The body of General Montgomery remained in Quebec for forty-three years. It was then brought to New York, in compliance with a special act of
At Mrs. Montgomery's request, Governor Clinton commissioned her nephew, Lewis Livingston, to superintend the removal of the remains to New York.
From a minute report which he wrote to his father, Edward Livingston, then in Louisiana, we gather many details of interest hitherto unknown
to the public. On account of the great lapse of time since the death of General Montgomery, apprehensions were entertained that there would be
difficulty in ascertaining the exact spot where he was interred. Such apprehensions were, however, groundless. Mrs. Montgomery had been some
time previously informed by Mr. William Smith (the son of the Chief Justice,
then deceased) that the person who had buried her husband was still living, and had in his possession the sword the General wore when he was
so unfortunately slain. Shortly after the arrival of Colonel Livingston in Quebec, James Thompson, then eighty-nine years of age, was pointed
out to him as the very person who had been intrusted with the superintendence of the General's burial, and who had served in the British army
during the siege. He was ordered to explore the place of interment and dig up the remains. This he accordingly did, in the presence of one of
his Excellency Governor Sherbrooke's aides-de-camp, Captain Freer. As Thompson still possessed all his faculties. Colonel Livingston obtained
from him full information. Owing to the alteration that had taken place in the appearance of the ground, he could not indicate exactly where the
body lay. It was found, however, within a few feet of the place he fixed upon; and there was so much circumstantial evidence to corroborate all
he said, that not a doubt could be entertained of his veracity. He mentioned a number of details respecting the interment, and gave a particular
description of tho coffin in which the body was placed, which corresponded perfectly with the appearance of the one taken up. The coffin was kept
exactly in the state in which it was found, and placed in a strong wooden case.
Sir John Sherbrooke pursued a very liberal course of action. He did not hesitate one instant to deliver up the remains; he only expressed a desire
that the affair should be considered a private rather than a public transaction. Mr. William Smith was extremely useful in furthering the views of
Colonel Livingston; he was intimate with the Governor, and used his influence to obtain a compliance with the request of which he was the bearer.
Governor Clinton had directed the Adjutant-General, with Colonel Van Rensselaer and a detachment of cavalry, to accompany the remains to New York.
They left Whitehall on the 2d of July, arriving at Albany on the 4th. Great preparations had been made to receive the remains with all possible
splendor and eclat. The procession moved through all the principal streets of Albany, escorted by the military under arms, joined by an immense
concourse of citizens. The remains were laid in state in the Capitol. In every village on the route similar honors had been paid to the memory
of the gallant Montgomery. The skeleton had been placed in a magnificent coffin, which had been sent by the Governor. On the 6th of July, at
nine o'clock in the morning, a procession, perhaps still larger than the first, accompanied the coffin to the steamer Richmond, on board of
which it was put with a large military escort. The boat floated down for several miles under the discharge of minute-guns from both shores.
It was astonishing to observe the strong sympathies which were everywhere evoked by the arrival of these sacred remains. The degree of enthusiasm
that prevailed and the patriotic feeling that evinced itself reflected credit upon the State of New York, and not a voice was heard in disapproval
of the tributes of respect thus paid to the memory of this hero of the Revolution.
Governor Clinton had informed Mrs. Montgomery that the body of the General would pass down the Hudson; by the aid of a glass she could see the boat
pass Montgomery Place, her estate near Barrytown. I give her own quaint and touching terms as she describes the mournful pageant in a letter
to her niece. "At length," she wrote, "they came by, with all that remained of a beloved husband, who left me in the bloom of manhood,
a perfect being. Alas! how did he return! However gratifying to my heart, yet to my feelings every pang I felt was renewed. The pomp with
which it was conducted added to my woe; when the steamboat passed with slow and solemn movement, stopping before my house, the troops under
arms, the Dead March from the muffled drum, the mournful music, the splendid coffin canopied with crape and crowned by plumes, you may
conceive my anguish; I can not describe it."
At Mrs. Montgomery's own request she was left alone upon the porch when the Richmond went by. Forty-three years had elapsed since she
parted with her husband at Saratoga. Emotions too agitating for her advanced years overcame her at this trying moment. She fainted, and
was found in an insensible condition after the boat had passed on its way. Yet the first wish of her heart was realized, after years of
deferred hope, and she wrote to her brother in New Orleans, "I am satisfied. What more could I wish than the high honor that has been
conferred on the ashes of my poor soldier?"
The remains were finally interred in New York on the 8th of July, 1818, beneath the monument in front of St. Paul's Church. This monument
was designed and executed in France, ordered by Benjamin Franklin.
The Quebec Morning Chronicle of December 30, 1876, contains a very interesting account of the Centennial Fete which the Literary and
Historical Society of Quebec held in their rooms on the evening of the 29th:
"The lecture-room of Merrin College was hung with the flags of many nations. Addresses were delivered by several persons of mark in
the Dominion, some of whom were lineal descendants of those who had participated a hundred years before in the defense of Quebec.
"Lieutenant-Colonel Strange, Commandant of the Quebec garrison, and Dominion Inspector of Artillery, exhaustively treated that portion
of the events of the 31st of December, 1775, which referred to the attack and defense at Pits de Ville. Many incidents of the siege,
utterly unknown to ordinary readers of history, were brought to light, and many things that have been considered doubtful were explained.
The story of the finding of the frozen bodies of the American General and his aide de-camp was told with much pathos, as were the details
of his burial.
"At the conclusion of Colonel Strange's narrative, J. M. Le Moine, the Quebec historian, made an address on Arnold's assault on Sault an
Matelots barriers. Remarks were also made by the vice-president and others, after which the audience was invited to visit the library.
Here flags draped and covered the bookshelves. A splendid stand of arms reached from floor to ceiling. Behind it fell in long festoons the
Dominion standard. In the centre of a diamond-shaped figure, made up of sabres pointing upward, was a large glittering star of bayonets.
In chronological order were tablets containing each one of the names of the Lieutenant-Governors of Canada, commencing with Carleton in 1775.
On the opposite side of the room, under a similar star of bayonets, was hung, suspended with crape, the sword of General Montgomery. The
company were iuvited to view it, the band played the funeral march of Montgomery, and music continued until the company dispersed."
This celebration was followed by a similar demonstration at the lnstitut Canadieu on the 30th, and by a ball at the Citadel on the 31st, given
by the Commander, Colonel Strange, R. A., and Mrs. Strange, who entertained a large number of guests in the costume of 1775. Some of the
identical uniforms worn at the time of the siege now re-appeared in the old fortress. The staircase was draped with royal standards,
intermingled with the white and golden lilies of France, the Dominion ensign, and the American flag. On either side of the steps were
stands of arms and warlike implements. There, too, was the trophy. Huge banners fell in graceful folds about the stacks of musketry
piled on the right and left above the drums and trumpets. Immediately underneath was the escutcheon of the United States, on which,
heavily craped, was hung the sword with which Montgomery had beckoned on his men to action. Underneath this kindly tribute were the
words "Requiescat in pace."
At the foot of the trophy were piled sets of old flint muskets and accoutrements, and in the centre a brass cannon captured from the
Americans in 1775, which bears the arms of the State of Massachusetts. On either side of this historical tableau gigantic figures from
the ranks were stationed as sentries. Dancing commenced. Dance succeeded dance till midnight. All of a sudden sounded the clear clarion
notes of a trumpet. A panel in the wainscoting at the lower dancing-room opened as if by magic, and out jumped a jaunty little trumpeter,
with the slashed and decorated jacket and busby of a hussar. The blast he blew rang far and wide. A second later weird piping and drumming
were heard in a remote part of the barracks. Nearer and nearer every moment came the sharp shrill notes of the fifes and the quick detonation
of the drum-stick taps. Silence came upon the gay company who clustered in picturesque groups around the stairs, where was placed the steel
blade whose hilt was warmed one century before by the hand of a hero.
"The Phantom Guard," led by the intrepid Sergeant Hugh MoQuarters, passed through the assemblage, looking neither to the right nor left; on
through saloon and passage, past ball-room and conversation parlor, they glided past with measured stops.and halted in front of the Montgomery
trophy, and paid to it military honors. The bombardier who impersonated the dead sergeant actually wore the sword and belt of a man who was
killed in the action of 1775.
The old house in St. Louis Street, in which the body of General Montgomery was laid out on the 1st of January, 1776, was decorated with the
American flag, and brilliantly illuminated that night.
The British charge d'affaires ad interim to the United States, Victor Drummond, Esq., having recently obtained General Montgomery's sword,
presented it to me on the 3d of September, 1881, at Montgomery Place, where it has been added to the other relics of the General. When it
was unpacked a piece of crape lay in the case, a token of the still fresh and pathetic honors of the Quebec centennial.
There are but few relics of General Montgomery in existence besides the sword, the papers I have alluded to, his letters preserved at
Washington, and his letters to General Schuyler. His watch and seal, removed from his person on the field of battle, and forwarded to
Mrs. Montgomery, are carefully preserved. The trunk which he used when in the British Army, as a captain in the Seventeenth Regiment foot,
is at Montgomery Place, and has his name on it. The only original portrait of him is also at Montgomery Place. It was sent to Mrs. Montgomery
by Lady Ranelagh, after the death of the General, and represents him as a young man of about twenty-five years, the age at which he first left
Ireland. The countenance is frank, gallant, and handsome, and indicates a generous and amiable disposition.