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This Day in History: Benedict Arnold’s first attempt at Quebec

On this day in 1775, Benedict Arnold launches his first attack on the city of Quebec. It was the culmination of a long, daring trek across the Maine wilderness. That trek had been an ordeal, and not everyone survived.

Readers of this page may recall that, in late September 1775, Arnold undertook a daring mission. He led a force of about 1,000 men on an unusual path through the Maine wilderness. His goal was to arrive in Canada, undetected, and to launch a surprise attack on Quebec. Unfortunately, the trek through Maine was far harder than anticipated. Many did not make it. The rest barely endured starvation and freezing weather. They stumbled out of the wilderness during the first few days of November.

Let’s just say that they weren’t exactly at the top of their game by this point. (See October 29 history post.)

Arnold's Attack on the British in Quebec in the Winter of 1775, by F. C. Yohn

Arnold, of course, was still determined to attack Quebec. But he would need to get across the St. Lawrence River first.

Bad weather prevented a crossing for several days. Finally, on the night of November 13, Arnold got his opportunity. He had his men go across the river in canoes. One man later reported that several canoes unfortunately “upset, by which accident we lost some muskets, and baggage, but no lives, though some of us very narrowly escaped.” Once on the other shore, a few men started fires to keep warm.