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A CAUTIOUS WAR COUNCIL.
prise," adds he, "depends, I well know, upon the Allwise Disposer of events, and it is not within the reach of human wisdom to foretell the issue; but if the prospect is fair, the undertaking is justifiable."
He proceeded to state the considerations already cited, which appeared to justify it. The council having thus had time for previous deliberation, met on the 11th of September. It was composed of Major-generals Ward, Lee, and Putnam, and Brigadier-generals Thomas, Heath, Sullivan, Spencer, and Greene. They unanimously pronounced the suggested attempt inexpedient, at least for the present.
It certainly was bold and hazardous, yet it seems to have taken strong hold on the mind of the commanderin-chief, usually so cautious. "I cannot say," writes he to the President of Congress, "that I have wholly laid it aside; but new events may occasion new measures. Of this I hope the honorable Congress can need no assurance, that there is not a man in America who more earnestly wishes such a termination of the campaign, as to make the army no longer necessary."
In the meantime, as it was evident the enemy did not intend to come out, but were only strengthening their defenses and preparing for winter, Washington was enabled to turn his attention to the expedition to be sent into Canada by the way of the Kennebec River.
A detachment of about eleven hundred men, chosen for the purpose, was soon encamped on Cambridge Common.
There were ten companies of New England infantry, some of them from General Greene's Rhode Island regiments; three rifle companies from Pennsylvania and Virginia, one of them Captain Daniel Morgan's famous company; and a number of volunteers; among whom was Aaron Burr, then but twenty years of age, and just commencing his varied, brilliant, but ultimately unfortunate career.
The proposed expedition was wild and perilous, and required a hardy, skillful, and intrepid leader. Such a one was at hand. Benedict Arnold was at Cambridge, occupied in settling his accounts with the Massachusetts committee of safety. These were nearly adjusted. Whatever faults may have been found with his conduct in some particulars, his exploits on Lake Champlain had atoned for them; for valor, in time of war, covers a multitude of sins. It was thought, too, by some, that he had been treated harshly, and there was a disposition to soothe his irritated pride. Washington had given him an honorable reception at head-quarters, and now considered him the very man for the present enterprise. He had shown aptness for military service, whether on land or water. He was acquainted, too, with Canada, and especially with Quebec, having, in the course of his checkered life, traded in horses between that place and the West Indies. With these considerations he intrusted him with the command of the expedition, giving him the commission of lieutenant-colonel in the continental army.
As he would be intrusted with dangerous powers,
WASHINGTON TO ARNOLD.
Washington, beside a general letter of instructions, addressed a special one to him individually, full of cautious and considerate advice. "Upon your conduct and courage, and that of the officers and soldiers detailed on this expedition, not only the success of the present enterprise, and your own honor, but the safety and welfare of the whole continent, may depend. I charge you, therefore, and the officers and soldiers under your command, as you value your own safety and honor, and the favor and esteem of your country, that you consider yourselves as marching, not through the country of an enemy, but of our friends and brethren; for such the inhabitants of Canada and the Indian nations have approved themselves, in this unhappy contest between Great Britain and America; and that you check by every motive of duty and fear of punishment every attempt to plunder or insult the inhabitants of Canada. Should any American soldier be so base and infamous as to injure any Canadian or Indian in his person or property, I do most earnestly enjoin you to bring him to such severe and exemplary punishment as the enormity of the crime may require. Should it extend to death itself, it will not be disproportioned to its guilt at such a time and in such a I also give in charge to you, to avoid all disrespect to the religion of the country and its ceremonies. While we are contending for our own liberty, we should be very cautious not to violate the rights of conscience in others, ever considering that God
alone is the judge of the hearts of men, and to him only, in this case, are they answerable."
In the general letter of instructions, Washington inserted the following clause: "If Lord Chatham's son should be in Canada, and in any way fall into your power, you are enjoined to treat him with all possible deference and respect. You cannot err in paying too much honor to the son of so illustrious a character and so true a friend to America."
Arnold was, moreover, furnished with hand-bills for distribution in Canada, setting forth the friendly objects of the present expedition, as well as of that under General Schuyler; and calling on the Canadians to furnish necessaries and accommodations of every kind; for which they were assured ample compensation.
On the 13th of September Arnold struck his tents, and set out in high spirits. More fortunate than his rival, Ethan Allen, he had attained the object of his ambition, the command of an expedition into Canada; and trusted, in the capture of Quebec, to eclipse even the surprise of Ticonderoga.
Washington enjoined upon him to push forward as rapidly as possible, success depending upon celerity; and counted the days as they elapsed after his departure, impatient to receive tidings of his progress up the Kennebec, and expecting that the expedition would reach Quebec about the middle of October. In the interim came letters from General Schuyler, giving particulars of the main expedition.
In a preceding chapter we left the general and his little army at the Isle Aux Noix, near the Sorel River, the outlet of the lake. Thence, on the 5th of September, he sent Colonel Ethan Allen and Major Brown to reconnoiter the country between that river and the St. Lawrence, to distribute friendly addresses among the people ard ascertain their feelings. This done, and having landed his baggage and provisions, the general proceeded along the Sorel River the next day with his boats, until within two miles of St. John's, when a cannonade was opened from the fort. Keeping on for half a mile further, he landed his troops in a deep, close swamp, where they had a sharp skirmish with an ambuscade of tories and Indians, whom they beat off with some loss on both sides. Night coming on, they cast up a small intrenchment, and encamped, disturbed occasionally by shells from the fort, which, however, did no other mischief than slightly wounding a lieutenant.
ON THE SOREL.
In the night the camp was visited secretly by a person who informed General Schuyler of the state of the fort. The works were completed, and furnished with cannon. A vessel pierced for sixteen guns was launched, and would be ready to sail in three or four days. It was not probable that any Canadians would join the army, being disposed to remain neutral. This intelligence being discussed in a council of war in the morning, it was determined that they had neither men nor artillery sufficient to undertake a siege. They returned, therefore, to the