Major General Richard Montgomery: The Making of an American Hero
Michael P. Gabriel

About the Author :
Michael P. Gabriel is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of History at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. He earned his B.S. at Clarion University, his M.A. at St. Bonaventure, and his Ph.D. at Penn State. Specializing in the American Revolution and early American military history, he has contributed articles to several reference works and reviewed many books for a variety of scholarly journals and academic websites. His “Benedict Arnold: The Question of Desertion” appeared in the Connecticut Historical Society Bulletin. Currently, he is co-editing a translation of a document that investigates who collaborated with the Americans during their 1775-1776 invasion of Canada. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on U.S. history to 1865, Colonial and Revolutionary America, and public history. He resides near Kutztown.

Drawing upon previously unexplored sources from Canada, Europe, and the United States, Michael P. Gabriel provides a comprehensive view of one of the forgotten heroes of the Revolutionary War, General Richard Montgomery. An Irish-born former British officer, Montgomery commanded the ill-fated American invasion of Canada in 1775 and was killed at Quebec. The first and highest-ranking American general killed in the war, Montgomery was also an important hero symbol in the early republic. Writers and orators, such as Thomas Paine and Hugh Henry Brackenridge, used the slain general as a symbol of virtue and self-sacrifice to spur on the war effort and help create a national identity. The image persisted through the early nineteenth century.

Spending fifteen years in the British army, Montgomery saw extensive action during the French and Indian War at such places as Fortress Louisbourg and Fort Ticonderoga. However, he was heavily influenced by opposition ideology, grew disillusioned with Britain, and permanently immigrated to America in 1772, where he became a gentleman-farmer. Marrying into a powerful New York Livingston family, Montgomery reluctantly embraced the American cause as the imperial crisis deepened, as he still felt ties for Britain and his old regiment. He served first as a delegate in the New York Provincial Congress and then as a brigadier general in the Continental Army. On the night of December 30-31, 1775, faced with expiring enlistments, Montgomery launched a disastrous assault on Quebec, which cost him his life and effectively ended the American bid to seize Canada.

Montgomery’s story does not end here though. Gabriel incorporates the writings of Montgomery’s contemporaries, as well as numerous literary sources, to show how the general was transformed into a martyr and how this persisted into the nineteenth century. Poems, orations, and plays were written in his honor and states as far west as Kansas and Texas named counties after Montgomery. The high point of this veneration came in 1818 when the general’s remains were transported from Quebec and reburied in New York City on Broadway in a solemn ceremony attended by thousands. Although he is largely forgotten today, this study helps restore Montgomery to the prominence he deserves.

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ISBN 0-8386-3931-3

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