Cedars, the

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Cedars, the

CEDARS, THE. A small post called The Cedars was the Americans' westernmost position on the St. Lawrence River, established in March 1776, forty-three miles upstream from Montreal. The garrison came from Bedel's Regiment, a New Hampshire unit that began life in 1775 as a corps of rangers. Colonel Timothy Bedel commanded the post. By early May Captain George Forster, commanding Oswegatchie, had assembled several hundred western Indians and a contingent of the Eighth Foot and set out downriver. On 12 May Bedel learned in general terms about the British intentions, and set out to get reinforcements from Benedict Arnold, who commanded Montreal. Major Isaac Butterfield assumed command of the 300 Americans and 100 Canadians in the garrison. On 16 May, Major Henry Sherburne led a 140-man relief column from Montreal; Arnold continued assembling additional forces. Two days later Butterfield surrendered without any real attempt at resistance. Sherburne did not learn of the surrender when he landed at Quinze Chiens, nine miles from The Cedars, on 20 May, and marched into an ambush about four miles from Butterfield's post. The relief column tried to fall back but got pinned down. They held out for forty minutes before surrendering. Two prisoners were executed that evening, and four or five were later tortured and killed by the Indians. Forster continued his advance to Quinze Chiens. On 26 May he skirmished with Arnold's second relief column (700 men). The next day he exchanged prisoners with Arnold, who had to honor an agreement made by Butterfield and started back to Oswegatchie. Arnold returned to Montreal.

Only a handful of men were killed or wounded on either side, and Forster's withdrawal left little permanent impact on the course of the campaign. But it did ruin reputations and lead to a series of inquiries and courts-marshal.


Butterfield, Charles. "Major Isaac Butterfield of Westmoreland and His Surrender at the Cedars, 1776." Historical New Hampshire (spring/summer 1997).

Smith, Justin H. Our Struggle for the Fourteenth Colony: Canada and the American Revolution. Vol. 2. 1907. Reprint, New York: Da Capo Press, 1974.

                              revised by Robert K. Wright Jr.