers and Indian Allies.
  • Casualties - American casualties were estimated to be 20–100 killed and wounded
    at least 900 sick. British casualties was approximately 20 dead, 23 wounded and about 700 captured. The Siege was part of the Invasion of Quebec, 1775
  • Outcome - The result of the siege was a American victory which resulted in the American Army gaining control over the Quebec territory between Lake Champlain, Montreal and Quebec City. The battle was part of the Invasion of Quebec 1775-76.
View of Fort St. John's aka St. Jean
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View of Fort St. John's aka St. Jean

Initial Attacks

On August 28, Major General Philip Schuyler had assembled an expeditionary force of roughly 1,000 men at Fort Ticonderoga and set out for the Canadian border.

On September 6, the Patriots arrived at St. Johns Fort, which was situated about 12 miles southeast of Montreal and the St. Lawrence. He prepared to lay siege to the fortification commanded by British commander Sir Charles Preston. Schuyler's scouts exaggerated the strength of the British garrison and the American commander decided to withdraw to Isle aux Noix, about 10 miles south of St. Johns.

On September 10, Schuyler initiated an attack on the fort at St. Johns, but that ended in an embarrassing fiasco. He formed 2 columns to converge on the fort, but the 2 columns instead converged on each other in the dark, resulting in confusion and disorder. Both columns chose to retreat from the other. Schuyler returned to Ticonderoga feigning illness. The command of the Patriot army fell to Schuyler's second-in-command, Montgomery.

Montgomery was enthusiastic and energetic. He exhibited a sharp contrast to Shuyler's slow and deliberate manner. In fact, back in August, as Shuyler seemingly wasted time in preparing his expedition, Montgomery became impatient with the deadening pace of his superior, and on August 28, he had set out with a contingent of the Patriot forces toward Montreal.

It was Montgomery's brash move which got Shuyler moving. He quickly concluded his preparations and hastily set out to rendezvous with Montgomery at Ile aux Nois.

The Siege of St. John's Begins

On September 16, Montgomery began a formal siege of the fortification at St. Johns. For whatever reason, Colonel Charles Preston, who was noticeably outnumbered by the Americans, did not take advantage of 2 schooners which he had anchored in the Richelieu River near the fort. As the British prepared for the siege, the Patriots took control of the 2 vessels.

Map of Montreal Campaign 1775
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Map of Montreal Campaign 1775

Montgomery sent Colonel Ethan Allen and Major John Brown northward from St. Johns with the purpose of recruiting Canadians who might be sympathetic to the Patriot Cause. They found about 300 Canadians who were willing to join the Patriots, but instead of returning to St. Johns, the impetuous Allen led them in an impromptu attack on Montreal.

On September 24, during the night, Allen led a part of the troops across the St. Lawrence River downriver from the lightly-defended Montreal. There, Allen waited Brown's troops, but they didn't appear. Rather, on the next day, some 250 Canadian militia troops sent by Carleton appeared and routed the American Patriots after firing a single volley. Ethan Allen and 35 of his troops were taken prisoner.

During October, rainy weather and a lack of supplies began to induce a dispiriting attitude in the American troops. To remedy the situation, Montgomery sent a contingent of roughly 50 Americans and 300 Canadians under Brown and James Livingston to advance on another fortified structure, Fort Chambly.

Fort Chambly was a venerable old stone fort which stood downriver from St. Johns and midway between it and Montreal. The 88 British troops under Major Joseph Stopford, who garrisoned Chambly, made no effort to use the cannon which they had, and after only a day and a half surrendered to the American Patriots.

With the capture of Fort Chambly, the Patriots now had additional ammunition and weapons to aid them in their siege of St. Johns. Nineteen cannon and about 6 tons of gunpowder were among the spoils taken.


Following the news of St. Jean's surrender, Carleton headed to Montreal.

On November 11, Carleton left Montreal, barely escaping the American troops. With winter setting in, and with many enlistments nearing expiration at year's end, the Continental Army needed to move quickly on Quebec City.

On December 9, Montgomery was promoted to Major General, as a result of his successful siege of Fort St John's and Montreal.

Siege casualties were relatively light on both sides, but the Continental Army suffered a lot of casualties due to sickness throughout the siege. The British eventually reoccupied the fort St John's in 1776 after the Continental Army abandoned it during its retreat to Fort Ticonderoga.

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