The Yellow-Suited Man

Amanda Wilson, Erica Su, Tiffany Ouyang, Christine Song

The Death of General Montgomery in the Attack on Quebec, Canada

by John Trumbull, 1788
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Artist Biography (Tiffany Ouyang):

John Trumbull (1756-1843) was an American artist during the American Revolution era who depicted many scenes

of the revolution in his paintings. He was born in Lebanon, Connecticut and his father served as

the Governor of Connecticut. During the American Revolution Trumbull served as an aide to George Washington and became a Colonel. During his time as a soldier, he witnessed the violence and suffering during the war on a close personal level. Trumbull fought in a plethora of major battles including the Battle of Bunker Hill. After leaving the army, he went to London and studied under Benjamin West. In 1781, West and Thomas Jefferson encouraged Trumbull to begin a series of historical paintings depicting his unique perspective from the Revolutionary War. During 1817, Trumbull was commissioned by the U.S. Congress to paint a series of four paintings for the rotunda in the Capitol building - the most famous of which was the Declaration of Independence.

Art Critique of The Death of General Montgomery in the Attack on Quebec by John Trumbull, 1788 (Amanda Wilson):

The use of light and dark of the stormy sky in this artwork creates an extremely dramatic scene. The light seems to be focused on the sky to the west and the Canadian and American colonists being massacred in the center of the image. The lines of the figures in the painting all lead to the colonists as the focal point as well. The British soldiers standing in the lower left hand corner are facing toward and pointing to the colonists and therefore directing the viewer’s attention to the colonists. Among the colonists the viewer’s eye is drawn to the figure dressed in yellow. The emphasis on this figure leads the viewer to infer that this is General Montgomery. General Montgomery is idealized and in this death scene he is posed in almost statuesque manner. From this the viewer can conclude that this work is meant to evoke an emotional response and glorify a national hero who died for a greater cause. This artwork is reminiscent of Los Madrileños by Goya. Trumbull’s painting appears to have drawn its inspiration from the work that Goya painted following the massacre of the Spanish during the Napoleonic wars. The British troops face away from the viewer, giving them a faceless and impersonal quality.

Story Truth (Erica Su):

It was a wintery New Year’s Eve. The Battle seemed never endingly bloody. Maybe it was the cold, or maybe it was the death in the air. The 1st Canadian Regiment fought alongside our forces, because independence from their oppressors was important to them too. We only managed to push on because of General Arnold’s and General Montgomery’s superior strategy; had it not been for their wilyness, we would have lost more troops, doubtless. Even when Benedict’s troops were besieged, they still fought on just to further our cause. Lives were lost, namely that of General Montgomery. Montgomery fell, but we were there to catch him. He was a brave general, and he lost his life for the cause we were all pushing for. If the British think they can stop us with one battle, they are dead wrong. It will take much more to crush the spirit of our troops.

Happening Truth (Christine Song):

During the war of the American Revolution, the Second Continental Congress ordered an attack on the city of Quebec, occupied by British forces at the time. The goal was to win the support of Canada from a decisive capture. General Montgomery and Colonel Benedict Arnold were in charge of this expedition. Along the way, Montgomery successfully occupied Montreal and headed to Quebec. Arnold had gone ahead and had already asked the city’s surrender; however, General Guy Carleton, Quebec’s governor had rejected to comply. General Montgomery soon joined forces with Arnold and fought many battles with Quebec. Unfortunately, Montgomery lost his life in the first assault and they lost progressively started to be defeated. The battle, later called the Attack on Quebec by John Trumbull’s painting The Death of General Montgomery in the Attack on Quebec, was a major loss. The casualties for America was great, more than ⅓ if the original forces were unable for further battle, while the British had very minor effects. It was the first major defeat of the Americans in the Revolution and led to Arnold’s defect to British forces less than five years later.


War Story (EVERYONE):

The day was bitterly cold and windy. It had been like this for weeks without end. The snow was no longer white and pure, but possible grounds for bloodshed and sickness. After weeks of treacherous weather and dwindling supplies, the men were in bad shape. Smoke and gunpowder filled the air making it difficult to breathe. Bodies and weapons littered the ground. The sounds of war filled my ears as well as the Native Americans’ cries. Amidst all this, the sound of one gunshot made the world stand still. It had hit a fatal blow to General Montgomery’s breast. The sight of his bright yellow uniform stained with fresh blood will forever be imprinted in my memories. I also remember how the sun pierced through the dark clouds, illuminating the grand figure of our general. In that moment, I tripped over a cannon and fell facedown into the tainted snow. As I layed there, I reflected on the inevitability of death. This was the truth.