Introduction | Arnold’s Expedition to Quebec


    About the author

    John Codman headshot.
    John Codman the 2nd

    John Codman was a sailor and writer from Dorchester, Massachusetts. A religious man, and son of a pastor, he published a number of works about his travels at sea and American history during the 19th century.



      There are several reasons why the Quebec expedition has never been given the place in history which it deserves. The rank and file who returned to tell the tale were few in number, weak in influence and widely scattered. Many of them reenlisted and perished during the war. Most of the surviving officers gained a wider reputation by brilliant exploits in more conspicuous fields, and continued to live the active lives which make history but afford little time to write it. Moreover, this was one of the first military movements of importance in the war, and records at that time were not preserved with much care, so that a great deal of valuable information has only recently become accessible, while perhaps still more has been destroyed or lost forever. The young nation was not likely to dwell with pride on the failure of the invasion of Canada, and gladly allowed everything connected with it to fall into oblivion. Doubtless, also, a campaign which was so closely associated with the name of the traitor Arnold, the truthful account of which could not fail to reflect credit on that evil genius, was willingly slighted.

      The author had one advantage over other writers who have touched on this campaign, in that he followed, on foot or in canoes, for the greater part of the distance, the army’s course through the Kennebec, Dead River and Chaudière regions, and visited Quebec and its environs; and in like manner traced the route of Montgomery, with whose force Arnold was cooperating, over Lake George, Lake Champlain and the Richelieu River to Montreal. In examining the illustrations made from the author’s photographs, it is desirable to remember that at the time when they were taken, in October, 1895, or September, 1896, the water in the Dead River and the Chaudière was very low. Many of the falls have also been rendered much less difficult of approach and passage by the blastings of the lumbermen, in order to make a freer passage for their logs, for the greater part of the country has been logged over, and most of the big timber cut out.

      The list of Journals to be found in the Appendix indicates the chief sources from which the history of the expedition has been drawn. The most valuable American journals in the list are those of Henry, Arnold, Senter and Thayer; of the English, those of Fraser, Ainslie, and the journal by an unknown author, printed in 1880 by the New York Historical Society; the best French journals are those of Sanguinet and Badeaux. Thayer’s Journal, edited by E. M. Stone, was published many years ago in the Collections of the Rhode Island Historical Society. Mr. Stone introduces it with a brief history of the invasion of Canada, and adds an appendix which contains valuable notes on the journal and biographical sketches of some of the principal officers of Arnold’s and Montgomery’s forces.

      Most of these journals are brief and in the form of diaries. No one of them gives a comprehensive view of the campaign, or of the m~ovements and adventures of more than one division of the expeditionary force from the date of leaving Cambridge to the arrival before Quebec. Some of them are little more than fragments of personal history which have drifted about, privately printed or in manuscript, for one hundred years or more, and have rarely come into public or private notice.

      The author’s effort has been by comparison and combination of such original sources to reconcile or correct the conflicting statements of English, Canadian and American historians, and to produce a narrative of popular interest, which shall aim as well at accuracy and impartiality of statement and deduction. This method of work has proved the essential veracity of these diarists and journalists, and at the same time the superficial, careless and unfair treatment which the history of this expedition has received at the hands of many historians. The author has quoted freely from both diaries and journals – not besitating, where their language seemed peculiarly graphic and strong, to embody an occasional phrase in the text without quotation marks, in order not to lose any of the force of the words by reconstruction, or tax the reader’s patience by constant changes from direct to indirect discourse, or rude transitions from one tense to another.

      Other valuable material has been found among Force’s Archives, the Canadian Archives, including the Haldimand Papers, the Massachusetts and Pennsylvania Archives, and in the collection of Manuscripts of Jared Sparks in the Harvard University Library. There, and in the collections of the Maine Historical Society, and Washington’s writings and correspondence, may be found almost all the letters of Arnold, Montgomery, Washington, Reed and Schuyler, from which quotations have been made.

      The author’s thanks are due to Messrs. Christian C. Febiger of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; H. Meigs Whaples of Hartford, Connecticut; Parker M. Reed of Bath, Maine; George A. Porterfield of Charlestown, West Virginia; Edward A. Greene of Providence and James G. Topham of Newport, Rhode Island, grandchildren or great-grandchildren of officers of the expedition, for the readiness with which they have put themselves at his service, and the access they have accorded to manuscripts or portraits in their possession.

      Related posts