The Sacrifices Made in Benedict Arnold’s March to Quebec:Lecture at the New Haven Museum
Portrait of General Benedict Arnold. Drawn from life of Philadelphia by Du Simitier. The European
Magazine and London Review, March 1, 1783.
New Haven, Conn. (September 23, 2021)— Just five years before Benedict Arnold would be denounced as a traitor, the Revolutionary War leader from New Haven was renowned for his “bravery, determination and patriotic fever.” In September 1775, Arnold led an ill-fated expedition from Massachusetts to Quebec—an attempt to create a 14th colony and deprive the British of their North American base of operations. Author and historian Stephen Darley will detail the grueling journey during a New Haven Museum presentation, “New Haven Men on the March to Quebec,” on Thursday, October 14, 2021, at 6 p.m. via Zoom. Register to attend here.
Darley’s lecture will be based on his book: “Voices Waiting to be Heard: Nineteen Eyewitness Accounts of Arnold’s 1775 March to Quebec,” in which are compiled 13 unknown journals and 6 pension applications written amidst the untamed wilderness of Maine and Canada, their New Year’s Eve assault on Quebec, and subsequent imprisonment. The work completes Darley’s four-part series on the Northern Revolutionary Army from 1775 to 1777.
Lengthy eyewitness accounts of events in the Revolutionary War are rare, Darley notes. The personal narratives he collected highlight the extreme hardships and difficulties each writer experienced—from bad weather and inaccurate maps to leaky boats ruining the gunpowder, and near starvation—the sorts of details that enable the contemporary public to appreciate the sacrifices made by the march’s participants.
Darley’s presentation will include three New Haven men who marched to Quebec, including Samuel Barney, who was born in New Haven and buried in Grove Street Cemetery. Barney’s journal, which Darley discovered in the New Haven Museum’s Whitney Library in 2009, contains Barney’s personal story and details on other members of his company. “I could not believe I was holding in my hands a journal from 1775,” Darley says. “I felt a true sense of honor.” He adds that many may be surprised that the Whitney Library preserves and offers such a wealth of historic treasure to the public.
Darley will also discuss the journal of Eleazer Oswald, Benedict Arnold’s secretary and assistant on the expedition, who was born in England and came to New Haven in the early 1770’s. Oswald was a friend to Benedict Arnold and was in the 2nd Governor’s Footguard which Arnold commanded. He also commanded the advanced group of soldiers in the assault on Quebec. His life after the expedition included involvement in the French Revolution
Finally, of course, Darley will detail Benedict Arnold, who lived in New Haven for approximately 10 years prior to the Revolutionary War (New Haven Museum has Arnold’s drug-store sign on view). Darley will discuss Arnold’s life and the leadership that he exhibited as the head of an expedition through the unknown wilderness of northern Maine and southern Canada.