Through a Howling Wilderness: Benedict Arnold’s March to Quebec, 1775

Written by Thomas A. Desjardin
Review by John R. Vallely

One of the major ironies of American history is that one of the first policy decisions taken by the American rebels fighting for freedom from British rule was to invade and seize Canada, a colony which never evinced any interest in joining with the mostly Protestant and English Americans. This largely forgotten aspect of the American Revolution saw a number of truly fascinating figures emerge as main characters: Richard Montgomery, Guy Carleton, Daniel Morgan, and, most of all, Benedict Arnold. The young Arnold, as ambitious, courageous, brilliant, and yet deeply flawed as any individual in any nation’s history, was the central driving force behind the seemingly impossible task. Urged on by the impetuous Arnold, the main American invasion force set off close to the onset of winter to forge a path through the forests and rivers of present-day Maine and on into the equally forbidding wilds of Canada. The march is as remarkable as that of Xenophon, and the American success in even reaching its target was almost entirely owing to Benedict Arnold. Thomas Desjardin does a masterful job in describing the horrors of this brutal march and then continues his mastery of the topic and of his writing skills by bringing the survivors to defeat before Quebec and eventual retreat back to New York.