Now in the early morning hours of December 31, the American Commanders have ideal conditions to put their attack plan in motion. At 2:00 am the muster was called in the Continental camp. General Montgomery with his 300 men would attack the city along the river from the west and Colonel Arnold with his larger force of 700 men would attack from the east. In the middle of the business district in Lower Town, the two columns would meet and turn north, heading up a winding road to Upper Town. At 4:00 am, Montgomery set off rockets signaling to Arnold that he was in position. Montgomery and his 300 men continued to advance along following a narrow path between the cliff and the St. Lawrence River, passing beneath the Cape Diamond Bastion and forced their way through two wooden stockades. The snow was now falling so hard that Montgomery had to squint to see the outline first house in Lower Town. What he could not see was his outnumbered enemy now only a few yards distant.
A small group of Canadian militia under the command of Captain Joseph Chabot and Lieutenant Aleixandre Picard, and a few sailors under Captain Adam Barnsfare, were on the alert. As the Americans approached, Chabot and Picard warned their citizen soldiers not to open fire until the command was given. Matches for the Captain Barnsfare’s cannons were lit. When the Americans were less then 50 yards from the house, the command was given. A devastating volley of canister, grapeshot and musket balls ripped thru the unsuspecting Americans, killing Montgomery, his aide-de-camp and a battalion commander. The panicked army fled back to their camp leaving their wounded and dead in the snow.
Benedict Arnold having seen the three signal rockets from Montgomery advanced with his main body towards the northern barricades. They were fired upon by Carleton’s ad hoc force manning the walls of the city. “We could see nothing but the blaze from their mussels of their muskets.” wrote American Private John Henry. Upon reaching a street barricade at Sault au Matelot, a musket ball tore into Arnold’s leg. He attempted to continue but soon gave up, allowing himself to be carried from the field. His men, now under Daniel Morgan’s command, fought their way through the first barricade and raced through the Lower Town, pouring over another unmanned barricade. They reached the rendezvous point and waited for Montgomery’s forces, unaware that Montgomery was already dead.
Carleton used these precious moments to reorganize his troops. When Moragan’s impatients finally got the better of him, he ordered his men to move on. Carleton was ready for him. The Americans staggered through the twisting streets leading to Upper Town as musket fire poured down on them from houses and barricades. Carleton, meanwhile, maneuvered some men into the unmanned barricade, which had been abandoned by the Americans. There was no escape route. The Americans had been cut off.
American Private John Henry further wrote: "Confined in a narrow street, hardly more than 20 feet wide... scarcely a ball, well aimed or otherwise, but must take effect upon us. The enemy having the advantage of the ground in front, a vast superiority of numbers and dry and better arms, gave them an irresistible power in so narrow a space...About nine o'clock, it was apparent to us all that we must surrender; it was done."
The Americans had suffered heavy casualties. Their Commanding Officer, Richard Montgomery, was dead and over four hundred men had surrendered. The seige of the city would drag on into spring, but the Quebec garrison had supplies to sustain it. Arnold was finally forced to retreat with the arrival of fresh British troops. The invasion was over.
The Battle of Quebec was not the end of the invasion but it was the climax. It proved that the British could work effectively with their French Canadian allies. Men like General Guy Carleton, Lieuntenant Governor Hector Cramahé, Captain Joseph Chabot, Lieutenant Aleixandre Picard, Captain Adam Barnsfare, Captain Jean Baptiste Bouchette, Colonel Allan Maclean and others had showed courage, daring and tenacity in fighting off the invading American army. Canada was saved. In less than 40 years, the Americans again would invade Canada and again British Soldiers and French Canadian Militia would combine to defeat them.