A Midwinter Campaign

A splendid monument overlooks the battlefield of Saratoga. Heroic

bronze statues of Schuyler, Gates, and Morgan, three of the four

great leaders in this battle, stand each in a niche on three faces of

the obelisk. On the south side the space is empty. The man who led

the patriots to victory forfeited his place on this monument. What a

sermon in stone is the empty niche on that massive granite shaft! We

need no chiseled
words to tell us of the great name so gallantly won

by Arnold the hero, and so wretchedly lost by Arnold the traitor.

Only a few months after Benedict Arnold had turned traitor, and was

fighting against his native land, he was sent by Sir Henry Clinton,

the British commander, to sack and plunder in Virginia. In one of

these raids a captain of the colonial army was taken prisoner.

"What will your people do with me if they catch me?" Arnold is said

to have asked his prisoner.

"They will cut off your leg that was shot at Quebec and Saratoga,"

said the plucky and witty officer, "and bury it with the honors of

war, and hang the rest of your body on a gibbet."

{19} This bold reply of the patriot soldier showed the hatred and the

contempt in which Arnold was held by all true Americans; it also

hints at an earlier fame which this strange and remarkable man had

won in fighting the battles of his country.

Now that war with the mother country had begun, an attack upon Canada

seemed to be an act of self-defense; for through the valley of the

St. Lawrence the colonies to the south could be invaded. The "back

door," as Canada was called, which was now open for such invasion,

must be tightly shut. In fact it was believed that Sir Guy Carleton,

the governor of Canada, was even now trying to get the Indians to

sweep down the valley of the Hudson, to harry the New England


Meanwhile, under the old elm in Cambridge, Washington had taken

command of the Continental army. Shortly afterwards he met Benedict

Arnold for the first time. The great Virginian found the young

officer a man after his own heart. Arnold was at this time captain of

the best-drilled and best-equipped company that the patriot army

could boast. {20} He had already proved himself a man of energy and

of rare personal bravery.

Before his meeting with Washington, Arnold had hurried spies into

Canada to find out the enemy's strength; and he had also sent Indians

with wampum, to make friends with the redskins along the St.

Lawrence. Some years before, he had been to Canada to buy horses; and

through his friends in Quebec and in Montreal he was now able to get

a great deal of information, which he promptly sent to Congress.

Congress voted to send out an expedition. An army was to enter Canada

by the way of the Kennebec and Chaudiere rivers; there to unite

forces with Montgomery, who had started from Ticonderoga; and then,

if possible, to surprise Quebec.

The patriot army of some eighteen thousand men was at this time

engaged in the siege of Boston. During the first week in September,

orders came to draft men for Quebec. For the purpose of carrying the

troops up the Kennebec River, a force of carpenters was sent ahead to

build two hundred bateaux, or flat-bottomed boats. To Arnold, as

colonel, was given the command of the expedition. For the sake of

avoiding any ill feeling, the officers were allowed to draw lots. So

eager were the troops to share in the possible glories of the

campaign that several thousand at once volunteered.

About eleven hundred men were chosen, the very flower of the

Continental army. More than one half of {21} these came from New

England; three hundred were riflemen from Pennsylvania and from

Virginia, among whom were Daniel Morgan and his famous riflemen from

the west bank of the Potomac.

On September 13, the little army left Cambridge and marched through

Essex to Newburyport. The good people of this old seaport gave the

troops an ovation, on their arrival Saturday night. They escorted

them to the churches on Sunday, and on Tuesday morning bade them

good-by, "with colors flying, drums and fifes playing, the hills all

around being covered with pretty girls weeping for their departing


On the following Thursday, with a fair wind, the troops reached the

mouth of the Kennebec, one hundred and fifty miles away. Working

their way up the river, they came to anchor at what is now the city

of Gardiner. Near this place, the two hundred bateaux had been

hastily built of green pine. The little army now advanced six miles

up the river to Fort Western, opposite the present city of Augusta.

Here they rested for three days, and made ready for the ascent of the


An old journal tells us that the people who lived near prepared a

grand feast for the soldiers, with three bears roasted whole in

frontier fashion, and an abundance of venison, smoked salmon, and

huge pumpkin pies, all washed down with plenty of West India rum.

Among the guests at this frontier feast was a half-breed Indian girl

named Jacataqua, who had fallen in {22} love with a handsome young

officer of the expedition. This officer was Aaron Burr, who

afterwards became Vice President of the United States. When the young

visitor found that the wives of two riflemen, James Warner and

Sergeant Grier, were going to tramp to Canada with the troops, she,

too, with some of her Indian friends, made up her mind to go with

them. This trifling incident, as we shall see later, saved the lives

of many brave men.

The season was now far advanced. There must be no delay, or the early

Canadian winter would close in upon them. The little army was divided

into four divisions. On September 25, Daniel Morgan and his riflemen

led the advance, with orders to go with all speed to what was called

the Twelve Mile carrying place. The second division, under the

command of Colonel Greene, started the next day. Then came the third

division, under Major Meigs, while Colonel Enos brought up the rear.

There were fourteen companies, each provided with sixteen bateaux.

These boats were heavy and clumsy. When loaded, four men could hardly

haul or push them through the shallow channels, or row them against

the strong current of the river. It was hard and rough work. And

those dreadful carrying places! Before they reached Lake Megantic,

they dragged these boats, or what was left of them, round the rapids

twenty-four times. At each carrying place, kegs of powder and of

bullets, barrels of {23} flour and of pork, iron kettles, and all

manner of camp baggage had to be unpacked from the boats, carried

round on the men's backs, and reloaded again. Sometimes the "carry"

was only a matter of a few rods, and again it was two miles long.

From the day the army left Norridgewock, the last outpost of

civilization, troubles came thick and fast. Water from the leaky

boats spoiled the dried codfish and most of the flour. The salt beef

was found unfit for use. There was now nothing left to eat but flour

and pork. The all-day exposure in water, the chilling river fogs at

night, and the sleeping in uniforms which were frozen stiff even in

front of the camp fires, all began to thin the ranks of these sturdy


On October 12, Colonel Enos and the rear guard reached the Twelve

Mile carrying place. The army that had set out from Fort Western with

nearly twelve hundred men could now muster only nine hundred and

fifty well men. And yet they were only beginning the most perilous

stage of their journey. All about them stood the dark and silent

wilderness, through which they were to make their way for sixteen

miles, to reach the Dead River. In this dreaded route there were four

carrying places. The last was three miles long, a third of which was

a miry spruce and cedar swamp. It took {24} five days of hardest toil

to cut their way through the unbroken wilderness. Fortunately, the

hunters shot four moose and caught plenty of salmon trout.

Now began the snail-like advance for eighty-six miles up the crooked

course of the Dead River. Sometimes they cut their way through the

thickets and the underbrush, but oftener they waded along the banks.

Then came a heavy rainstorm, which grew into a hurricane during the

night. The river overflowed its banks for a mile or more on either

side. Many of the boats sank or were dashed to pieces. Barrels of

pork and of flour were swept away. For the next ten days, these

heroic men seemed to be pressing forward to a slow death by

starvation. Each man's ration was reduced to half a pint of flour a


The old adage tells us that misfortunes never come singly. The rear

guard under Colonel Enos, with its trail hewn out for it, had carried

the bulk of the supplies; but, after losing most of the provisions in

the freshet, he refused any more flour for his half-starved comrades

at the front.

On October 25, the rear guard having caught up with Greene's

division, which was in the worst plight of all, encamped at a place

called Ledge Falls. At a council of war held in the midst of a

driving snowstorm, Enos himself voted at first to go forward; but

afterwards he decided to go back. So the rear guard, grudgingly

giving up two barrels of flour, turned their backs, and, {25} in

spite of the jeers and the threats of their comrades, started home.

Greene and his brave fellows showed no signs of faltering, but, as a

diary reads, "took each man his duds to his back, bid them adieu, and

marched on."

Just over the boundary between Maine and Canada there was a great

swamp. In this bog two companies lost their way, and waded knee-deep

in the mire for ten miles in endless circles. Reaching a little

hillock after dark, they stood up all night long to keep from

freezing. Each man was for himself in the struggle for life. The

strong dared not halt to help the weak for fear they too should


"Alas! alas!" writes one soldier, "these horrid spectacles! my heart

sickens at the recollection."

That each man might fully realize how little food was left, a final

division was made of the remaining provisions. Five pints of flour

were given to each man! This must last him for a hundred miles

through the pathless wilderness, a tramp of at least six days. In the

ashes of the camp fire, each man baked his flour, Indian fashion,

into five little cakes. Though the officers coaxed and threatened,

some of the poor frantic fellows ate all their cakes at one meal.

On November 2, our little army, scattered for more than forty miles

along the banks of the Chaudiere River, was still dragging out its

weary way. Tents, boats, and camp supplies were all gone, except here

and there a tin camp kettle or an ax. A rifleman tells us that one

day {26} he roasted and chewed his shot pouch, and adds, "in a short

time there was not a shot pouch to be seen among all those in my

view." For four days this man had not eaten anything except a

squirrel skin, which he had picked up some days before.

Several dogs that had faithfully followed their masters were now

killed and roasted; and even their feet, skin, and entrails were

eaten. Captain Dearborn tells us how downcast he was when he was

forced to kill and eat his fine Newfoundland dog. He writes, "we even

pounded up the dog's bones and made broth for another meal."

A dozen men, who had been left behind to die, caught a stray horse

that had run away from some settlement. They shot it and ate heartily

of the flesh while they rested, and at last reached the main army.

For seven days these men had had nothing for food but roots and black

birch bark.

The Indian girl Jacataqua, with a pet dog, still followed the troops.

She proved herself of the greatest service as a guide. She knew,

also, about roots and herbs, and these she prepared in Indian fashion

for the sick and the injured. The men did not dare to kill her dog,

for she threatened to leave them to their fate if they harmed the

faithful animal.

At one place James Warner, whose wife Jemima was marching with the

troops, lagged behind, and, before his wife knew it, sank exhausted.

The faithful woman ran back alone, and stayed with him until he died.

She {27} buried him with leaves; and then, taking his musket and

girding on his cartridge belt, she hurried breathless and panting for

twenty miles, until she caught up with the troops. And as for

Sergeant Grier's good wife, she tramped and starved her way with the

men. No wonder that one writer, a boy of seventeen at the time, says,

as he saw this plucky woman wading through the rivers, "My mind was

humbled, yet astonished at the exertions of this good woman."

Where was the bold commander all this time, the man who was to lead

these sturdy riflemen to easy victory? After paddling thirteen miles

across Lake Megantic, {28} Arnold performed one of those brilliant

and reckless deeds for which he was noted. Perhaps no other man in

the American army would have dared to do what he did. The remnant of

his famishing soldiers must be saved, and the time was short.

On October 28, he started down the swollen Chaudiere River with only

a few men and without a guide. Sartigan, the nearest French

settlement where provisions could be bought, was nearly seventy miles

away. The swift current carried the frail canoes down the first

twenty miles in two hours. Here through the rapids, there over hidden

ledges, now escaping the driftwood and the sharp-edged rocks, Arnold

and his men wrestled with the angry river.

At one place they plunged over a fall, and every canoe was capsized.

Six of the men found themselves swimming in a large rock-bound basin,

while the angry flood thundered thirty feet over the ledges just

beyond them. The men swam ashore, thankful to escape death.

The last twenty miles was tramped through the wilderness, but such

was the energy of their leader that Sartigan was reached on the

evening of the second day. Long before daybreak, cattle and bags of

flour were ready, and, with a relief party of French Canadians on

horseback, Arnold was on his way back to the starving army.

Four days later, from the famished men in the frozen wilderness was

heard far and wide the joyful cry, "Provisions!" "Provisions!"

{29} The cry was echoed from hill to hill, and along the snow-covered

banks of the great river. The grim fight for life was over. They had

won. How like a pack of famished wolves did they kill, cook, and

devour the cattle!

The next day, two companies dashed through the icy waters of the Du

Loup River, and, shortly afterwards, greeted with cheers the first

house they had seen for thirty days. Six miles beyond, was

Sartigan,--a half dozen log cabins and a few Indian wigwams.

A snowstorm now set in, but the joyful men hastily built huts of pine

boughs, kindled huge camp fires, and waited for the stragglers. The

severe Canadian winter was well begun. It kept on snowing heavily. As

Quebec might be re-enforced at any moment, every captain was ordered

to get his men over the remaining fifty-four miles with all possible


"Quebec!" "Quebec!" was in everybody's mouth.

Five days later, on November 9, the patriots reached Point Levi, a

little French village opposite Quebec. The people looked on with

astonishment as they straggled out of the woods, a worn-out army of

perhaps six hundred men, with faces haggard, clothing in tatters, and

many barefooted and bareheaded. Over eighty had died in the

wilderness, and a hundred were on the sick list. So pitiful and so

ludicrous was their appearance that one man wrote in his diary that

they "resembled those animals of New Spain called {30}

orang-outangs," and "unlike the children of Israel, whose clothes

waxed not old in the wilderness, theirs hardly held together."

With his usual bravado, Arnold planned to capture the "Gibraltar of

America" at one stroke. He little knew that, a few days before, some

treacherous Indians had warned the British commander of his approach.

On the night of November 13, Arnold ferried five hundred of his men

across the St. Lawrence, and climbed to the Heights of Abraham, at

the very place where Wolfe had climbed to victory sixteen years

before. At daybreak the walls of the city were covered with soldiers

and with citizens. Within half a mile of the walls, which fairly

bristled with cannon, the ragged soldiers halted and began to cheer

lustily. The redcoats shouted back their defiance. Arnold wrote a

letter to the governor of Quebec, demanding the surrender of the

city. The bearer of the letter, although under a flag of truce, was

not even allowed to come near the walls.

After six days the little army slipped away one dark night, and

tramped to a village some twenty miles to the west of Quebec. Here

they hoped to join forces with Montgomery, who had already captured

Montreal, and then come back to renew the siege.

Ten days later, on December 1, Arnold paraded his troops in front of

the village church to greet Montgomery with his army. The united

forces, still less than a thousand men, now trudged their way back to

Quebec. On {31} arriving there, Montgomery boldly demanded the

surrender of the town.

Meanwhile, on November 19, Sir Guy Carleton had left Montreal, and,

having made his way down the river, in the disguise of a farmer,

slipped into Quebec. This was the salvation of Canada.

The British general was an able soldier. He at once took energetic

steps for the defense of the city. At every available point he built

blockhouses, barricades, and palisades; and mounted one hundred and

fifty cannon. He took five hundred sailors from the war vessels to

help man the guns, and thus increased the garrison to eighteen

hundred fighting men.

For two weeks the patriot army fired their little three-pounders, and

threw several hundred "fire pills," as the men called them, against

the granite ramparts and into the town. Even the women laughed at

them, for they did no more harm than so many popguns. The redcoats

kept up the bloodless contest by raking with their cannon the

patriots' feeble breastworks of ice and snow.

Montgomery spoke hopefully to his men, but in his heart was despair.

How could he ever go home without taking Quebec? Washington and

Congress expected it, and the people at home were waiting for it.

When he bade his young wife good-by at their home on the Hudson, he

said, "You shall never blush for your Montgomery." What was his duty

now? Should he not make at least one desperate attempt? Did not Wolfe

{32} take equally desperate chances and win deathless renown? At last

it was decided to wait for a dark night, in which to attack the Lower


At midnight on the last day of 1775, came the snowstorm so long

awaited. The word was given, and about half past three the columns

marched to the assault. Every man pinned to his hat a piece of white

paper, on which was written the motto of Morgan's far-famed riflemen,

"Liberty or Death!"

Arnold and Morgan, with about six hundred men, were to make the

attack on one side of the town, and Montgomery, with three hundred

men, on the other side.

The storm had become furious. With their heads down and their guns

under their coats, the men had enough to do to keep up with Arnold as

he led the attack. Presently a musket ball shattered his leg and

stretched him bleeding in the snow. Morgan at once took command, and,

cheering on his men, carried the batteries; then, forcing his way

into the streets of the Lower Town, he waited for the promised signal

from Montgomery.

Meantime, the precious moments slipped by, while the young Montgomery

was forcing his way through the darkness and the huge snowdrifts,

along the shores of the St. Lawrence. When the head of his column

crept cautiously round a point of the steep cliff, they came face to

face with the redcoats standing beside their cannon with lighted


{33} "On, boys, Quebec is ours!" shouted Montgomery, as he sprang


A storm of grape and canister swept the narrow pass, and the young

general fell dead. In dismay and confusion, the column gave way. The

command to retreat was hastily given and obeyed. Strange to say, so

dazed were the British by the fierce attack that they, too, ran {34}

away, but soon rallied. The driving snow quickly covered the dead and

the wounded in a funeral shroud.

The enemy were now free to close in upon Morgan and his riflemen, on

the other side of the town. All night long, fierce hand to hand

fighting went on in the narrow streets, amid the howling storm of

driving snow; and the morning light broke slowly upon scenes of

confusion and horror. Morgan and his men fought like heroes, but they

were outnumbered, and were forced to surrender.

The rest of this sad story may be briefly told. Arnold was given the

chief command. Although he was weakened from loss of blood, and

helpless from his shattered leg, nothing could break his dauntless

will. Expecting the enemy at any moment to attack the hospital, he

had his pistols and his sword placed on his bed, that he might die

fighting. From that bedside, he kept his army of seven hundred men

sternly to its duty. In a month he was out of doors, hobbling about

on crutches, and hopeful as ever of success.

Washington sent orders for Arnold to stand his ground, and as late as

January 27 wrote him that "the glorious work must be accomplished

this winter." With bulldog grip, Arnold obeyed orders, and kept up

the hopeless siege. During the winter, more troops came to his help

from across the lakes, but they only closed the gaps made by

hardships and smallpox.

{35} On the 14th of March, a flag of truce was again sent to the

city, demanding its surrender.

"No flag will be received," said the officer of the day, "unless it

comes to implore the mercy of the king."

A wooden horse was mounted on the walls near the famous old St.

John's gate, with a bundle of hay before it. Upon the horse was

tacked a placard, on which was written, "When this horse has eaten

this bunch of hay, we will surrender."

Although they were short of food, and were forced to tear down the

houses for firewood, the garrison was safe and quite comfortable

behind the snow-covered ramparts.

The end of the coldest winter ever known in Canada save one came at

last. The river was full of ice during the first week of May. A few

days later, three men-of-war forced their way up the St. Lawrence

through the floating ice, and relieved the besieged city. The salute

of twenty-one guns fired by the fleet was joyful music to the people

of Quebec. Amid the thundering of the guns from the citadel, the

great bell of the Cathedral clanged the death knell to Arnold's


The "Gibraltar of America" still remained in the possession of