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Passage of the Arnold Expedition Through Skowhegan
of the Arnold Expedition Through Skowhegan
In the fall of 1775 an army of eleven hundred Revolutionary soldiers, traveling up the Kennebec valley on foot and by bateau, passed across the tract of land we now know as Skowhegan. It was the Arnold Expedition on its way to surprise and capture Quebec. This expedition represented an attempt on the part of Gen. Washington to carry the war in its first season directly into the enemy's country, and by obtaining possession of the strongest British fortress upon the continent to throw the enemy on the defensive, and give to himself the advantage of position, and perhaps to the war an early close. It was confidently expected, and there was much ground for the hope, that after an American victory the people of the province of Quebec would flock to the colonial cause, with the result that the fourteenth colony would add its strength to the thirteen in their struggle for independence, a result which was regarded by some of the wisest leaders of the Revolution as an indispensable condition of success.
The Expedition to Quebec was a natural corollary of the capture of Ticonderoga by Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold in May, which gave the colonial forces control of the "back door" of the country. Gen. Washington, upon taking command of the army in Cambridge in July, resolved upon an aggressive campaign. A body of troops under Gen. Schuyler, later under Montgomery, was to proceed up Lake Champlain against St. Johns on the Richelieu, and against Montreal, and another expedition was to pierce the wilderness of Maine and surprise Quebec. The two armies would effect a junction, and Canada would be ours. It was a project both daring and sagacious, and was executed with fidelity even unto death and with desperate valor. It resulted in disaster and failure, and Canada was lost to the Union. Two years later the army of Bourgoyne came down through the gate of Lake Champlain, and on the field of Saratoga was fought the decisive battle of the war.
There was a trail across Maine which had often been traveled by Canadian Indians, and which a few years before this time had been followed by an English engineer. Col. John Montresor, the record of whose journey was in the hands of Arnold and probably also in those of "Washington, describing in detail the route by way of the Kennebec, Dead River, Lake Megantic, and the Chaudière. The route seemed practicable, and the enterprise highly promising.
For leader of the expedition the choice of Washington fell on a young Connecticut officer who had just arrived at Cambridge fresh from brilliant exploits at Ticonderoga and on northern Lake Champlain, and whose buoyant enthusiasm and reckless courage seemed to the Head of the army valuable to he used in his country's service. It is evident that Washington was favorably impressed with Arnold's qualities of leadership, and personally attracted by the man. Arnold was at this time in his thirty-fifth year, and is described by Judge Henry, who reached the first house in Canada with the Expedition on his seventeenth birthday, as a short, handsome man, of a florid complexion, stoutly made, brave even to temerity, and beloved by the soldiery. It is not our province to follow the career of Benedict Arnold beyond this Expedition, in which he proved himself resourceful, courageous and steadfast. Call no man happy until he is dead! If Arnold, like Montgomery, had been killed instead of wounded on the ramparts of Quebec, or if he had been killed instead of wounded in one of his fiery charges at Saratoga, his name would now occupy a shining place in American history.
The Expedition was composed of ten companies of infantry made up of selected men from Washington's army, then engaged in the siege of Boston, sturdy Continentals mostly from Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire, and three companies of riflemen from Virginia and Pennsylvania, these last the flower of the Continental army. Including officers, 1050 men were enrolled at Cambridge. These with the addition of Colburn's artificers from Gardinerston, and volunteers from settlements along the way, made a total commonly reckoned at 1100 men. The soldiers marched from Cambridge to Newburyport, sailing from there for the Kennebec September 19, 1775. On September 22d they arrived at Gardinerston, now Pittston, where two hundred bateaux which had been constructed by Major Reuben Colburn in his shipyard were waiting for them. A few days were passed at Fort Westem, the present Augusta, nine miles up the river from the shipyard, in making final preparations for the journey through the wilderness. When everything was ready, the bateaux were loaded with the ammunition and provisions and various supplies, and the army set forth up the river, some of the men walking up the trail and some rowing or poling the bateaux. The four divisions left Fort Western on the days from September 25th to the 29th, and arrived at what is now Skowhegan from September 29th to October 4th.
In the autumn of 1775 this place was both essentially like and strangely unlike what it is today. There were no churches, no factories, no schoolhouses, no homes or not more than one or two within the limits of the present village. A rude mill in process of construction on the Island gave the only hint of the future wheels of industry. But the river circled the rockbound isle and rushed headlong from both channels into the deep gorge below as tirelessly as it does today. To west and north on the horizon, visible from every elevation, rose the purple undulations of the Dead River and Franklin County mountains; and the dome of the yet unnamed Bigelow hill to the south beheld then as now through the clear autumn air the Presidential range, the highest peak of which had not yet received the name of the father of his country.
In those years as in these the mayflower grew pink in April on the southern slopes, the columbine in May sprang gaily from the ledges of the riverside, in June orchids bloomed in the bog which covered much of the present Russell, High and Court streets, in July bluebells dotted the pebbly shores, and in August the goldenrod made trail and river bank glorious. But in this week of late September and early October the season of blossoms was passed. Only a few belated asters lingered in sheltered places, and the yellow stars of the witch-hazel gleamed along the brooksides, while bittersweet swung its rich clusters from the denuded branches of beech and birch at the mouth of the Wesserunsett.
The beauty of the trees along the shore excited the admiration of the travelers, who mentioned by name many which grow here today. The red oak, the white birch, and the Norway pine were then as now features of the river bank, and specimens of each of them of gigantic size must have been common. Yellow birch, rock maple and beech, mixed with spruce, fir and hemlock, formed the hillside covers; cedar and hackmatack flourished in the swamps, and elm and butternut upon the alluvial levels. But the sandy plains which bear away to the north and south beyond the hills that border the valley were the natural ground of the white pine which monopolized the country for mile on mile. One of our citizens remembers seeing a pine log hauled into the village which measured five feet in diameter, and a glance at the dado boards of some of the older houses in town shows the great size of lumber available from the vicinity when they were built.
Through these primeval pine forests ranged gigantic moose with huge branching antlers. One of the travelers was informed by the settlers that moose had recently largely increased, and had entirely driven away the deer that used to be abundant in the Kennebec valley, and made themselves masters of the forest. Bears prowled about the settlers' cabins, and beavers plied their trade in the streams. In the river salmon came every season climbing up the rapids and waterfalls.
The earliest settlement of this town had been made only three years before about three miles down the river, where Joseph Weston and Peter Heywood had cleared land, built their log cabins and brought their families in 1772. There were at this time some half a dozen families on the two sides of the river, and the clearings made by them, together with the two large islands in the river between, which had been previously cleared by the Indians, made the only breaks in the continuous line of forest. The Weston and Heywood clearings were on the western bank, and their log cabins stood near together beside the trail coming from Ticonic Falls. It was then supposed that the village would grow at the place of this settlement, which was sometimes called Heywoodstown or Howardstown, but more commonly Canaan, under which name the whole region was later incorporated.
Between the settlement at Old Canaan, where many of the army camped for the night, and Skowhegan Falls lay swift water and rocks and shoals up to the Great Eddy where with triple whirlpool the river makes its sharp turn; then came dark rushing water through the narrow deep defile, more dangerous at that time by reason of ledges in the middle which have since been blasted out. These ledges at the entrance of the gorge going up formed what was known by lumbermen as the "barn-door." Having passed up through the gorge the boatmen would meet the headlong current, fuller and perhaps stronger before the dams were built, sweeping down from the double waterfall, between whose white lines of foam projected the black cliffs of Skowhegan Island.
Col. Montresor, descending the Kennebec in July 1761, described it in his Journal, beginning at Norridgewock, as follows: "It now makes a noble appearance, very broad and deeper than any we have yet met with. Its current is very gentle to the Nine Mile Falls ; here it precipitates itself with great fury over high rocks, and being confined by high rocky banks, runs a quarter of a mile with vast rapidity, below which it forms a large basin, and then directs its course to the south." Nine Mile Falls means Skowhegan Falls.
William Allen writes that just below the falls there was a rock of bluish flint in a conical form, five feet in height, and ten or twelve in diameter at the base, which was scalloped out down to the water's edge. The guide of the Steele party, Nehemiah Getchel, had been informed that the Indians of former times had obtained from it their spear and arrow-heads or points.
The island which forms the heart of our village is shaped like an egg lying southeast and northwest, with the point of the egg northwest. The northern half of the Island is solid rock, with the ledges running northeast and southwest. To the northwest up the river the rocks are low and jagged; to north and northeast precipitous cliffs descend to the river bed, while to the south alluvial slopes drop gently down into the south channel.
The general course of the Kennebec through the present village is southwest — northeast, except for the two channels enclosing the Island, which run about northwest — southeast.
Northeast, looking down the river, there is a slight embrasure between the cliffs, with a small beach of broken stone. This formed of old the landing place for Indians coming up in their canoes. Difficult of access between the rushing waters of the two falls, with the ledge rising twenty-five or thirty feet above it, up which the boats and their contents must be lifted and pulled, it formed the only approach to the island carry which was a necessary part of the up-river voyage. The old Indian trail, which was followed by Arnold's men, came up just behind where the foundry stands, and along its north side (just about the middle of the Central Maine Power Company's lot) passing diagonally across the High School lot and that of the Congregational Church. These two lots are on the highest land of the Island, the highest point of which was originally the ledge under the southeast comer of the old Jack Weston house — practically the central point of the island. The avenue has been cut down, but the lots to the west remain at the original elevation. Further west there was a high ledge running west in front of and under the old dry-house (where the Central Maine transformers now are). The highest part of this, which was directly in front of where the dry-house stands, was blasted away and used for the construction of the building, in which the interesting and vari-colored slate rock of the Island and of the river channel as well may be observed. This ledge dropped abruptly down into a bog-hole at the south, and still further south was another ledge which dropped into another bog-hole. The trail followed the high land, keeping south of the big ledge and steering between the bog-hole and the more southern ledge, and came down to the back channel by a gentle slope between the ledges, near where the later roadway went down, just northwest of the old Milllot line. Years later, when there were half a dozen houses on the Island, part of them on the road between the bridges, Eusebius Weston's where the High School stands, Benjamin Hartwell 's where the engine house is, Stephen Weston 's now Mrs. Bacon's, John W. Weston's around the corner, William Weston's to the west on the Mill lot, and Samuel Boardman's the toll-taker — houses filled with many children — the women of these homes used to take their clothes down to this low bank between the ledges, past which rippled the crystal water of the south channel, build tires for their iron boilers, set up their tubs, and spend a sociable Monday morning under the shade of the great pines over the family washings.
Launching their boats from this slope, the voyagers would make with a northward slant across the current to the opposite bank, and hug that bank going up, to avoid the strong current that sets into the sluiceway. Making a detour to escape the ledge that extends from the point, they would follow closely the southern shore where lay the quieter waters, and would find in the eddies lying along the bank. Ward Eddy above the ice-house, Hartwell Eddy near the Osburn farm, and Webb Eddy near what is now the John Weston farm, still places for landing. Several parties seem to have camped about here. From one of these eddies they seem to have turned their course across the river, transporting the walkers, for the journey to Norridgewock Falls was made on the north side.
No house was upon the Island at the time of Arnold's passage, but a camping ground had been cleared by the Indians upon the high land to the center and the southeastern section, which made a convenient resting place for the weary men, and a place for looking over and caulking their bateaux. Tradition says they camped there, and in all probability a part of them did, but several of the journals say they camped upon the mainland, and some of the parties went up the river half a mile to camp, while some made the passage in the daytime and camped at Norridgewock. There was the beginning of a mill, situated possibly on the south channel just above the Island abutment of the south bridge, or more probably on the same spot as the later mill built by Peter Heywood. The sluiceway came directly across the end of the island, cutting off the point of the egg, and making of that a small island. A big ledge came up in the middle of the entrance which was afterwards blasted away to form the mill-pond. There were two falls in the sluiceway, which carried quite a volume of water, and constituted an effective power before the dams were built. The mill was constructed across the sluiceway, with one wall upon the main island and the other on the little one.
The rude structure that was found in 1775 belonged, says Captain Thayer, to Mr. Copelin, a name by which he elsewhere refers to the Major Colburn who had the shipyard at Gardinerston, and made the bateaux. This enterprising pioneer had evidently extended his business up the river into our primitive settlement.
The trail across the Island lay magnetically east and west, and measured in a straight line forty-four rods. With the winding necessary to avoid bog-holes and ledges, it would not come far from the sixty rods mentioned by most of the records.
The officers and men of the Arnold Expedition seem to have been ready of pen, and many of them kept journals of their experiences. I have found in sixteen of these journals a record of the passage of the army through this vicinity.
It was on the 24th or 25th of September that the exploring party under Lieut. Steele passed through Skowhegan, bringing to the settlers probably the first information of the coming of the army. Col. Arnold had sent Lieut. Steele to reconnoitre the way to Lake Megantic, and ascertain the course of the stream emptying into it. The party consisted of eleven men, including two guides, and they traveled in two canoes. Their passage was a swift one, and there is no record of a stop at this place, but it is mentioned that they met two men near the falls from whom they obtained two fresh beaver tails in exchange for pork. Another exploring party under Lieut. Church, which was sent out to note the courses and distances to Dead River, passed through here about the same time.
On September 29th, the first division of the army arrived at Skowhegan, having left Fort Western on the 25th. This consisted of the three companies of riflemen, led by the huge Virginian, Captain Daniel Morgan. It was Captain Morgan who, after Arnold was disabled, led the desperate rush upon the barriers in the assault on Quebec. Later in the war he was one of the most brilliant of Washington's generals, did conspicuous service at Saratoga and on many other battlefields, and was the hero of the famous battle of Cowpens. His own company had marched from Virginia to Cambridge, six hundred miles in three weeks. The other two companies of riflemen were from Pennsylvania, and were commanded by Captain Smith and Captain Hendricks. The latter, whom Judge Henry describes as of mild and beautiful countenance, was one of those who fell in the assault on Quebec. These riflemen had been trained in border Indian warfare, and their marksmanship with the crude weapons of their day was extraordinary. Two women, wives of soldiers, accompanied the riflemen, and shared all the hardships of the way.
This first division had orders to proceed with all speed so as to open up the trail for the others, and they carried less baggage than the rest. So well did they fulfill their commission that they covered the forty miles between Augusta and Skowhegan Falls in four days. It was heavy work pulling the bateaux up against the stream, mostly by poling. Usually four men propelled each bateau, and the others walked along the shore. The river was full of rocks and shoals, so that the men were obliged to get into the water to haul the boats over, and the bottom was so uneven that they were sometimes up to their chins in water, while another writer says they were obliged to nearly swim.
One of the diarists, George Morison of Hendricks' company, comments here: "This was not the worst of our distresses, for many of the bateaux were so badly constructed that whether in or out of them we were wet. Could we have then come within reach of the villains who constructed these crazy things, they would fully have experienced the effects of our vengeance. Many of them were little better than common rafts, and in several of them our provisions and camp equipage were much injured. Avarice, or a desire to destroy us, perhaps both, must have been their motives — they could have had none else. Did they not know that their doings were crimes — that they were cheating their country, and exposing its defenders to additional sufferings and to death?"
Another writer, Abner Stocking says: "We encountered these hardships and fatigues with great courage and perseverance for the zeal we felt in the cause. When night came on, wet and fatigued as we were, we had to encamp on the cold ground. It was at this time that we were inclined to think of the comfortable accommodations we had left at home."
It was evening of the 29th that the riflemen arrived at Cohegan Falls, which was the second carrying-place of their voyage, Ticonic Falls having been the first. Stocking describes the carry as follows: "Though this was only sixty rods over, it occasioned much delay and great fatigue. We had to ascend a ragged rock, near on a hundred feet in height and almost perpendicular. Though it seemed as though we could hardly ascend it without any burden, we succeeded in dragging our bateaux and baggage up it."
Morgan's men camped on the night of the 29th upon the Island or perhaps a part of them on the main land west of the carry, and the next day they carried their bateaux and baggage across, which took so much of the day that they poled up only five miles before camping. This camp ground of the 30th must have been the level bank just this side of Norridgewock village on the north side. One writer says he went three miles, but he may have made too low an estimate, or his boat's crew may have been hindered and stopped two miles short of the rest.
Writes Abner Stocking of the journey of September 30th: “After getting over the carrying-place, we found the water more still. We proceeded five miles and at sundown encamped in a most delightful wood, where I thought I could have spent some time agreeably in solitude, in contemplating the works of nature. The forest was stripped of its verdure but still appeared to me beautiful. I thought that though we were in a thick wilderness, uninhabited by human beings, yet we were as much in the immediate presence of our divine protector as in the crowded city."
The second division of the army included the companies of Captains Thayer, Topham and Hubbard, and was under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Greene and Major Bigelow. All these officers made a record of distinguished service later in the war. This division left Fort Western September 26, and on the evening of the 29th reached the settlement at Old Canaan, three miles down the river, where they camped near the homes of Weston and Heywood, and perhaps a part of them on Great Island opposite. Captain Thayer in his journal complained that it was beginning to be cold — it had been fine fall weather up to this time — so that they stopped on their march to make large fires and refresh themselves. Captain Thayer says: "The stream is very swift, which makes it difficult, and our bateaux leaky, besides the place being very shallow, which obliges our men to go into the river and haul the bateaux after them, which generally occupies three or four men, two of whom are at her head and one or two at her stern, which occasions a slow progress.
September 30th they came to Skowhegan Falls — the Captain spells it Squhegan, which is a little the queerest of all the spellings found, though we have in the different journals — Cohegan, Cohigin, Schouhegan, Scohigin, Cohiggin, Scowhegan, Scohegan, Seunkhegon, Squhegan, Sou heagen and Sou heavyon. "They proceeded towards the Falls through rapid water," says Lieutenant Humphrey. They camped on the main land opposite the island, probably about where the ice-house is, where the ground is low and level.
Captain Thayer writes as follows: “The carrying-place is across an island. Here is a mill erecting, (the property of Mr. Copelin), the worst constructed I ever saw. The people call this place Canaan; a Canaan, indeed! The land is good, the timber large and of various kinds, such as pine, oak, hemlock, and rock maple. Last night our clothes being wet were frozen a pane of glass thick, which proved very disagreeable, being obliged to lie in them. The land is very fine, and am thinking if worked up would produce any grain whatsoever. The people are courteous, and breathe nothing but liberty. Their produce, (they sell at an exorbitant price) consists of salted moose and deer, dried up like fish. They have salmon in abundance. The cataracts here are neither so high nor so rapid as those at the Fort, but narrow, which occasions the water below them to run very swift. The carrying-place is very difficult, occasioned by the height of the land, and more so, being obliged to carry our provisions and bateaux up a steep rocky precipice. Our men are as yet in very good spirits, considering they have to wade half the time, and our boats so villainously constructed and leaking so much that they are always wet. I would heartily wish the infamous constructors, who sought to satisfy their avaricious temper and fill their purses with the spoils of their country, may be obliged to trust to the mercy of others more treacherous than themselves, that they might judge the fear and undergo the just reward of their villainy."
Lieutenant Humphrey says of Canaan: "Here is as good land as I ever saw”; and of that cold Saturday night: "It froze so hard as to freeze our wet clothes that we did not lie upon."
A part of this division seems to have passed Sunday, October 1st, on the Island, for they were found there by Arnold when he went over in the afternoon. Colonel Arnold, after he had seen all the divisions of his army started, set out himself, leaving Fort Western September 29th in a bark canoe, accompanied by his secretary, Captain Eleazer Oswald, and probably by Indian boatmen. The canoe proving leaky he changed to a dugout, which he calls a "pettiauger". At 10 a. m. on Sunday they passed the seven and fifteen mile streams, and reached the little settlement of Canaan in time to dine at Joseph Weston's, whose house was beside the river.
Would we not like to know what kind of a Sunday dinner Eunice Farnsworth Weston cooked and served for Benedict Arnold in her log cabin beside the Kennebec? Was there dried moose meat, or a fat beaver tail, or salmon from the river, or partridges shot by the boys along the trail? Did they have hominy made of home raised and home ground corn, or beans baked in the ashes? Whatever was upon the board it must have tasted good to the hungry voyagers who were not for many a long day to sit again for a Sunday dinner at a woman's table.
Not tarrying over long at dinner, Arnold and Oswald reached the Falls at four o'clock, finding there two companies of the second division. They crossed the carrying-place — which Oswald estimates at one hundred rods — launched their boat, and proceeded up the river about five miles, arriving at eight o'clock at the Widow Warren's where they lodged. Between the Falls and the Widow's they found the water quiet part of the way, but part of the way small falls and quick water
The third division was commanded by Major Meigs and consisted of the companies of Captains Dearborn, Ward, Hanchet, and Goodrich. Major Meigs had a notable record later in the war. Captain Dearborn was in many battles of the war, and at its close settled in Gardiner. He was twice elected to Congress from the Kennebec district, was for eight years Secretary of War under Jefferson, senior Major-General of the U. S. army under Madison, and later U. S. Minister to Portugal. Captain Ward who also went through the war, was the grand father of Mrs. Julia Ward Howe.
This division left Fort Western September 27th. Major Meigs getting ahead of his command camped the night of October 1st at Canaan. In his journal he comments on the land he had passed that day as generally very good, the timber butternut, beech, hemlock, white pine, red cedar, etc. His record for the following day, Monday, October 2, is as follows : "In the morning proceeded up the river, and at ten o'clock arrived at Scohegin falls, where is a carrying-place of 250 paces, which lies across a small island in the river. Here I waited for my division to come up and encamped on the west side the river, opposite the island, with Captain Goodrich. It rained in the night. I turned out and put on my clothes and lay down again and slept well till morning." On Tuesday the Major proceeded up the river to Norridgewock, and on his way called at a house where he saw a child fourteen month old, the first white child born in Norridgewock. A little below Norridgewock his bateau filled with water going up the falls, and he lost his kettle, butter, and sugar, a loss not to be replaced.
In the meantime the division was one day behind its commander, and spent Monday night at Canaan. Haskell of Ward's company says they hauled up the boats at Meconick landing place in Canaan. Melvin of Dearborn's company comments on the night as cold and rainy. They reached the Falls in the morning, carried their boats over the carrying-place, which Melvin calls forty rods, and Haskell one hundred, and most of the division camped on Tuesday five miles up the river at Norridgewock.
Captain Dearborn's company had a different experience. They camped with the others Monday night at Canaan, where the Captain says it rained very fast most part of the night, and the next day's trip and carry proved so strenuous that they camped Tuesday night, October 3d at the Falls on the main west of the Island. Captain Dearborn says of this day's program: "Proceeded up the river over very bad falls and shoals such as seemed almost impossible to cross, but after much fatigue and abundance of difficulty we arrived at Schouhegan Falls, where there is a carrying-place of sixty rods. Here we hauled up our bateaux and caulked them as well as we could, they being very leaky by being knocked about among the rocks, and not being well built at first. We carried across and loaded our bateaux and put across the river and encamped. This day's march was not above three miles. From here I sent back two sick men."
The fourth and rear division of the army was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Enos, and was made up of the companies of Captains Williams, .McCobb and Scott. With them went a company of "artificers" or carpenters from Gardinerston, led by Captain Colburn. Ephraim Squier of Scott's company, who was the only journalist of this division, tells us that they reached Skowhegan Falls early in the day of October 4th, carried by, and camped. The morning of the 5th they set out early, and went up the river six miles.
The surgeon of the army. Dr. Senter, traveling by himself, gives a rather puzzling account of his experiences in passing through Skowhegan. He carried his medical stores and baggage in his own bateau, his boat's crew consisting of three Englishmen, sailors, an old Swiss, and a young Scotchman. In his camp about seven miles above Fort Halifax he waited over Sunday, according to orders, for the rear division. Monday a messenger came for him to come up river to see a sick soldier who was at Peter Heywood's. He started at once, but on account of the rapids could not get through that night. Early Tuesday morning he reached his patient at Canaan, and mentions that he found there numbers of the army. It will be remembered that the second and third divisions had camped there.
If we can understand the doctor's accounts after leaving Old Canaan he went up the Wesserunsett stream as far as the falls at what is now Malbon's Mills, carried across the elbow to the branch of the stream coming from southward, following this as far as it extended south, and then carried down along about where the present road goes into the river at the Great Eddy.
The doctor writes, starting from “Mr. Howard's:” "The water now grew very rapid, three miles above was the falls called by the name of Wassarunskeig, ere we came to these falls. The river formed an elbow, across which there was a carrying place. This I passed over, to view the falls, though did not move my baggage, etc. till next day. The rear division was still behind.
Wednesday 4 — As the rapids afforded but a tedious route of three miles by water round, I chose rather to take the advantage of the carrying place which was two and a half miles only, accordingly I had boat and baggage carried over by land to the foot of the falls, where we were obliged to put in and cross over the opposite side, ere we could carry by the falls. These were a very high waterfall, and exceeding difficult carrying by. After backing all the boats, provisions, camp equipage, etc., over, we again advanced up the river. Not far had we advanced ere we came to a fall called Scunkhegon. With a great deal of difficulty we passed this, but not without coming very nigh losing one of my hands. After passing these, I proceeded about half a mile and tented."
Besides the officers before mentioned, there were several young men in the Expedition who afterwards became distinguished. The surgeon, whose peculiar excursion has just been spoken of, Dr. Isaac Senter, had a career of eminence as physician and writer at Newport, R. I. The Chaplain, Rev. Samuel Spring, was for many years minister at Newburyport, and was one of the founders of Andover Theological Seminary, and of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.
Several volunteer officers were attached to the Expedition, the most notable being Aaron Burr, then a lad of nineteen, afterwards the brilliant and disloyal vice-president of the United States.
Two Penobscot Indians were with the army at one point, and there were other Indians at different times who were helpful, especially for carrying messages. Tradition tells about a young Indian girl, Jacataqua the huntress and her dog, and has woven a romantic story around her and Aaron Burr.
A few local traditions have been handed down in Skowhegan in connection with the passage of the Expedition. One of them is that in the evening, either on Great Island, which lay opposite the Old Canaan clearings, or on Skowhegan Island at the Falls, the officers and soldiers were amusing themselves with wrestling, and a negro servant of one of the officers succeeded in throwing everyone he encountered. At last Captain Dearborn took him in hand, and laid him immediately on his back.
Another tradition is that a flagstaff was set up and a flag raised on the Island at the Falls during the passage of the troops. The tradition has come down in both families that Isaac Smith and Eli Weston helped rear the flagstaff on the spot where the present High School building stands. What sort of flag may have been carried by Arnold's army we have little means of guessing — not yet surely Betsy Ross's banner of thirteen stripes and thirteen stars. But it is worth remembering that the first American flag to be raised in this town floated upon the autumn breezes above the Island in 1775.
Many settlers from along the way may have gone with the Expedition for a part or the whole of the journey, — tradition mentions several from different places. From Canaan Joseph Weston and two of his sons, Eli and William, then boys of fifteen and twelve, accompanied the army as far as beyond the carries at Skowhegan Falls and Norridgewock Falls, giving assistance in transporting the bateaux and their contents. From there Joseph returned and having taken a severe cold from the exposure, he died of a fever October 16th. For the assistance he rendered to the Arnold Expedition he is held in honor by us as a Revolutionary hero who gave his life for his country.
So the army went on its way up the Kennebec ; but Skowhegan Island was to see a part of them again. The division of Lieutenant Colonel Enos, the rear division of the army, which had constantly lagged behind, and had had always the easier part of following where others had opened the trail, lost heart amid the hardships of wilderness and swamp and flood, and turned back from upper Dead River, abandoning their comrades, taking with them the sick and disabled and (they were bitterly accused of it by the others), more than their share of the extra provisions which had been their special charge. It was the second of November, just four weeks and a day after they had passed through on their upward journey, that Colonel Enos' division carried across Skowhegan Island on their inglorious return. A humiliating return it must have been, without honor along the way, and with a court-martial awaiting their commander at Cambridge, which acquitted him on the unrefuted testimony of his own men, but did not rehabilitate his reputation.
The other part of the army returned no more; but struggled on, past the carries of Norridgewock Falls (at Madison) and Carratunk Falls (at Solon) to Great Carrying-place, past the arduous portages and cedar swamps of the Twelve-mile Carry, to lose their way in the mazes of Dead River in flood, and to lose it again among the precipices and in the frozen morasses of the Terrible Carry across the Height of Land, to suffer untold hardships from frost and famine, to leave many of their comrades dead along the dismal trail, and to be rescued themselves only by the wild dash of their Colonel down the boiling Chaudière after provisions. Then came the rapid journey across or along the shore of Lake Megantic and down the Chaudière to the shore of the St. Lawrence, whence they beheld upon the other side the grim ramparts of Quebec. There followed the desperate assault of that fatal New Year's morning, and after that for part of Arnold's men the siege amid the snows of a Canadian winter; and for part, prison and pestilence, and weary languishing, from which the remnant — pitifully small — was to be carried back in British ships to their own country one full year after their high-hearted setting forth.
If the Expedition to Quebec had resulted in success instead of failure, it might have given another state to the Union, and to our flag another stripe ; and it would have crowned its leader with a laurel wreath of fame which must, one would think, have kept him true to his early loyalty.
General Washington wrote to Colonel Arnold: "It is not in the power of any man to command success, but you have done more — you have deserved it."
The historic event which we celebrate today represents the only time Skowhegan has been touched by the great current of national history, of world history, the only time — may it always so remain — an army bound for war has traveled through our peaceful community. It is fitting that we should suitably mark our one historic event, the passage of the Arnold Expedition, and that the Daughters of the American Revolution, an organization formed to perpetuate the memory of the heroes of our war for independence should raise the memorial. We have chosen for the purpose a granite boulder of characteristic Maine structure, with large outstanding feldspar crystals, which the resistless force of primeval glaciers rent from its mountain in the rugged region between the Kennebec and the Dead River along the trail of Arnold's march, and bore southward to deposit ready for our use on Mr. Levi W. Weston 's farm.
With massive granite and enduring bronze we commemorate the valor of those heroes of the Revolution who in the morasses and mountains of the northern Maine wilderness, in the icy waters of the Dead River and the Chaudière, and before the barriers and in the prisons of Quebec, gave the last full measure of devotion for American Independence. We commemorate the heroes of the past that they may serve as inspiration to the heroes of the future. May these serve their country as devotedly, not in war, but in peace.
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