The Death of General Montgomery

in the Attack of on Quebec, Canada, John Trumbell, 1788

Happening Truth By: Jheel Patel

General Richard Montgomery died while leading an attack on Quebec, Canada, a city held by British forces. It was in the middle of a snowstorm on the morning of December 31, 1775 when he and his men decided to attack the city walls. As they made their way through the city, they found themselves about 50 yards from a two-story blockhouse. General Montgomery rallied his men by drawing his sword and shouting, "Come on, my good soldiers, your General calls upon you to come on!" Shortly after, the British forces occupying the blockhouse opened fire and shot him (and two other officers) down. The General was fatally wounded with shots to his head and both thighs. When the soldiers realized that all but one officer had been killed, Colonel Campbell, the only officer left, called off the attack and the troops scattered in an unorganized frenzy.

Story Truth by Gillian Britt

The story truth, by definition, is the tale a piece of literature tells which evokes emotion from the connoisseur of the art. This painting evokes emotion from the viewer because of the violence depicted in the art. It clearly depicts a war, with men brutally murdering each other. One group, presumably the English, seem to be surrounding the other. Some of the men in the surrounded seem like they don't know how to fight (an Indian with an arrow raised runs to the center, behind the slain, with a fearful expression). All of the men on one side seem to encircle one of the fallen men, whose uniform is a different color than anyone else's. The death of this man leads one man (the one on his left) to have an angry expression, but most of them look frightened. The surrounding group looks menacing and merciless, ready to slaughter every last man. This causes the audience to feel sympathy for the surrounded group, makes them to think of the mostly faceless group as evil and causes the audience to feel that the surrounded didn't do anything wrong, but was being massacred by the surrounding group. To enforce this, the surrounded group has fewer weapons and more slain men. Out of the few men that remain, one carries a flag. This symbol of patriotism makes the audience want them to win or die proudly, for their country, as many believe people should. The British, in contrast, all have weapons, with no slain men we can see, and none of them carry a flag. They are almost robotic, lacking emotion or humanity. What's more, this battle actually took place during a snowstorm, but the snow on the ground (snow being a universal symbol of innocence) is only beneath the surrounded group. This may evoke anger or sadness for the slaughter of the innocent, even if the audience doesn't understand why they are feeling that. General Montgomery, the central figure, is the dying person being held up by his ally. The position he's in has an almost Godly connotation, being held as Jesus was nailed to the cross, arms out and feet together. The light of this painting is centered on him, as if heaven were about to open it's gates to him as they did to Jesus, while the British are shown in darkness. The general is also shown without wounds or blood, flawless as he falls and innocent. Broken cannons surround the snow, showing how the Americans must have retreated. The general was not shot among his men, and therefore would not have been held up by his ally as he died. He would have fallen into the snow that was on the ground everywhere and died alone, but that has less meaning in a picture than someone being held by their men as they die does. The troops were also very disorganized and scattered, not clustered together, but the cluster represents a feeling of comradeship, of dying together as fellow men with honor.

The Critique of the Painting

Title: The title "The Death of General Montgomery in the Attack of Quebec" shows that the author is trying emphasis the significance of this death. The word "The" is usually used in the specification of an event, for example "The Boston massacre". The use of the word "The" in this context is to tell the reader that this death isn't just a tragic causality, it is an event, and in history, events are remembered and archived.


The author positioned the dead general Montgomery in the center of the painting. His purpose was to direct the audiences attention to the center, where the tragedy has happened. The dead general Is being held by his allies. The author purposefully did this to make the audience create a scenario in the mind of the audience as to what lead to his death. In the audience's mind, when the general was killed, his allies dropped everything and rushed to his aid showing that compared to all the other casualties in this battle, Montgomery's is truly a hefty loss. However this did not actually occur. The author continues to make general Montgomery the center of attention by removing the building he was shot near, as to not misdirect the audience's attention from Montgomery. The author chose to illustrate another dead body right in front of Montgomery, by the colors this second causality is wearing isn't as bright as the coloring of Montgomery. Also he is fully on the ground. This is significant because it shows the author is showing the difference between just a causality and a tragic death. The author had another reason for drawing Montgomery this way. Montgomery is held in such a position that the audience can draw a connection between the loss of Montgomery as a compression to the loss of Jesus in the Pietà. finally the author chose to add the British in the dark part of the painting. This was to show who caused this tragedy and who the blame should be placed on. Usually the audience will look at the center of the picture then look around the center due to how the author misdirected the audience's focus. So the audience will look at the tragedy and then look who is to be blamed for this.


This painting was illustrated in 1788, a few years after the battle. The audience during this time

Analysis of painting

Before the analysis of the imagery, first the authors purpose for such a dramatic title must be established. The painting is of the death of general Montgomery, though a general, it is still a causality like the rest who perished during the battle. However the author uses the title "The Death of General Montgomery in the Attack on Quebec" to not only state that all your attention should be centered around this corpse, but it is to also establish that this was not just a tragic causality, but an event in history. The use of the word "The" is usually used for dates, for example "The Boston Massacre". It is signifying that this is an event. If the title was just " Death of General Montgomery in the Attack on Quebec", it wouldn't have much of an effect, though it is small change,the meaning of the is changed from a just a causality to an event that must be remembered. Even the specific place of his death is in the title so the audience will be able to refer back to it.

The Imagery of the painting really draws the attention of the audience to where it needs to be. To start, the audience will look at the title and immediately look for the general who is perfectly in the center. The author chose to add another dead body near the general but that dead body is not getting the same amount of attention as the general. This is what the author wanted, to cement that fact that general Montgomery was more than just a casualty and is on a different level when it came to his importance. Though Montgomery was killed near a building, the author did not want to spare any attention and removed this detail. This was to maximize the attention on the general. Furthermore on that statement, the general was shot in the face, yet there is no blood. The author has an obsessive need to center Montgomery over all that he would remove buildings and even the appearance of blood to have the audience focused on this event. Going back to the dead comrade, he is laying on the ground, yet general Washington is being held by his allies. The author made this contrast to yet again tell the audience that this is more than a casualty and, the death of the generals subordinates could not measure to the death of the general. Also the author chose to brighten the clothes the general was wearing to further sweep the attention to the general. Finally, knowing the religious background of the intended audience, the author also painted Montgomery this way to represent the Pietà. This final act of the author was to demonstrate that the loss of general Montgomery could be compared to the loss of Jesus, a truly bold statement.

Audience: This painting was created in 1798, years after the american revolution.The authors intended audience was the Americans who had finally received their free dome. The purpose of this painting was to make the Americans who got their independence remember that great losses were received in order to get it. Therefore, the event of Montgomery death was one of those losses. Its a date to remember of a man he deemed as significant who died in the struggle for independence. He used the dark colors and painting the British in the background to make them remember the feelings of loss and pain during those years. He did so in the name of general Montgomery.