Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Canada and the Curious Case of Benedict Arnold

We arrive from Seattle and the marvelous little town of Bellingham to the Canadian border, queue up Princess Sparkleface, and wait our turn to to cross.  We had spent the morning reading about the famous American traitor, a man whose very name is synonymous with betrayal: Benedict Arnold.  But... was really drove him?
Benedict Arnold was born into a rich and and esteemed family where lofty achievement was expected.  His father, though successful, was a drunk and lost the family fortune, and Arnold failed to secure fame and glory as a soldier in the French Indian War except the shame of possibly abandoned his post. His parent's died before he was twenty.
During the Revolutionary War  he was elected as a captain in the Connecticut Militia and marched to the Siege of Boston chasing glory again at Fort Ticonderoga, but petty squabbles with Ethan Allen and military commanders as to who would control the fort caused him to resign.  While he was away chasing victory, his young wife died.

But the part of Benedict Arnold's life I find most fascinating is his Assault on Quebec City.  It just captures the imagination so incredibly.  At Arnold's urging, the Second Continental Congress authorized an invasion of Quebec in an attempt to make it the 14th Colony and control the St. Lawrence River... but Arnold is passed over for command.  Scorned, he then goes to General Washington and suggests a wilderness route through present-day Maine.  Over a thousand man leave with him, trudging through snow and ice for three months. 300 men turn back.  200 men die.  But he finally reaches Quebec, leads an attack, and has his leg shattered by a canon blast.  
It's not the later years... the frustration of being passed over for command, the subsequent jealousy of others obtaining notoriety he felt he deserved... nor is it his changing of sides, his capture and court martial... those parts of history sway the swayable.  I've known hungry men, ambitious men, men who backstab and connive and cheat their way to the top... I've never been interested in their personal rise and fall.  But that trek through the snow.... the driving of the men through the snow.  What fortitude that must have taken, what determination.  I thought about this, driving north past the border, through the trees of British Columbia.  Benedict Arnold:  How Curious.  

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