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Canada Invasion (Planned)

Canada Invasion (Planned)

CANADA INVASION (PLANNED). 1778. During the struggle for control of the Continental Army known as the Conway Cabal, the new Board of War planned to follow up on General John Burgoyne's defeat by launching an "irruption" (invasion) into Canada. The Board deliberately ignored Washington when making its decision and did not even tell him until late January 1778. On 22 January Congress approved the Board's decision and named Major General the marquis de Lafayette as the commander, with Brigadier General Thomas Conway as second-in-command. The Board felt that using both a Frenchman and an Irish veteran of the French army would attract support from the French Canadians, but it also assumed that Lafayette would be a mere figurehead and that Conway, its ally, would pull the strings. That assumption was a fatal mistake. Although Lafayette was young and had been only a captain in the French army, he came from the court nobility, unparalleled masters of intrigue and power politics. He promptly informed Congress that he would accept the command only if the orders were to come from Washington and General Johann De Kalb replace Conway, implying dire consequences if Congress did not comply. Not only would he go home, he would take all the other French volunteers with him, and inform his father-in-law (the duc d'Ayen) that the king should be urged to send no more aid. While the cabal quickly collapsed, Lafayette went to Albany to take charge of the operation. There he found that neither the supplies nor the troops had been assembled and that the invasion could not work because the British were prepared. On his recommendation, Congress canceled the operation.

SEE ALSO Conway Cabal; Lafayette, Marquis de.


Unger, Harlow Giles. Lafayette. New York: John Wiley, 2002.

                            revised by Robert K. Wright Jr.

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