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Chapter 53:

The March to Quebec.

September—November, 1775.

The detachment which Washington, as he thought-
Chap. LIII.} 1775. Sept.
fully brooded over the future without hope of a speedy termination of the war, sent against Quebec, consisted of ten companies of New England infantry, one of riflemen from Virginia, and two from Pennsylvania, in all two battalions of about eleven hundred men. The command was given to Arnold, who, as a trader in years past, had visited Quebec, where he still had correspondents. In person he was short of stature and of a florid complexion; his broad, compact frame displayed a strong animal nature and power of endurance; he was complaisant and persuasive in his manners; daringly and desperately brave; avaricious and profuse; grasping but not sordid; sanguinely hopeful; of restless activity; ‘intelligent and enterprising.’

The next in rank as lieutenant colonels were Roger Enos, who proved to be a craven, and the [191] brave Christopher Greene of Rhode Island. The ma-

Chap. LIII.} 1775 Sept.
jors were Return J. Meigs of Connecticut, and Timothy Bigelow, the early patriot of Worcester, Massachusetts. Morgan, with Humphreys and Heth, led the Virginia riflemen; Hendricks, a Pennsylvania company; Thayer commanded one from Rhode Island, and like Arnold, Meigs, Dearborn, Henry, Senter, Melvin, left a journal of the expedition. Aaron Burr, then but nineteen years old, and his friend Matthias Ogden, carrying muskets and knapsacks, joined as volunteers. Samuel Spring attended as chaplain.

The humane instructions given to Arnold enjoined respect for the rights of property and the freedom of opinion, and aimed at conciliating the affectionate cooperation of the Canadians. ‘If Lord Chatham's son,’ so wrote Washington, ‘should be in Canada, and in any way should fall into your power, you cannot pay too much honor to the son of so illustrious a character, and so true a friend to America.’ Chatham, on his part, from his fixed opinion of the war, withdrew his son from the service; and Carleton, anticipating that decision, had already sent him home as bearer of despatches.

To the Canadians, Washington's words were: ‘The cause of America and of liberty is the cause of every virtuous American citizen, whatever may be his religion or his descent. Come then, range yourselves under the standard of general liberty.’

Boats and provisions having been collected, the detachment, on the evening of the thirteenth of September, marched to Medford. On the nineteenth they sailed from Newburyport, and on the morning of the twentieth were borne into the Kennebec. [192] They passed the bay where that river and the An-

Chap. LIII.} 1775. Sept.
droscoggin hold their ‘merry meeting;’ on the twenty first they reached the two block houses, and one large house, enclosed with pickets, which stood on the east bank of the river, then known as Fort Western, on the site of Augusta. An exploring party of seven men went in advance to discover the shortest carrying place from the Kennebec to the Dead River, one of its branches, along a path which had already been marked, but which they made more distinct by blazing the trees and snagging the bushes. The detachment followed in four divisions, in as many successive days. Each division took provisions for forty five days. On the twenty fifth Morgan and the riflemen were sent first to clear the path; the following day Greene and Bigelow started with three companies of musketeers; Meigs with four companies was next in order; Enos with three companies closed the rear.

They ascended the river slowly to Fort Halifax, opposite Waterville; daily up to their waists in water, hauling their boats against a very rapid current. On the fourth of October they passed the vestiges

of an Indian chapel, a fort, and the grave of the missionary Rasle. After they took leave of settlements and houses at Norridgewock, their fatiguing and hazardous course lay up the swift Kennebec, and they conveyed arms and stores through the thick woods of a rough, uninhabited, and almost trackless wild; now rowing, now dragging their boats, now bearing them on their backs round rapids and cataracts, across morasses, over craggy highlands. On the tenth the party reached the dividing ridge between the Kennebec [193] and Dead River. Their road now lay through
Chap. LIII.} 1775 Oct.
forests of pines, balsam fir, cedar, cypress, hemlock, and yellow birch, and over three ponds, that lay hid among the trees and were full of trout. After passing them, they had no choice but to bear their boats, baggage, stores, and ammunition across a swamp, which was overgrown with bushes and white moss, often sinking knee deep in the wet turf and bogs. From Dead River, Arnold on the thirteenth wrote to the commander of the northern army, announcing his plan of co-operation. Of his friends in Quebec he inquired as to the number of troops at Quebec, what ships were there, and what was the disposition of the Canadians and merchants; and he forwarded his letter by an Indian.

On the fifteenth the main body were on the banks of the Dead River; following its direction a distance of eighty three miles, encountering upon it seventeen falls, large enough to make portages necessary, and near its source a series of small ponds choked with fallen trees, in ten or twelve days more they arrived at the great carrying place to the Chaudiere.

On the way they heard the disheartening news, that Enos, the second in command, had deserted the enterprise, leading back three companies to Cambridge. Yet the diminished party, enfeebled by sickness and desertion, with scanty food, and little ammunition, still persevered in their purpose to appear before a citadel, which was held to be the strongest in North America, and which the English officers in Canada would surely defend to the last.

The mountains had been clad in snow since September; [194] winter was howling around them, and their

Chap. LIII.} 1775. Oct.
course was still to the north. On the night preceding the twenty eighth of October, some of the party encamped on the height of land that divides the waters of the Saint Lawrence and the Atlantic. As they advanced their sufferings increased. Some went barefoot for days together. Their clothes had become so torn, they were almost naked, and in their march were lacerated by thorns; at night they had no couch or covering but branches of evergreens. Often for successive days and nights they were exposed to cold, drenching storms, and had to cross streams that were swelling with the torrents of rain. Their provisions failed, so that they even eat the faithful dogs that followed them into the wilderness.

Many a man, vainly struggling to march on, sank down exhausted, stiffening with cold and death. Here and there a helpless invalid was left behind, with perhaps a soldier to hunt for a red squirrel, a jay, or a hawk, or various roots and plants for his food, and to watch his expiring breath. On Dead River, McLeland, the lieutenant of Hendrick's company, caught a cold, which inflamed his lungs; his friends tenderly carried him on a litter across the mountain, Hendrick himself in his turn putting his shoulder to the loved burden.

The men had hauled up their barges nearly all the way for one hundred and eighty miles, had carried them on their shoulders near forty miles, through hideous woods and mountains, often to their knees in mire, over swamps and bogs almost impenetrable, which they were obliged to cross three or four times to fetch their baggage; and yet starving, deserted, [195] with an enemy's country and uncertainty

Chap. LIII.} 1775. Oct.
ahead, officers and men, inspired with the love of liberty and their country, pushed on with invincible fortitude.

The foaming Chaudiere hurries swiftly down its rocky channel. Too eager to descend it quickly, the adventurers had three of their boats overset in the whirls of the stream; losing ammunition and precious stores, which they had brought along with so much toil.

The first day of November was bright and warm,

like the weather of New England. ‘I passed a number of soldiers who had no provisions, and some that were sick and had no power to help them,’ writes one of the party. At last, on the second of that month, French Canadians came up with two horses, driving before them five oxen; at which the party fired a salute for joy, and laughed with frantic delight. On the fourth, about an hour before noon, they descried a house at Sertigan, twenty five leagues from Quebec, near the fork of the Chaudiere and the De Loup. It was the first they had seen for thirty one days; and never could the view of rich cultivated fields or of flourishing cities awaken such ecstasy of gladness as this rude hovel on the edge of the wilderness. They did not forget their disabled fellow soldiers: McLeland was brought down to the comfortable shelter, though he breathed his farewell to the world the day after his arrival.

The party followed the winding of the river to the parish of St. Mary, straggling through a flat and rich country, which had for its ornament many low bright whitewashed houses, the comfortable abodes of [196] a cheerful, courteous, and hospitable people. Here

Chap. LIII.} 1775. Nov.
and there along the road chapels met their eyes, and images of the Virgin Mary and rude imitations of the Savior's sorrows.

For seven weeks Cramahe, the lieutenant governor, had been repairing the breaches in the walls of Quebec, which were now put into a good posture for defence. The repeated communications, intrusted by Arnold to friendly Indians, had been, in part at least, intercepted. On the eighth of November his approach was known at Quebec, but not the amount of his force; and the British officers, in this state of uncertainty, were not without apprehensions that the affair would soon be over.

On the tenth Arnold arrived at Point LeVI, but all boats had been carefully removed from that side of the Saint Lawrence. He waited until the thirteenth for the rear to come up, and employed the time in making ladders and collecting canoes, while Quebec was rapidly gaining strength for resistance. On the fifth of November a vessel from Newfoundland had brought a hundred carpenters. Colonel Allan McLean arrived on the twelfth with a hundred and seventy men, levied chiefly among disbanded Highlanders who had settled in Canada. The Lizard and the Hunter, ships of war, were in the harbor; and the masters of merchant ships with their men were detained for the defence of the town. At nine in the evening of the thirteenth, Arnold began his embarkation in canoes, which were but thirty in number, and carried less than two hundred at a time; yet by crossing the river three several times, before daybreak on the morning of the fourteenth, all of his [197] party, except about one hundred and fifty left at

Chap. LIII.} 1775. Nov.
Point Levi, were landed undiscovered, yet without their ladders, at Wolfe's cove. The feeble band met no resistance as they climbed the oblique path to the Plains of Abraham. Wolfe had come, commanding the river with a fleet; they, in frail bark canoes, hardly capable of holding a fourth of their number at a time; Wolfe, with a well appointed army of thousands, they with less than six hundred effective men or a total of about seven hundred, and those in rags, barefooted, and worn down with fatigue; Wolfe with artillery, they with muskets only, and those muskets so damaged that one hundred were unfit for service; Wolfe with unlimited stores of ammunition, they with spoiled cartridges and a very little damaged powder.

If it had required weeks for Montgomery with an army of two thousand men to reduce St. John's, how could Quebec, a large and opulent town of five thousand inhabitants, strongly fortified and carefully guarded, be taken in a moment by five hundred half armed musketeers? ‘The enemy being apprised of our coming,’ says Arnold, ‘we found it impracticable to attack them without too great risk.’ In the course of the day he led two or three hundred men within sight of the walls, where they gave three huzzas of defiance; and in the evening he sent a flag to demand the surrender of the place. The flag was not received, and the British would not come out. For two or three days Arnold encamped about a mile and a half from town, posting on all its avenues small guards which actually prevented fuel or refreshments of any kind being brought in. Yet the invaders [198] were not to be dreaded, except for their friends within

Chap. LIII.} 1775. Nov.
the walls, whose rising would have offered the only chance of success; but of this there were no signs. Arnold then ordered a strict examination to be made into the state of his ammunition, and as the result showed no more than five rounds to each man, it was judged imprudent to run the risk of a battle; and on the nineteenth his party retired to Point aux Trembles, eight leagues above Quebec, where they awaited the orders of Montgomery.

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