[FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR -- MONTREAL CAMPAIGN]. CURTICE, John (of Worcester, Massachusetts). Diary and "Journal of what was transacted in the Expedition for the total Reduction of Canada from the French In the Yeare A.D. 1760," written on small slips and on blank margins of a printed book: William Hutchinson, An Excursion to the Lakes in Westmoreland and Cumberland, London: Wilkie, 1776. 8vo, 189 pages, a detached flyleaf containing a two-column list of "Men enlisted for the Mass. Company...10 March 1760" with names and ages of 49 men; first page titled in ink "A Journal..." etc.); daily entries neatly hand-written in the margins of 98 pages, with a number of small slips bearing additional entries carefully tipped in. Disbound, several leaves with minor stains or marginal defects, text (in a fine italic hand) clear and readable, housed with a complete 28-page typed transcript in a cloth protective slipcase.
"BLESSED BE GOD WHO HAS PRESERVED ME IN HEALTH THIS CAMPAIGN...": AN AMERICAN OFFICER'S FIRST-HAND ACCOUNT OF THE MONTREAL CAMPAIGN, 1760
Curtice, Captain of a Massachusetts Company of Volunteers, was mustered "before Col. John Buckley of ye Iniskilling regiment" on 10 April 1760, during preparations for the summer campaign against the French. His men are listed on a separate sheet; in some cases he notes the regiments to which they were attached: "Kings Rifles," "Welch Regiment," "Iniskilling," or "First Royal Fusiliers." Curtice's journal covers an 8-month period (10 March to 14 November 1760) and describes the mundane aspects of colonial soldiering: encampments, supply problems, discipline (usually lashes), desertion, sickness and death, overland marches and waterborne travel up and down Lake Champlain. Historical figures mentioned frequently mentioned in the narrative include General Jeffrey Amherst, Major Philip Skene and Major Robert Rogers (commander of Rogers Rangers). Periodically, Curtice carefully records the changing passwords and countersigns used by the army.
Some sample entries from this fine diary: Sunday 4 March, enroute: "Two companys set out for Westford...Lieut. Boynton took a team to carry our Baggage & provisions & began our march with 74 men officers... came...to lanlord Sarjeants in Lester where wee dined & afterwards march'd about 10 miles to lanlord Woolcutts in Brookfield where we tarried this night. 10 captives brought in 7 men & three women. They had eat no bread for 10 days. They said that there were 32 ffrench & Indians kill'd in ye last engagement with Major Roggers..." The march passes through Springfield, Westfield and Sheffield, to Greenbush near Albany, on the 16th of May: "We were ferried over ye river to Albany & there drew 2 days provisions." 25 May: "... Seven sloop loads of men arriv'd here of ye N.Y., R.I. and Jersey troops. A party of 30 men sent to Crown Point..." 31 May: "...his excelency Genl. Amherst with a number of other officers came to view us after which we were dismissed." They continued north to Saratoga (5 June), Ford Edward (9 June) and on the 16th "had intelligence of Major Roggers fight...a party of about 5 or 600 of ye enemy fell upon 300 of our Rangers and Proventials [provincials] fought them for a considerable time..." 23 June: "This was a wet day - Major Roggers return'd from his scout at St. Johns - brought in 25 prisoners." July 5: "A bark canoe was brought in with 6 Indians who said they came from General [Sir William] Johnson across ye woods from Oswego & had 4 french scalps." A lengthy encampment at Crown Point ends on August 11: "...upon ye Sygnal of a gun...the general [quarters] beat upon which the army struck their tents...march'd down to ye boats & embarkt...set sail..." On the 16th Amherst's army reached the French fort at Isle au Noix, and commenced a siege; by the 25, the British cannon were engaged: "Wee blazed very hot on ye enemy all this forenoon..." On the 27th, Curtice notes, "The ffrench play'd very smartly with their Cannon this day..." But on the 28th "The ffrench deserted the fort...left a number of sick & wounded...Wee took possession of their fort & hoisted King Georges colors on ye walls. Sent out flour to be bak'd in their ovens had ffrench bread and pork...Began to embark our artillery in order to make a push on Saint Johns."
3 September, camped near Fort St. John: "...Major Roggers brought in 2 ffrench prisoners...2 or 3 ffrench families came in and...exchang'd green peas and other Commodities for salt pork & salt which was very scarce among them." The fort at Chambly, surrendered on the 4th, Curtice describes as "finely situate on ye south side of ye river Sorel & a snug little fortress wholly built of stone & lime..." On 8 September: "march'd & arriv'd at Montreal...and encampt on the east side of ye river Lawrence...Gen'l. Amhersts army was emcampt on the west side...above the town & Gen'l. [James] Murrays below ye town. But the town surrender'd without much bloodshed...On our march from Chambly to Montreal were very fine settlements all the way & very civil usage we received from the inhabitants...our army was very cautious in not abusing any of them...The troops return to Albany on further orders....Ye city of Montreal...is very beautifully situated close along upon ye water & the suburbs & other settlements lay up & down ye river for many miles...& has very fine farms & fine churches on both sides..." The next day, Curtice notes "Orders came that ye provintial troops proceed as fast as possible to Crown Point under ye Command of Brigadier Ruggles..." The remainder of the journal records the return journey; Curtice reached Ticonderoga by 18 November and his home in Worcester on the 28th: "Set out & arriv'd home. And blessed be God who has preserved me in health this campaign also who has covere'd my head in the day of Battle..."
The most enigmatic aspect of Curtice's journal--which is unquestionably a first-hand record--are his motive for meticulously transcribing his journal entries, after the event, into the pages of Hutchinson's travel narrative. We can only speculate on Curtice's that possibly his original diary was badly deteriorated. In fact, it may be that the small tipped-in slips are actually salvaged fragments of Curtice's original diary, cannibalized into a new form. Possibly copying his record, word for word, was simply a nostalgic pastime of Curtice's retirement on the eve of the revolution that would separate his colony from the crown he had served. But in any case, the authenticity of this vivid record, recording minutiae as well as major events, is unmistakable, and, as an exceptionally detailed and vivid first-hand narrative it certainly constitutes a significant addition to the historical record of this important expedition, by which Britain emerged victorious and gained sole control of North America.