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Arnold Expedition

The Arnold Expedition refers to the eastern invasion of Canada in 1775 by forces of the Continental Army led by Benedict Arnold.

(Note: This expedition was a significant event widely regarded and reported, yet historians have no consensus on a term used to describe it. The Arnold Expedition term has no general use.

Table of contents
1 Background
2 The Maine Wilderness
3 The First Attacks


In 1775 the Continental Congress generally adopted Arnold's plan for the Invasion of Canada, but he wasn't included in the command structure for the effort. Thus rebuffed, Arnold returned to Cambridge, Massachusetts and approached Washington with the idea of a supporting eastern invasion force, aimed at Quebec. There had been little direct action at Boston after the Battle of Bunker Hill in June. Many units were bored with the garrison life and hungered for action. Washington agreed with the general proposal and that the action was worthwhile. He promoted Arnold to Colonel, and together they visited each line unit to ask for volunteers.

Arnold eventually selected a force of 750 men. Washington was only too happy to add the Daniel Morgan's company and some other rifleman. These unruly frontiersman, from the Virginia and Pennsylvania wilderness, were particularly unsuited to a siege.

The plan called for the men to cover the 180 miles from the Kennebec River to Quebec in 20 days. They expected to find relatively light defenses since the British General, Sir Guy Carleton, would be busy handling Schuyler's forces at Montreal. Arnold sent ahead to Fort Western to have supplies and bateaux readied for his force. The expedition moved by sea, and spent five days at Fort Western organizing supplies and boats.

The Maine Wilderness

The men expected to go up the Kennebec River and then descend the Chaudiere to Quebec. They set out from Fort Western on September 25 and their troubles began almost immediately. The bateaux were build from green, split pine planks, and were basically flat bottom rafts that couldn't be rowed. Hauling them upstream and lowering them down the Chaudiere, many supplies and some men were lost. Rain and violent storms ruined more. Lt. Colonel Roger Enos turned back with his division, taking 300 men and more of the supplies with him.

The maps they started with had lied. The British frequently allowed publication of faulty maps to deceive future enemies. The journey was 350 miles, not 180. After the expedition ran out of supplies, they ate their dogs, their shoes, cartridge boxes, and anything leather. They ate moss and tree bark. No group less hardy, or without Arnold's leadership, could ever have survived the journey. On November 6, they finally reached the south shore of the St. Lawrence River. They might be hungry and sick, ragged and shod with raw skins, but they were ready to attack Quebec.

The First Attacks

Arnold thought they could still take the city. The defenders were only about 100 regulars under Lt. Colonel Allen Maclean, supported by several hundred poorly organized militia. If they could scatter the militia with accurate fire, they could overwhelm the outnumbered regulars. When they finally reached the Plains of Abraham on November 14, Arnold sent a negotiator with a white flag to demand their surrender. His answer was from a cannon. But MacLean did not repeat Montcalm's mistake and charge out. So the Americans, with no canons, faced a fortress city. When the frigate Lizard moved into the river to cut of there rear, they were forced to withdraw to Pointe aux Trembles.

Finally, on December 2, Montgomery came down river from Montreal with 300 troops. Even more welcome, he brought captured British supplies and winter clothing. The two forces joined and the stage was set for the Battle of Quebec (1775).