American History and Genealogy Project


Arnold's Trail

If you were asked, "Who was Benedict Arnold?" your answer would be, "He was a traitor." The perfidy of Arnold, the traitor, has blotted out all memory of Arnold, the patriot; yet patriot he once was and model soldier. As an able leader he stood high in Washington's esteem.

In 1775 Washington appointed Arnold commander of an expedition against Quebec. He advanced by way of the Kennebec River over the mountains of Maine, with a force of eleven hundred men. These men were hunters and Indian fighters. They knew how to procure food from the forests and fish from the rivers and how to manage birch bark canoes. Their clothes were made of deer skins. Each man carried a rifle, a long knife, a small axe and a tomahawk.
They assembled at Prospect Hills, Mass., September 11th, 1775, and sailed from Newburyport on the Merrimac River, on the afternoon of September 19th, 1775. There were ten schooners and sloops. After a smooth voyage, they entered the mouth of the Kennebec one morning a little after sunrise.

Arnold worked his way four miles upriver to Parker's Flat, where his vessel anchored for a few hours. Then lie proceeded six miles up the river. Making its way among rocks, islands and bays the fleet became scattered. Sailing through Merrymeeting Bay, they pushed on toward Gardinerstown, arriving Friday, September 22d. Arnold halted there to obtain bateaux from Major Reuben Colburn's ship-yard.

Washington had ordered the building of two hundred four-oared bateaux, each to be equipped with two paddles and two setting poles. The bateaux were quickly but not well made, as they were to be abandoned within a few weeks and the need of staunch boats was not appreciated.

Major Colburn had been ordered by Washington to send scouts over the route. Dennis Getchell and Samuel Berry of Vassalboro performed this service. They reported to Arnold that his advance was being watched by Indian spies employed by Governor Carleton. Yet the expedition proceeded and farther up the river Arnold was told by a squaw that at Shettican the Mohawks were ready to destroy them.

When shoal water was reached they transferred to the bateaux and thus moved on toward Fort Western in the Augusta of today, the Hallo well of 1775, the Cushnoc of Indian geography, forty-three miles from the sea. The whole of Arnold's army arrived there before Sunday, September 24th.

Aaron Burr, afterward Vice-President of the United States, was a private in this expedition. At Fort Western he met Jacataqua, a beautiful princess of the Abnaki tribe, who was eager to go with the soldiers to Quebec.

Before leaving the Fort a great feast was spread. Jacataqua and Aaron Burr had killed a bear and two cubs in Captain Howard's cornfield and these were roasted for the banquet. Around them were arranged ten baskets of roasted ears of corn with quantities of pork, bread and potatoes, one hundred pumpkin pies, watermelons and wild cherries. William Gardiner of Cobbosseecontee, Major Colburn and Squire Oakman of Gardinerstown, Judge Bowman, Colonel Cushing, Captain Goodwin and Squire Bridge of Pownalborough, with their ladies, were invited guests. Led by the company officers, the troops and guests marched to the table. Judge Howard was at the head of the table, Jacataqua on his right and Aaron Burr on his left, with General Arnold at the foot. Reverend Samuel Spring asked the blessing, praying that Jacataqua might influence her people of the wilderness to give them safe conduct along the march.

Later this maiden, being a great huntress, scoured the forests for food for the starving soldiers. Skilled in the use of herbs and roots, she faithfully nursed those who fell ill.

On resuming the journey the troops found the river half a mile beyond Fort Western blocked by the falls. On the east side was a seldom travelled road to Fort Halifax, and over this the country people with their oxen and horses carried the bateaux and stores to Fort Halifax.

From this point part of the force proceeded by water, the remainder by land. Half a mile above Fort Halifax, they came to the first carry around Ticonic Falls. This was accomplished by hard labor. A little beyond came the dangerous Five Miles Ripples. Then the expedition reached Canaan, now Skowhegan, where they had dinner. Next came a battle with the Skowhegan falls. Here, between two ledges, forming a passage only twenty-five feet wide, the river drives like a mill race. With difficulty the bateaux were hauled through this gate-way. On the succeeding long run of swift current, the men walked on the banks drawing the boats by the painters, while others pulled them from the rocks. Then they came to another fall twenty-two feet high, which they passed with difficulty.

The troops were very tired and very glad when they reached Norridgewock. They remained there a week to repair the boats and refit the expedition.

Carratunk was the entrance to the real wilderness. Arnold reached the Great Carrying place there October 11th, the army in good health and spirits. Rain set in. Because of inadequate shelter some few were taken ill and by Arnold's direction a hospital was built which was immediately occupied by Dr. Irvin with his patients.

Resuming the journey, Arnold wrote Washington the greatest difficulties were passed and he hoped to reach the Chaudiere in eight or ten days. The difficulties of the road increased this time, somewhat.

Arnold entrusted to two Indians a letter to John Manier, or Captain William Gregory or Mr. John Maynard, Quebec, saying that he was on Dead River, one hundred and sixty miles from Quebec, with about two thousand men, and that he designed to cooperate with General Schuyler and assist the Canadians in resisting Great Britain's unjust measures. The letter asked the number of troops and vessels at Quebec. Enclosed was a letter to General Schuyler asking for advices from him. The letter fell into the hands of the Lieutenant-Governor of Canada. This was the first they knew of Arnold's detachment.

Eight miles from Bog Brook the expedition came to Hurricane Falls, and another carry. A few miles beyond in a clearing stood the cabin of Natanis, the Indian, where is now the village of Flagstaff. The store of provisions being very low, all men unfit for duty were sent back.

October 19th rain began, resulting in a disastrous flood. Dead River which drains many ponds suddenly swelled. In nine hours it rose eight feet. At four o 'clock, when Arnold and his party awoke, they found their baggage in the flood.

The Flight of Nitanis

Part of a Letter in the Indian Picture Writing on Birch Bark, supposed to have been written by the Norridgewock chief, Nitanis, informing his clansman of his escape from the perils of Arnold's expedition against Quebec, October, 1775. It was found in an Indian trail, in the wilderness of the Upper Kennebec.

The weather grew cold and the soldiers had no protection but tree boughs. Many boats were under water and the landmarks were altered. Soldiers by land or water fared hard, yet they pushed on to Black Cap rapids and the next carrying place, Ledge Falls.

The next obstruction was Upper Shadagee Falls, a sharp pitch followed by a long stretch of swift water. Here the river makes a double turn around the cliff. In passing this five or six bateaux filled and sank. Near the Falls Arnold camped for the night and the next day resumed the journey. On October 24th, he came to Serampos Falls, where he spent the night. It rained and snowed, but they went on, resolved to perish rather than give up the expedition.

They now passed into Chain of Ponds, Long, Natanis and Round, from the last of which they were puzzled to find an exit, but finally discovered one in Horse Shoe Stream.

They were forced to halt and when they lay down to sleep knew not whether they were on the right or wrong way. In the morning no easy portage could be found, yet they moved on, carrying from pond to lake, till the shaky boats were placed in Moosehorn or Arnold, largest and most beautiful of all the ponds in that region.

Now began the long portage over the height of land. They encamped in the meadows, by Arnold's River, to wait for the rear division of the army.

The report reached them that the Canadians would supply them with food and that there were few regulars at Quebec to resist them.

After issuing a note of cheer and instruction to his men, Arnold rode three miles farther to a house of bark on the eastern shore of Lake Megantic and encamped for the night. Next morning he set out with four bateaux and a birch bark canoe, for the outlet of the lake, the Chaudiere River, a boiling, foaming stream.

There Arnold's party was in great danger. Only the best boats could defy the water and avoid the rocks. Two boats were destroyed and three others damaged but no lives lost. At Sertegan, provisions awaited them. The people showed good will and admiration for the courage of the Americans. It was hard to find lodging. Huts were put up and fires built, but the soldiers were very uncomfortable; for the weather was cold and it snowed all day and night.

Second Company, Governor's Foot Guard,
of New Haven, Conn.

On August 18th, 1912, The Second Company, Governor's Foot Guard, of New Haven, Conn., founded in 1774, and one of the most famous military organizations in America, started a pilgrimage to Quebec, following the route through Maine, taken by Benedict Arnold on his famous expedition to Canada. An incident of this pilgrimage was the dedication of a boulder monument at Fort Western, Augusta, where 137 years before, Arnold's forces halted for a week on their memorable march. The boulder was erected to the memory of the Connecticut men who followed Arnold to Canada. The above picture was taken at Augusta, on that memorable occasion. Fort Western is seen at the left of the picture.

Arnold's messenger was captured. Then came rumors that the approach of the Provincials was known to the enemy; that the river was guarded by a frigate and a sloop of war, and that the inhabitants in the vicinity of Quebec had been summoned to the defense of the city under the penalty of death.

Still Arnold kept at work; he collected provisions and more boats, even made plans to scale the walls. November 13th, in the inky blackness of night, three trips across the river were made and five hundred men were landed on the north side. Then the tide ebbed, exposing the rocks, and the wind blew, preventing the crossing of more troops. The moon appeared and the Americans on the north shore were discovered. Arnold's venture was a failure. His march was over.

Mrs. E. C. Carll

Source: Maine My State, The Maine Writers Research Club, The Journal Print Shop, Lewiston, Maine, 1919

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