Item of the Day: An Accurate and Interesting Account of the Hardships and Sufferings of that Band of Heroes (1812)

Full Title: An Accurate and Interesting Account of the Hardships and Sufferings of that Band of Heroes, who Traversed the Wilderness in the Campaign against Quebec in 1775. By John Joseph Henry, Esq. Lancaster: Printed by William Greer, 1812.



THERE is a point, in the history of the American revolution, hitherto little attended to; as yet imperfectly related, and now at this late day almost forgotten; which would deserve and require the talents and genius of a Xenophon, to do it real justice. As your father in early life had a concern in that adventure, permit him to relate to you in the words of truth, a compendious detail of the sufferings of a small band of heroes; unused, to be sure, to military tactics and due subordination, but whose souls were fired by an enthusiastic love of country, and a spirit of such as has often inspired our ancestors, when determined to be free. In giving you this relation, knowing him as you do, you will scarcely call in question his veracity; particularly when he assures you upon the honor of a gentleman and an honest man, that every word here related, to the best of his recollection and belief, is literally true. He could not be so unjust to your morals, your veracity, or integrity, as to state any thing to you which he knew, or even uspected to be untrue. He has himself been too much the victim of base liars, not to endeavour to eradicate so vile a principle from your minds. His own education, though made by his truantisms, (in avoidance of the bounteous and liberal designs of his good father,) an incorrect one, yet the piety and real religious fervour of his parents, never would tolerate a lie. This mental vice, to them, was the greatest of all abominations, as it is with your father; it is also his most fervent hope and prayer, that every one of you, will not only contemn the lie, but hold in sovereign detestation the liar.

Persons of your age, and at this advanced stage of the improvement and melioration of our soil, in a climate so far south as ours, can scarcely form a correct conception, but from actual observation, of the sterility of the dreariness and the destitution of every comfort of life, which a wilderness in a high northern latitude exhibits. A confidence however in your good sense, encourages, and in fact animates, him, to put that upon paper, which has a thousand times, in detached parcels, been the subject of amusing prattle around the fireside. This is done rather at this time, as some very atrocious scoundrels who never looked an enemy in the eye, now assume the garlands and honors, which ought to adorn the brows of more worthy men.

In the autumn of 1775, our adorable WASHINGTON, thought it prudent to make a descent upon Canada. A detachment fom the American grand army, then in the vicinity of Boston (Massachusetts,) was organized, to fulfil this intention, by the route of the Kennebee and Chaudiere rivers. It was intended as a co-operation with the army of General Montgomery, who had entered the same province, by the way of Champlaine and Montreal. Colonel Benedict Arnold was appointed the commander in chief of the whole division. The detachment consisted of eleven hundred men. Enos was second in command. Of this I knew nothing, but from a report. Riflemen composed a part of the armament. These companies, from sixty-five  to seventy-five strong, were from the southward: that is, captain Daniel Morgan’s company from Virginia; that of captain William Hendricks’ from Cumberland county in Pennsylvania, and captain Matthew Smith’s company from the county of Lancaster in Pennsylvania, in the latter province. The residue, and bulk of this corps, consisted of troops from Massachusetts, Rhode-Island and Connecticut. It has flown from my memory, whether we had any from New-Hampshire; but there is an impression on my mind that we had, as general Dearborne, who was of the latter province, commanded a company in the expedition. All these men were of as rude and hardy a race as ourselves, and as fearless as we were. It fell to me to know many of them afterwards intimately; speaking generally, without any allusion to particulars, they were an excellent body of men, formed by nature as the stamina of an army, fitted for a tough and tight defence of the liberties of their country. The principal distinction between us, was in our dialects, our arms, and our dress. Each man of the three companies, bore a rifle-barreled gun, a tomehawk, or a small axe, and a long knife, usually called a “scalping-knife,” which served for all purposes, in the woods. His under-dress, by no means in a military style, was covered by a deep ash-colored hunting-shirt, leggins and mockasins, if the latter could be procured. It was the silly fashion of those times, for riflemen to ape the manners of savages.

Our commander Arnold, was of a remarkable character. He was brave, even to temerity, was beloved by the soldiery, perhaps for that quality only: –he possessed great powers of persuasion, was complaisant: but withal sordidly avaricious. Arnold was a short handsome man, of a florid complexion, stoutly made, and forty years old at least.

On the other hand Mrogan was a large strong bodied personage, whose appearance gave the idea history has left us of Belisarius. His manners were of the severer cast; but where he became attached he was kind and truly affectionate. This is said, from experience of the most sensitve and pleasing nature; activity, spirit and courage in a soldier, procured his good will and esteem.



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Filed under 1770's, American Revolution, Canada, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Quebec

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