Tag Archives: 1775 Invasion of Canada

American Hannibal

Arnold as depicted in a 1776 print. From the Anne S.K. Brown Collection of Brown University via Wikimedia Commons

As I continue trying to catch up on my reading backlog, I’ve just finished Benedict Arnold’s Army: The 1775 American Invasion of Canada During the Revolutionary Warby Arthur S. Lefkowitz.  It’s a fine campaign study, thoroughly researched and compellingly written.  I’d recommend it to anybody interested in the Revolution.

Arnold’s march across the Maine wilderness is the sort of stuff of which legends are made, as is the dramatic nighttime assault he and Richard Montgomery launched against Quebec.  The failed attack cost Montgomery his life and Arnold a wound in the leg—his first leg wound, actually, since he caught another one at Saratoga.

The Quebec expedition is not one of the Revolution’s better known incidents, which is a shame and also a little odd.  After all, the march was much longer and far more arduous than the Overmountain Men’s 1780 expedition to defeat Ferguson, as well as Washington’s retreat across New Jersey in late 1776.  Its relative obscurity alongside other Revolutionary episodes may have something to do with the fact that the attack on Quebec didn’t succeed, but I can’t help but wonder whether Arnold’s eventual treason might have something to do with it.  He was a remarkably audacious and inspiring combat commander.  When reports of his small army’s trek to Canada reached the Americans, they lauded him as a modern Hannibal; five years later, they were calling him an American Judas.  Had his Saratoga wound been fatal, he probably would’ve joined Montgomery and Daniel Morgan in the pantheon of Revolutionary heroes.

Leave a comment

Filed under American Revolution, Historiography, History and Memory

Doomed to repeat it

You know what they say about those who don’t learn from history. 

Just yesterday, my American Revolution class was discussing the failed American invasion of Canada in 1775.  You know the story:  Benedict Arnold led his men on a grueling trek through the Maine wilderness, short of food and with numbers dwindling by the mile.  Finally arriving outside the walls of Quebec, Arnold linked up with another American force commanded by the heroic Richard Montgomery.  Deciding to attack the city, the Americans launched a disastrous assault on a frigid New Year’s Eve, an attack that cost Arnold a wound in the leg and Montgomery his life.  John Trumbull immortalized the tragic scene on canvas in 1786.

Clearly, Americans don’t fare well when invading their neighbor to the north.  Imagine my shock, then, when I logged onto the information superhighway mere moments ago.  It was only a short blurb, hidden innocuously in the links section of a reputable news site.  But oh, the dreadful implications that lay therein.  I copy it below:

Obama talks trade, war in Canada.”

War in Canada!  Yes, in this century! 

Doesn’t our supposedly history-savvy chief executive know how this is going to end?  Has he spent so much time poring over Team of Rivals that he’s failed to learn the lessons of the Revolution and the War of 1812?  Will he next send the navy to plunder the British coast, in imitation of John Paul Jones?  And where’s Sean Penn when you need him?

Okay, two recommendations, in all seriousness.  First, I recommend that Msnbc.com put a little more effort into writing these link titles.  Nobody likes to see America’s top online news source with egg on its face simply because some hack thought a comma would work just as well as the word “and.”  (And yes, this means I’m aware of the actual nature of the news item.  Please save your well-intentioned suggestions that I work on my reading comprehension.  Thanks.)

My second recommendation is for you, the dedicated reader.  Get yourself a copy of Benedict Arnold’s Army, a fantastic account of Arnold’s expedition by Arthur S. Lefkowitz.  While you’re at it, stock up on all the Rev War titles published by Savas Beatie.  If we do pick a fight with Canada, you’ll need some reading material in your fallout shelter.

2 Comments

Filed under American Revolution