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Home > History > Benedict Arnold's Attempted Conquest of Canada

Benedict Arnold's Attempted Conquest of Canada

This is a description of what happened before, after, and during, the Arnold's attempted conquest of Canada during the Revolutionary War.
Battle of Quebec

Battle of Quebec

The Quest for Canada

Benedict Arnold is most well-known for his betrayal of American forces to the British during the Revolutionary War. Before that, however, he also tried to lead American forces in a Canadian invasion that ultimately ended in disaster. Arnold asked Georgre Washington for troops to invade Canada in 1775. At the time, the British had control of the country, and its northern position meant that the British could use it to attack the colonies to the south. Arnold also hoped that French Canadians living in the region would fight for independence along with the Americans. Canada was also not well guarded; the British only had 775 troops in the entire country, with less than 300 in Quebec. Washington approved the mission, sending some troops to Montreal and 1050 men, along with Arnold, through Maine to the fortified city of Quebec. Patriot forces under Richard Montgomery had successfully taken Montreal; if Arnold's army could take Quebec, Canada would be in American hands.

Benedict Arnold in 1776
Benedict Arnold in 1776

 

Major Logistical Problems

Arnold's ill-fated mission encountered problems from the very beginning. The group left later than expected, in September, due to issues with paying the men. Next, Arnold's map was inaccurate, and the path to the destination took well longer than expected. To make things worse, the army's shipbuilder was a British sympathizer who sabotaged the vessels, and much of their supplies ended up sinking to the bottom of a freezing cold river. To make matters worse, a hurricane destroyed many of the remaining materials, causing some soldiers to desert. Others were deathly ill from dysentery. By the time Arnold reached Canada in November, he had a mere 675 starving soldiers and hardly any supplies. However, British commander Sir Guy Carleton had already gotten wind of the attack, and British reinforcements were stationed in Quebec City. Arnold waited for more troops to arrive and attacked on New Year's Eve before attempting a siege of the city.

Arnold's Growing Disenchantment

Even more of Arnold's troops perished in the battle - of the 300 that survived to the fight, less than 100 escaped. Arnold was injured during the fight by a gunshot, and had to be dragged off the field with a shattered leg. Nevertheless, he kept fighting, using a single cannon to make it seem as though the Americans had a larger military force than they did. In the spring, reinforcements from New England arrived, allowing the Americans to stage a partial blockade of the city for several months. In May 1776, a British fleet arrived in the region, forcing the colonists to abandon their failed quest to conquer Canada. Afterwards, Arnold continued to be passed over for  promotion in the Continental Army in favor of other officers. That, combined with his doomed quest to take Canada, may have fueled the fire for his later betrayal of the revolution.

Battles and Events of the Revolutionary War
Battles of Lexington and Concord - 1775
Siege of Fort Ticonderoga - 1775
Battle of Bunker Hill - 1775
Noble Train of Artillery - 1775
Battles in and Around New York City - 1776
Battle of Trenton (Washington's Crossing) - 1776
Battle of Princeton - 1777
Battle of Brandywine Creek - 1777
Battle of Germantown - 1777
Battle of Saratoga - 1777
Battle of Monmouth Courthouse - 1778
Battle of Newport - 1778
Siege of Charleston - 1780
Battle of Camden - 1780
Battle of Cowpens - 1780
Battle of Guilford Courthouse - 1781
Siege of Yorktown - 1781

 

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