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Through a Howling Wilderness

American traitor Benedict Arnold, a 34 year old Connecticut merchant at the beginning of the Revolution, had considerable military ability, as he first demonstrated in his epic march through the Maine wilderness in September-November 1775 on his way to join in a two-pronged attack on Quebec, Brigadier General Richard Montgomery leading the other prong up Lake Champlain.  Traveling over 350 wilderness miles, ill-supplied, Arnold’s force of 1100 was reduced to 600 starving men by the time they reached the Saint Lawrence River on November 9, 1775 across from Quebec.  It was a miracle that Arnold was able to complete the march with such a sizable force.  On November 8, Arnold sent off a report to Washington:

COLONEL ARNOLD TO GENERAL WASHINGTON.Point Levi, November 8, 1775.

MAY IT PLEASE YOUR EXCELLENCY: My last letter was of the 27th ultimo, from Chaudiere Pond, advising your Excellency that as the detachment were short of provisions, by reason of losing many of our batteaus, I had ordered Colonel Enos to send back the sick and feeble, and those of his division who could not be supplied with fifteen days’ provisions, and that I intended proceeding the next day, with fifteen men, to Sartigan, to send back provisions to the detachment. I accordingly set out the 28th, early in the morning, and descended the river, amazingly rapid and rocky for about twenty miles, where we had the misfortune to stave three of our batteaus and lose their provisions, &c˙, but happily no lives. I then divided the little provisions left, and proceeded on with the two remaining batteaus and six men, and very fortunately reached the French inhabitants the 30th, at night, who received us in the most hospitable manner, and sent off early the next morning a supply of fresh provisions, flour, &c˙, to the detachment, who are all happily arrived (except one man drowned, one or two sick, and Colonel Enos’ s division, who, I am surprised to hear, are all gone back,) and are here and within two or three days’ march, I have this minute received a letter from Brigadier-General Montgomery, advising of the reduction of Chambly, &c.

I have had about forty savages joined me, and intend, as soon as possible, crossing the St˙ Lawrence. I am just informed, by a friend from Quebeck, that a frigate of twenty-six guns, and two transports with one hundred and fifty recruits, arrived there last Sunday, which, with another small frigate, and four or five small armed vessels up the river, is all the force they have, except the inhabitants, very few of whom have taken up arms, and those by compulsion, who declare (except a few English) that they will lay them down whenever attacked. The Town is very short of provisions, but well fortified. I shall endeavour to cut off their communication with the country, and which I hope to be able to effect, and bring them to terms, or at least keep them in close quarters until the arrival of General Montgomery, which I wait with impatience. I hope at any rate to be able to effect a junction with him at Montreal.

I am, with the greatest respect, your Excellency’ s most obedient humble servant,

BENEDICT ARNOLD.

His Excellency General Washington.

Future posts will deal with Montgomery’s progress toward Quebec and the attempt of Montgomery and Arnold to storm Quebec on December 31, 1775.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.

3 Comments

  1. an earlier commentator casually questioned the catholicity of Thaddeus Kosciusko… the Real hero of Saratoga “Bemis Heights” – I’ll let you tell the readers why this Polish Engineer is the real brilliant hero of Bemis heights – and why the I 87 bridges over the mohawk[magua ]RIVERS are named after him … there are 2 clues in there Penguin I for get who it was so i’llpick on penquin fan – washington gave Thaddeus Kosciusko his ceremonial sword and pistols at Fraunces tavern when saying goodbye to all his men- Not to Green, not to the German poofer, not to wayne, but to thaddeus and TK’s near starvation in giving his rations to British prisoners at West point [ he designed it ] is a legend. corporal work of mercy i think feeding the hungry even when you are hungry ……

    through a howling wilderness….. i have finished ‘dark eagle by greg zoller done, patriots on the kennebec by mark young is next i’ve started voices from a wilderness expedition stephen darl;ey…..then i will get to through a howling wildreness tom a dejardain

    But the baddest general up among all those boys was John Stark – to even look at him wafrightening and i know why what happened when he was saving his kid brother from ther abenakis. i’lll tell the story tomorrow- it can be found in the book Washington and his Generrals. he wrote the phrase live free or die on car tags for new hampshire. more tomorrow. om Bad john stARK.

  2. John Stark, one of the finest American combat commanders of the American Revolution and the man who, at 81, originated the New Hampshire slogan of live free or die. “Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils.”

    “Yonder are the Hessians! They were bought for seven pounds and ten pence a man. Are you worth more? Prove it!”

    General John Stark to his men prior to the Battle of Bennington.

  3. in the on line book “Washinton and his generals “- one could read how a young john stark saved his younger brother and a friend by delaying an abenaki indian war party using himself as the delay tool- he was captured and forced to run a gauntlet – but Stark was no ordinary captive; he grabbed the first indian in line and gave him a devil of a whoopin- his bravery was noticed by the chief who adopted Stark and made him a member of the tribe. Stark was terribly disfigured in his face by the episode though and was said to be frightful and fearful to behold thereafter…… Gen’l Stark resigned from the Continental army, shortly after the battle of bemis heights, over issues with congress and lesser men being promoted – he was not your every day frontiersman – he wrote the phrase ‘live free or die’ in a letter to his fellow warriors who were having a reunion which stark was too old and feeble to attend. We need more john starks today!

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