Oct. 27, 1775: Col. Benedict Arnold, continuing his three-month march to Quebec at the start of the American Revolution, writes a letter to Gen. George Washington to report that his Army expedition has lost many of the boats that it used to ascend the Kennebec River from Fort Western (now Augusta), and that he has sent soldiers who have become sick back down the river.
Arnold is writing from Chaudière Pond, today called Lake Megantic, just as his troops are massing to head downstream on the Chaudière River toward the British-controlled fortress at what is now Quebec City.
“Our bill of fare for last night and this morning consisted of the jawbone of a swine destitute of any covering,” 20-year-old Rhode Island native Dr. Isaac Senter, the expedition’s surgeon, writes in his journal that evening. “This we boiled in a quantity of water, that with a little thickening constituted our sumptuous eating.” After the expedition’s long march that day across the hilly, snow-covered Height of Land (in today’s Coburn Gore), however, the men perked up when they found a stream filled with trout.
Capt. Henry Dearborn, who after the revolution would settle in Gardiner and become secretary of war under President Thomas Jefferson, writes in his journal on the same evening that the men still moving forward became dispirited when they learned that Col. Roger Enos had succumbed to his officers’ entreaties to quit the expedition and led his division back to Fort Western with far more provisions than he needed to make the trip.
“Our men made a General Prayer, that Colo: Enos and all his men, might die by the way, or meet with some disaster, Equal to the Cowardly dastardly and unfriendly Spirit they discover’d in returning Back without orders, in such a manner as they had done, And then we proceeded forward,” Dearborn wrote.
Enos later will be court-martialed for his action. The court will acquit him, but he will spend much of the next few years furiously fending off attacks on his reputation in connection with his role in the Arnold Expedition, which, desperately short of men and supplies, ends in failure when the British repulse its Dec. 31 attack on Quebec.
Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at islandportpress.com. To get a signed copy use promo code signedbyjoe at checkout. Joe can be contacted at: [email protected]