The Death of General Richard Montgomery
Richard Montgomery is famous for leading the American invasion of Canada in 1775. Born in Swords, Dublin in the Kingdom of Ireland in 1738, he served in the British Army, but then joined the American patriots and became a Major General in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Taking over the invasion of Canada when Phillip Schulyer fell ill, General Montgomery captured Fort St. Johns and Montreal in November of 1775 and then advanced toward Quebec City. On December 31, 1775, General Montgomery led an attack against Quebec City but was killed in battle.
The man into whose arms General Montgomery has fallen in the painting by John Trumbull is none other than Aaron Burr. “We shall be in the fort in two minutes,” General Montgomery said to Burr just before he was hit by a volley of grapeshot and fell into Burr’s arms. According to Samuel Spring, Burr tried to rally the men behind him and push on, but his orders were countermanded by the General’s successor. As other Americans retreated from the advancing Canadians, Aaron Burr stayed behind,valiantly trying to carry the body of General Montgomery to safety. Burr was a short, slighter man, and he sank deep in the snow as he carried General Montgomery’s larger, taller body for several yards, before it became clear his efforts would be futile and he fled to escape capture.
Richard Montgomery’s body was given a proper burial by the British, but his story does not end there. He has been celebrated in words and paintings as a fallen American hero.
Milton Lomask, Aaron Burr: The Years from Princeton to Vice President, 1756-1805, p. 41