General Richard Montgomery

When Sara realized that she had lived here her entire life, and didn’t know who Dayton was named after, she had the idea for Dayton Unknown. Yet it never occurred to us that we didn’t know who Montgomery County is named after until Bethany was at a stoplight one day and read the fun fact printed on the RTA bus next to her.
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Richard Montgomery was born on December 2, 1738 in Ireland to Thomas and an unnamed mother. His father was a British Army officer, and a Member of Parliament. Montgomery spent most of this childhood at Abbeville House in Kinsealy and learned to hunt, shoot, ride, and fence. He also attended school and learned French, Latin, and rhetoric. Montgomery continued his studies at Trinity College in Dublin in 1754, but did not receive a degree.

In 1756, Montgomery enlisted in the British Army and joined the 17th Regiment of Foot. As the French and Indian War was going on, he was sent to fight in Canada. In 1758, Montgomery led a successful attack on Louisbourg in Nova Scotia and was then promoted to Lieutenant. In November 1761, Montgomery and the 17th Foot were sent to the Caribbean to defeat the French there. After storming and capturing the Moro Fort in Havana, Cuba in 1762, the 17th was sent to New York for the remainder of the war. By the end of the war, Montgomery had received the rank of Captain.

Following the war, Montgomery was stationed at Fort Detroit in Michigan during Pontiac’s War. While on their way to Albany in 1763, Montgomery’s ship ran aground near Clermont Manor, which was the home of a local wealthy and powerful family, the Livingstons. The Livingstons hosted the ship’s officers while the ship was being repaired, and during this time, Montgomery met the 20-year-old Livingston daughter, Janet. Unfortunately, during this time, Montgomery’s health started to decline, so he returned to Britain. Upon his recovery, he resigned his commission from the British Army in 1772, and moved to New York to become a farmer.

When he returned to the Thirteen Colonies in 1773, Montgomery reunited with Janet Livingston and married her. The two shared anti-British beliefs, and Montgomery thought of himself as an American. So, it’s no surprise that when the Revolutionary War started, Montgomery was a Patriot. In May of 1775, Montgomery was elected to the New York Provincial Congress and was chosen to organize the militias and defenses of New York. The next month, Montgomery was commissioned as a Brigadier General in the Continental Army, second in command to Major General Philip Schuyler, eventually coming into command when Philip Schuyler’s health failed.

Montgomery led a successful campaign across Canada, eventually joining forces with Benedict Arnold in Quebec City. On December 31st 1775, Montgomery attacked the British forces in the city but was killed during the battle without ever finding out that he had been promoted to Major General on December 9th. He then became the first American general to be killed in the Revolutionary War.

Aaron Burr was at Montgomery’s side during the attack and tried to recover his body, but to no avail. Thankfully, the British found Montgomery’s body and gave him a burial with full military honors. In 1776, Congress erected a marble memorial to Montgomery in the churchyard of Saint Paul’s Cathedral in Manhattan, and over forty years later in 1818, the Canadian government released his remains, and he was buried under the memorial.

General Montgomery’s death is actually referenced in the musical Hamilton by Aaron Burr, when speaking to George Washington:

I was a captain under General Montgomery
until he caught a bullet in the neck in Quebec.

2 thoughts on “General Richard Montgomery

    • I’m trying to find it, but I’m pretty sure I saw that one of the four founders of Dayton served in the Revolutionary War with Montgomery, and named the country in honor of him. Fun fact – Jonathan Dayton never set foot here, either!

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