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Amicus
02-17-2007, 07:16 PM
Climbing the NEHH peaks in Maine over the last couple of years has deepened greatly my appreciation for the high parts of that great State. That in turn has deepened my curiosity about their history, and in particular the extraordinary expedition of the Colonial army led by Benedict Arnold against the Citadel of Quebec in 1775.

I had read Kenneth Roberts' stirring fictional account - Arundel - decades ago, but a post here a few months ago by Papa Bear alerted me to his Trending into Maine (Little, Brown & Co., 1938) - essays by that native Down-Easter on Maine people and places of interest to him, past and present. I've borrowed it from our library and wanted to share a few highlights from his chapter recreating Arnold's march, which was based on his meticulous research for Arundel and includes copious excerpts from the surprisingly numerous journals kept by survivors.

Arnold's force of 1,000 men, detached from George Washington's Colonial encampment in Cambridge, Mass., rendezvoused at Fort Western, near modern Augusta, in September 1775. (That Fort is extant, as a State Park that, from its website, looks well worth a visit.) On September 25, they began their departure north on the Kennebec River for what they thought would be relatively straightforward 180-mile trip by that and the Chaudiere Rivers culminating in a surprise, backdoor capture of the Citadel. The true distance, however, was 350 miles, and their route far more tortuous and torturing than they suspected. (Their maps were a British ruse, according to some authorities.)

They traveled on 200 bateaux - clumsy 400-pound vessels thrown together in 15 days by a local boatsmith out of green wood, all he could procure that late in the season. Things went badly from the beginning. Their boats leaked, wetting their meager supplies (mostly salt pork and flour - soon soggy). Winter came hard and early, with an October 7 storm that left them facing snow and icy marshes, streams and rivers for the rest of their infernal journey.

At the Great Carry, a few miles north of modern Bingham, they had to tote their boats and gear over 15 miles of killing PUDs, swamps and small ponds, due west to what was, in the days of Arnold and Roberts both, the point where the Dead River heads west, paralleling the Bigelow Range, which looms overhead to the south. Since 1949, when Central Maine Power built its dam, this has been the east end of Flagstaff Lake.

There they were greeted by a three-day hurricane, which soaked anything that might still have been semi-dry and raised waters to levels which made it difficult or impossible for them to find dry ground to sleep on for several weeks.

Near the west end of what is now that Lake, they suffered their first human catastrophe. The Fourth Division, 200 soldiers under Col. Enos, had had enough and decided to retreat. Understandable, but they were bringing up the rear, defied orders, told no one and took with them far more than their proportionate share of the remaining supplies. It took most of the rest of the army two days to discover this desertion. Some who might have followed decided that, where they were and with what supplies remained, they had a better chance pushing on to Quebec.

The 800 who remained pushed on through the Chain of Ponds (about two miles north of where I stood in September, atop the headless firetower of COP Snow), losing en route and in the steeps of the Height of Land beyond Lake Arnold (westernmost of the Chain) most of the rest of their boats. Even worse were their travails in the frozen swamps around the southern ends of Spider and Megantic Lakes. Starvation (they boiled their mocassins and leather cartridge cases and ate moss and melted candles), rampant disease, universal diarrhea (sorry, but you need to know in order to empathize), pathetic, soaked and worn-out clothing (wool or buckskins, in large part, apparently) and freezing temperatures make it seem miraculous that only 200 of them died before they reached Point Levi - across the St. Lawrence from the Citadel - on November 14. When I read some of the journalists stating that, by then, the soldiers had lost all fear of death, seeing it at as welcome respite, for once this sentiment does not strike me as rhetoric.

Their arrival was not a suprise, however, and Arnold decided that his residue of living skeletons needed to be reinforced by the 200-soldier force of General Montgomery, who had just captured Montreal on an expedition north from Ticonderoga. Their heroic assault in a snowstorm on New Year's Eve failed, but not by much it seems.

Roberts calls this "the most dramatic and arduous march ever undertaken," and I don't find that an exaggeration. There are many other accounts, including Through a Howling Wilderness, published just last year by Maine historian Thomas Desjardin. I haven't read it and reviews are somewhat mixed, but it seems worth reading if you're interested in this. (He theorizes that the British victory was Pyhrric, as a Colonial victory would have required them to commit so many soldiers to the defense of their prize that the British would have been able to annihilate Washington's army).

I didn't find on line a really good map showing Arnold's route in detail, but you may be interested in this archived NY Times article, recounting a 1987 partial reenactment. The author quotes two participants in a 1975 bicentennial reeanactment who claim to be the only ones to traverse the entire route in 200 years. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?sec=travel&res=9B0DE3D7153AF934A1575AC0A961948260

Roberts' book is spiced by color illustrations by the great N. C. Wyeth, including an inspiring view of what I take to be the Great Carry - grim heroes laboring under those bateaux.

I've resolved never again to whine about cold hands or wet feet. This may go the way of too many good intentions, but I'll try.

Mad Townie
02-17-2007, 08:06 PM
About 6 or 7 years ago a friend of mine retraced Arnold's march, from Augusta to Quebec City. Solo through the Maine part. He was 15 at the time. Because of low water he had to hike down the Chaudiere, and his dad joined him. I met them at Levis with the canoe, and they paddled across the St. Lawrence to the City. An amazing journey by an amazing kid. Only thing is, he didn't do it in October. :D

That trip by Arnold's force, with the gear and boats they had at the time and with their level of knowledge of the area, was truly astounding. With better luck at the end they might even have succeeded in taking the City.

funkyfreddy
02-17-2007, 08:59 PM
I believe one of the people on that march with Arnold was Aaron Burr, another very controversial figure in American history......

It's hard to imagine what they went through on that march - the food, cold, clothing, sanitation issues, etc. :eek:

Amicus
02-18-2007, 07:30 AM
I believe one of the people on that march with Arnold was Aaron Burr, another very controversial figure in American history......


Some colorful anecdotes about Burr and his Indian mistress, said to have accompanied him on this expedition, can be found in Trending into Maine, but Roberts debunks them. Burr was one of Arnold's officers.

I don't aspire to recreate the whole 350-mile journey, even in nice weather, but do plan to paddle the Chain of Ponds someday. The only members of the expedition who at least had a little fun were Arnold's scouts in their birchbark canoes, who at one point canoed 50 miles in a day on the Dead River, as you can read in this account from the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association board -
http://www.wcha.org/wcj/wc_v19_n1/arnold.html

Mad Townie
02-18-2007, 08:02 AM
I don't aspire to recreate the whole 350-mile journey, even in nice weather, but do plan to paddle the Chain of Ponds someday.
From what I understand it's quite easy to get turned around up in that area--lots of meandering streams that don't seem to flow in any particular direction.

Have fun with it!

king tut
02-18-2007, 10:39 AM
The chain of ponds is a great area. I kayaked in that area a couple years ago, and you can go from the nortern end of the pond where there is a beach like area to put in, and then you can go all the way down to the southern end a few miles downstream to where the dam is. A very beautiful area with nice lakes and couple thousand foot mountains on each side. There is also a parking lot off of 27 near the southern end of the ponds if you want to spot a car there.

RoySwkr
02-18-2007, 04:21 PM
There were a number of events during the bicentennial of this expedition including placing a number of historic markers. I briefly got to row one of the reproduction bateaus.



Near the west end of what is now that Lake, they suffered their first human catastrophe. The Fourth Division, 200 soldiers under Col. Enos, had had enough and decided to retreat. Understandable, but they were bringing up the rear, defied orders, told no one and took with them far more than their proportionate share of the remaining supplies.
Some sources are more sympathetic. Apparently Arnold sent back an order to send up XX days supplies for the forward troops plus as many more men as there were supplies for. With the heavy loss of supplies, Enos did not even have the requested supplies for the front troops so he decided the order meant that everybody else should go back taking what supplies he thought they would need on the way. He apparently didn't realize that the front groups had lost so many supplies.

Note that Roberts also wrote "March to Quebec: journals of the members of Arnold's expedition" (1940)

Amicus
02-18-2007, 04:48 PM
Some sources are more sympathetic. Apparently Arnold sent back an order to send up XX days supplies for the forward troops plus as many more men as there were supplies for. With the heavy loss of supplies, Enos did not even have the requested supplies for the front troops so he decided the order meant that everybody else should go back taking what supplies he thought they would need on the way. He apparently didn't realize that the front groups had lost so many supplies.

Note that Roberts also wrote "March to Quebec: journals of the members of Arnold's expedition" (1940)

You can call Roberts many things but "non-judgmental" isn't one of them. His views of FDR, for instance, become very clear about 10 pages into Trending... and are aired at length over the 380 pages that follow. So, it doesn't surprise me that there is another view of Colonel Enos. Roberts does, however, set forth excerpts from the journal of one junior officer who served in that Division and refused (with some others) to join the "retreat." They are pretty damning, on their face. Roberts also notes that Enos was court-martialed when he finally made it back to Cambridge, but acquitted because all the hostile witnesses were still encamped before Quebec.

I am familiar with March to Quebec, although I haven't seen a copy. From what I've read, it is the full text of the journals he collected in the '20s in the research for Arundel and excerpted from in the Trending...
chapter I summarized. If his commentary is extensive, that would make this even more interesting. This will be a future library search.

TJ aka Teej
02-18-2007, 06:56 PM
Note that Roberts also wrote "March to Quebec: journals of the members of Arnold's expedition" (1940)

I have this book - Robert's commentary on the journals and their authors offer amazing insights into the personalities involved.

Teej < yet another Kennebunker who grew up reading Roberts :D

Jazzbo
02-18-2007, 08:55 PM
I can relate to your enthusiasm for Kenneth Roberts. In early January when I hiked Kinsmans, one of the people in our party was a fellow from Arundel who recommended I get a hold of Arundel by Kenneth Roberts. I did and enjoyed it tremendously. I then picked up Northwest Passage by Kenneth Roberts. Northwest Passage is another historical novel largely about exploits of Robert Rogers. One of the prinicipal actions in this novel is Robert Roger's attack on the Indian town of St Francis in Canada with a ranger company of 200 rangers and mohawk indians. This saga describes the long journey up Lake Champlain by boats followed by bushwack across country north to St Francis. They wreak havoc on the village and then hike south eastward to a food cache supposedly waiting for them at Coos Intervale at junction of Ammonoosac and CT River. By the time they get there they've been ambushed and are near starvation. But the food cache isn't there. Rogers and 3 others of the party raft down the Connecticut River to Camp 4 (site present day Charlestown NH). Rogers sends parties back up the river to get food to the starving company. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of Robert's novels and writings.

Amicus
02-19-2007, 07:34 AM
I'm looking forward to reading the rest of Robert's novels and writings.

Every one of Roberts' novels is great. Since you enjoyed Arundel, you should read its equally fine sequel, Rabble in Arms, which carries Arnold and the Arundel crew through the pivotal Battle of Saratoga and Arnold's sad last act.

To cite another almost at random, Oliver Wiswell tells the story of the Revolution, from before Lexington and Concord to Yorktown and after, from the perspective of an idealistic young Tory. It changed how I think about the "Loyalists."


... quite easy to get turned around [in the Chain of Ponds] - lots of meandering streams that don't seem to flow in any particular direction.

I can well believe that. Arnold's men were lost for a while in that vicinity, before the mysterious "discovery" of a young Indian in the camp who had some knowledge of the terrain and led them to safety.

el-bagr
02-22-2007, 02:31 PM
May I recommend two books that I will soon be returning to the Portland Public Library:

The Kennebec-Chaudiere "Arnold" Trail / by Florence Small Winter
Arnold's march from Cambridge to Quebec : a critical study, together with a reprint of Arnold's journal / by Justin H. Smith.

I've been retracing the route over several of the past weekends, and will be back for more -- with canoe, not bateau -- in spring.

RoySwkr
02-23-2007, 02:09 PM
Arnold's men were lost for a while in that vicinity, before the mysterious "discovery" of a young Indian in the camp who had some knowledge of the terrain and led them to safety.
Remember that the worst of the meandering swamps are now buried under Flagstaff Lake

Puck
02-27-2007, 04:00 PM
Another book to add to this list is by Willard Stearne Randall "Benedict Arnold: Patriot and Traitor" His bibliography relies heavely on the work compiled by Roberts. These primary sources are in the holdings of Dartmouth and Harvard IICR. The journals for The Quebec march are all complied into the book "March to Quebec" Randall's book tells of Arnold's escape out of Quebec down to Champlain then his exploits the next couple of years. Randall got his hands on some origanl source documents. He mentions a dog the Burr brought on the expedition which dissapeared on day and stomachs stopped growling for a short time.

It is impressive that modern historians are still using Robert's compilations. The Northwest passage ont he other hand is very one sided and relies soley on Roger's account written to Amherst. So the story is the same as told by Francis Parkman earlier in the 19th century. Roger's account is bogus compared to fRench source documents. Odanak had been evacuated so the damage was small. The year after Montcalm was defeated there was a raid by the tribe on Charleston NH.

albee
02-28-2007, 03:00 PM
I don't understand why so much has been made out of Arnold's march. I mean, couldn't they just follow one of those logging roads or snowmobile trails that are all over the place up there? :D :D