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Lake Megantic and the Chaudière. Perilous Voyage. Narrow Escape. Sertigan. Timely Relief for the troops.
they passed the numerous ponds and marshes near the sources of the Dead River. Seventeen falls were passed, and on a bleak day, marching through snow two inches deep, they reached the Highlands which separated the waters of New England from Canada. A portage of four miles brought them to a small stream, down which they pushed their vessels and reached Lake Megantic, the great source of the Chaudière. There they found Lieutenants Steele and Church, who had been sent forward from the great carrying-place to explore and clear the portages. Here also was Jakins, who had been sent to the French settlers on the Chaudière to ascertain their political sentiments, which he reported to be favorable."
The little army encamped on the eastern shore of the lake, and the next morning Arnold, with a party of fifty-five men on shore, under Captain Hanchet, and thirteen men with himself, in five bateaux and a birch canoe, pushed onward down the Chaudière to the French settlements, there to obtain provisions and send them back to meet the main forces. It was a fearful voyage. As soon as they left the lake and october on, entered the river, the current ran with great rapidity, boil- 1775. ing and foaming over a rocky bottom. They had no guide. They lashed their baggage and provisions to the bateaux and committed themselves to the mercy of the stream. At length the fearful roar of rushing waters met their ears, and in a few minutes they were plunging amid rapids. Three of the boats were dashed in pieces upon the rocks and their contents ingulfed, but, fortunately, no lives were lost. Six men struggled long in the waters, but were saved. The other bateaux were moored in shallow estuaries, while aid was rendered to those in the stream, and this proved the salvation of the whole party. The apparent calamity was a mercy in disguise, for had they not been thus checked, they must all have plunged into destruction over a fall just beyond, which was discovered by one of the rescued men. For seventy miles falls and rapids succeeded each other, but the voyagers reached Sertigan (four miles below the mouth of Des Loupis), the first French settlement, in safety. The people were friendly, and sold provisions freely. As soon as the wants of his own party were supplied, Arnold sent back some Canadians and Indians with flour and cattle for the approaching troops, who were in great distress, all their boats having been destroyed, with their provisions. They had slaughtered their last ox several days before. In a few days the whole army emerged in detachments from the forests, and united at Sertigan.”
* Two Indians were ent forward with Jakins to carry letters, one to General Schuyler on Lake Champlain, the other to somewhersons in Quebec. They betrayed their trusts, for the latter, named Eneas, was known to have reached bè&but the letters went into the hands of Lieutenant-governor Carmahé instead of those for whom they were intended. The letters to General Schuyler never reached him. * Judge Henry; who at the close of the last century was president of the second judicial district in Pennsylvania, was one of the soldiers in this expedition, and has left behind him a lucid and exceedingly inter. esting narrative of the “hardships and sufferings of that band of heroes.” In reference to the destitute condition of the troops before food was sent back from Sertigan, he says, “Coming to a low, sandy beach of the Chaudière, for we sometimes had such, some of our companies were observed to dart from the file, and with their nails tear outef the sands roots which they esteemed eatable, and ate them raw, even without washing. The knowing one sprang; half a dozen followed; he who obtained it ate the root instantly. - - - - - - They washed their moose-skin moccasins in the river, scraping away the dirt and sand with great care. These were brought to the kettle and boiled a considerable time, under the vague but consolatory hope that a mucilage would take place. The poor fellows chewed the leather, but it was leather still. They had not received food for the last forty-eight hours. Disconsolate and weary we passed the night.” A dog was killed and furnished material for broth, but starvation would have destroyed them all in a few days.”
* “My dog was very large and a great favorite. I gave him up to several men of Captain Goodrich's company. They car. ried him to their company, and killed and divided him among those who were suffering most severely from hunger. They ate every part of him, not excepting his entrails.”—Letter of General Dearborne to the Rev. William Allen
Valley of the Chaudière. Washington's Manifesto. Joined by Indians. Arrival at Point Levi. Incidents of the March
The beautiful valley of the Chaudière was now before them, enlivened with a friendly population and blessed with abundance of provisions. Arnold had been furnished with printed copies, in French, of a manifesto by Washington, to be distributed among the people. It explained the causes of the contest, and asked them, as neighbors and friends, to join the standard of liberty. Arnold, with great discretion, circulated these freely, at the same time acquiescing in the wishes of Washington by treating the inhabitants with the greatest respect. Every thing received from them was paid for, and they rendered aid in return with a hearty good will.”
About forty Indians of the Norridgewocks, under the famous Natanis and his brother Sabatis, here joined the Americans, and on the 9th of November the whole army that remained arrived at Point Levi, opposite Quebec, after one of the most wonderful marches on record, during the space of two months. Thirty-two days they traversed the gloomy wilderness without meeting a human being. Frost and snow were upon the ground, and ice was upon the surface of the marshes and streams, which they were obliged to traverse and ford, sometimes armpit deep in water and mud; yet they murmured not, and even women followed in the train of the suffering patriots.” It was an effort in the cause of freedom worthy of its divine character; and the men who thus periled life and endured pain, whatever may have been their course in after life, deserve the highest praise from the hearts and lips of posterity.”
* I met a gentleman at Quebec (August, 1848) who had just made a journey across the country from the Kennebec to the St. Lawrence by the way of the Chaudière. He said that many of the old habitans were still living in that beautiful valley, and spoke very highly of the “good Bostonians,” whose passage through their country was one of the greatest events in the quiet lives of those isolated and simple people. He showed me an order for flour and cattle, signed by Arnold at Sertigan, which he procured from an old man 93 years of age. Many documents of the kind are, he said, preserved in the families of the old settlers.
* Judge Henry speaks of two women, the wives of soldiers attached to the division of the army to which he belonged. Their names deserve preservation for the admiration of posterity. “One was the wife of Sergeant Grier, a large, virtuous, and respectable woman.” The other was the wife of a private soldier named Warner. Judge H. says, in reference to their march through the wet country near Megantic Lake, “Entering the ponds, and breaking the ice here and there with the butts of our guns and feet, we were soon waist deep in mud and water. As is generally the case with youths, it came to my mind that a better path might be found than that of the more elderly guide. Attempting this, the water in a trice cooling my armpits, made me gladly return in the file. Now Mrs. Grier had got before me. My mind was humbled, yet astonished, at the exertions of this good woman. Her clothes more than waist high, she waded on before me to firm ground. Not one, so long as she was known to us, dared to intimate a disrespectful idea of her.”
* Those most prominent afterward in the history of our country, who accompanied Arnold on that expedition, were Morgan, Greene, Dearborne, Febiger, Meigs, and Burr. “Here it was" (near Sertigan), says Judge Henry, “that, for the first time, Aaron Burr. a most amiable youth of twenty, came to my view. He was then a cadet.”
American Army at Point Levi. Alarm of the Canadians. Storm on the St. Lawrence. Passage of the Army.
UCH were the men who followed the bold Arnold, through terrible difficulties and privations, from their quiet homes in New England, and, in the midst of light falling snow, appeared like a specter army on the heights of Point Levi, to the wondering people of Quebec. Through the treachery of the Indian Eneas (who pretended to have been taken prisoner), Cramahé and his council knew that a small American force was in the wilderness, but they would not believe that it would ever reach Quebec ; therefore the fact was not made known to the military or the people. They had taken the precaution, however, to keep all boats on the Quebec side of the river. It was about eight | o'clock h the morning when Arnold and his followers emerged from the forest and displayed upon the banks of the St. Lawrence. Quebec was at once in a tumult. The drums beat to arms, and the Canadians were terribly alarmed. Some near Point Levi had fled across to the city, and their fears caused them to greatly magnify the number and character of the Americans. By a mistake of a single word the fears of the people were greatly increased, for the news spread that the mysterious army that descended from the wilderness was clad in sheet iron." Arnold resolved to cross the river immediately, and found means to communicate his intentions to his friends in Quebec.” But for several days and nights a tempest of wind and sleet raged upon the St. Lawrence, and he was obliged to wait its pleasure at Point Levi. In the mean while the garrison of the city was strengthened by troops from Sorel, under M-Lean, and the prospect of success for the patriots was proportionably lessened. At length the wind ceased. Between thirty and forty birch canoes were procured, and about nine o'clock in the evening of the 13th the first division crossed; before daylight five November, hundred Americans landed safely, and rendezvoused at Wolfe's Cove. The ene- 1775 my had placed a frigate (the Lizzard) and a sloop in the river, to intercept them, but the vigilance of these they eluded until just as the last party passed a guard-boat. One hundred and fifty men were at Point Levi, but it was too late to return for them. No time was
* Morgan's riflemen wore linen frocks, their common uniform. The Canadians, who first saw these emerge from the woods, said they were větu en toile—clothed in linen cloth. The word toile was changed to tole, iron plate.
* In earlier life Arnold was engaged in trafficking in horses, and shipped many for the West Indies. He visited Quebec several times to procure stock, and thus became well acquainted with the place and many people there. His knowledge of the city and vicinity was doubtless one cause that led to his appointment to the command of the expedition.
Arnold's Troops on the Plains of Abraham. Expected Aid from within. Arnold's formal Summons to surrender
to be lost, for the garrison would soon be alarmed. Arnold, placing himself at the head of his little band of heroes, scaled the heights where Wolfe had ascended sixteen years before, and at dawn they stood upon the lofty Plains of Abraham. That goal where glory was to be won and freedom vindicated, which had lured them from the camp at Cambridge, and haunted them in their disturbed dreams amid the perils of the wilderness, was now before the zealous patriots; but their hearts sank, and the whisperings of hope were like the breathings of despair, when they saw the dark castle and the massy walls that inclosed the garrison of the enemy. They numbered only seven hundred and fifty men. They had no artillery, and nearly half their muskets were rendered useless during their march through the wilderness. They learned, too, that troops from Sorel and Newfoundland had been added to the garrison, making an attack upon the town a hopeless waste of effort." But Arnold relied upon the friendly disposition of the Canadian militia and the people of the city, and, to ascertain their feelings, he drew up his men within eight hundred yards of the walls and gave three cheers, hoping that the regulars would sally out to attack them, and that then, the gates being unclosed, he might rush in, and, by the aid of friends within, secure the city. The parapets of the walls were lined by hundreds of the people, and many of them huzzaed in return. Several guns were fired by the Americans, but without effect. The British at length brought a thirty-two pounder to bear upon the patriots, but not a shot injured them. Lieutenant-governor Cramahé and M'Lean were too wary to be lured into such a snare as making a sortie, for they knew well the disloyalty of the French citizens and most of the leading men of Quebec. The English citizens were much dissatisfied with the French laws that had governed them since the passage of the “Quebec Bill,” the previous year. The French, on the other hand, though petted, so as to be won, could not forget their ancient national animosities, and were willing to see the English discomfited. The unruly conduct of the soldiery had also disgusted the people, and some were loud in their complaints against Carleton and his deputy, for exposing Quebec, by withdrawing its garrison when Montreal was threatened. The Royal Irish, under M'Lean, were all that could be certainly relied upon. These elements of disaffection combined, made the force in the city, securely sheltered, quite inactive, for M'Lean well knew that Arnold's little army was too weak to attempt an assault, and he felt sure that the fierce winter winds and driving snow would soon force them from their bleak encampment. Finding his attempts vain, by frequent hostile displays upon the heights, to draw out the garrison, Arnold, in accordance with military usage, sent a flag to M'Lean, with a formal summons to surrender, threatening him with terrible disasters if he refused. The movement was exceedingly ridiculous, and was not only treated with utter contempt by the British commander, but the bearer was fired upon.” About this time Arnold learned that Carleton, who had fled from Montreal, was approaching Quebec. He also inspected his ammunition and stores, and to his surprise found that nearly all the cartridges were spoiled, hardly five rounds to a man being left fit for use. Learning, also, from his friends in the city, that a sortie was about to be made, he broke up his camp and retreated to Point aux Trembles, twenty miles above Quebec, to await the approaching troops of Montgomery. On his arrival at Auz Trembles, Arnold was informed that Carleton had gone from that place but a few hours before, and shortly afterward was heard the cannonading at Quebec that welcomed his
' The garrison, including the regulars and militia within the town, and the marines in the ships, was about eighteen hundred strong. Surprise has been expressed that these did not march out and destroy the feeble force of the Americans. The obvious reason was, that the majority of the garrison troops were militia, and supposed to be ready to join the Americans in the event of a battle.
* “It must be confessed,” says Judge Henry, “that this ridiculous affair gave me a contemptible opinion of Arnold. Morgan, Febiger, and other officers did not hesitate to speak of it in that point of view. However, Arnold had a vain desire to gratify. He was well known at Quebec. Formerly, he had traded from this port to the West Indies, most particularly in the article of horses; hence he was despised by the principal people. The epithet of horse-jockey was freely and universally bestowed upon him by the British. Having now obtained power, he became anxious to display it in the faces of those who had formerly despised and contemned him.”
Junction of Montgomery and Arnold. Ineffectual Efforts against the Town. Mutiny in the Camp. Plan of Assault.
return to the city. Montgomery landed at Point aux Trembles on the 1st of December, his troops, by sickness and desertion, reduced to a mere handful. There he took command of the combined troops, amounting to only about nine hundred effective men. He brought clothing from Montreal for Arnold's half-naked troops. The next day, in the face of a driving snow-storm, they started for Quebec, and arrived in sight of the city on the 5th. Their march was slow and excessively fatiguing, for the snow was deep, and drifted high in the roads. Montgomery established his headquarters at Holland House, and Arnold occupied a house near Scott's Bridge. The Americans were chiefly encamped near the Intendant's Palace, by the St. Charles, in the suburb St. Roche. The American forces were considerably inferior in numbers to those of the garrison, but this was unknown within the city. Montgomery endeavored to send a summons to surrender, but Carleton would not allow a flag to approach the walls. At length a letter was conveyed by a citizen to Governor Carleton, in which Montgomery demanded an immediate surrender, at the same time magnifying the number of his followers, and threatening all the calamities of an assault. Although Carleton thought Montgomery's army larger than it really was, he was not easily frightened. Montgomery, like Arnold, counted upon friends within the city, but they were paralyzed by the presence of troops, and dared do nothing favorable to the besiegers. With no other ordnance than some light cannon and a few mortars, a feeble, ill-clad, and ill-fed army, exposed to the severest frost in the open fields, and snow falling almost constantly, the American commander nearly despaired of success; yet the love of his adopted country, and thoughts of the depression of spirit throughout the colonies which a failure would produce, moved him to extraordinary efforts. He resolved to annoy the people into submission by harassing attacks upon the city, and accordingly attempted to throw bombs over the walls. These efforts were unavailing, and he then erected a six. gun battery upon some heaps of snow and ice within seven hundred yards of the walls, but his guns were too light for any efficiency. Nearly three weeks were thus consumed in unavailing attempts to make an entrance. Mutinous murmurs were audible in the camp, the term of service of many of the troops had nearly expired, the small-pox appeared among the soldiers, and the general looked for a speedy dissolution of his whole army. Perils were gathering a fearful web around the brave Montgomery. He called a council of war, and it was resolved, as a last resort, to make a regular assault upon the town at dif. ferent points. The troops were accordingly ordered to parade in three divisions at two o'clock on the morning of the 31st of December. All obeyed with alacrity, except three companies of Arnold's detachment, whose term of service was about expiring. They threatened to leave the army at once unless transferred to another command, but the firmness and wisdom of Montgomery restored order, and they took their places in the ranks.' The New York regiments and a part of Easton's militia paraded at Holland House, under the immediate command of Montgomery; the Cambridge detachment and Colonel Lamb's company of artillerists, with one field piece, at Morgan's quarters; and the two small corps of Livingston and Brown at their respective parade-grounds. The plan was, for the first and second divisions to assault the lower town on opposite sides, and the third, under Livingston and Brown, to make feigned attacks, from the Plains of Abraham, upon the upper town, in the neighborhood of St. John's and St. Louis Gates and Cape Diamond Bastion. Montgomery, at the head of the first division, descended from the Plains of Abraham to Wolfe's Cove, south of the city, and commenced his march toward the lower town by a road (now Champlain Street) that ran along the margin of the river, under Cape Diamond. Ar
* The cause of this outbreak is not known. Montgomery, in a letter to Schuyler (the last he ever wrote), spoke of the occurrence, and intimated that Major Brown was at the bottom of it. He promised a full explanation in his next, but, alas! “the next” was never written. It appears that Arnold had quarreled with Hanchet, one of his captains, before reaching Point Levi, and two others took sides with the captain. Brown and Arnold had quarreled at Ticonderoga, and it is supposed that the former took this opportunity to gall Arnold, by widening the breach between him and his captains, and endeavoring to get them detached from Arnold's command and joined to his own.