October 30, 2012
Yes, I’m up in the wee hours – because I’m an insomniac, not because a howling Frankenstorm woke me. Indeed, it’s so quiet now, with neither rain nor wind, that I suspect David and CNN are correct: Sandy has moved on.
What gutless, silly rulers, corporate and political, curse us! While these Nervous Nellies tried their hardest to scare-monger, I thought of the astoundingly brave Major General Benedict Arnold. Not his treason, but another, little-known yet incredibly heroic incident: in the autumn of 1775, Arnold led a march on Quebec from Massachusetts. His was one of a two-pronged attack that aimed to expel the British Army from Canada and convince the residents there to join the lower 13 colonies in their fight for freedom. But because Quebec was impregnable, with its escarpment on the St. Lawrence River and stout stone walls protecting it, Arnold and his 1000 troops would endeavor to surprise the city. That required an arrival in the brutal northern winter, when no one would expect an assault (18th century armaments wouldn’t fire in weather rainy or snowy enough to wet their gunpowder), after marching through Maine’s wilderness – then so dire that even the most intrepid soul, let alone an army, hardly dared attempt it.
Arnold’s march quickly degenerated from one hoping to liberate Canada to one for survival as the wilderness punished his column. The route was far longer and more arduous than the maps of the day had shown, with swamps and bogs to trap them. They lost their rations to spoilage and the white water over which they tried to ship them; eventually, the starving men ate the few pet dogs accompanying the march and candle-soup (they boiled candles, then dipped from animal tallow, in water). Just when things couldn’t get any worse, a hurricane hit. For several days, these courageous lovers of liberty sought shelter under downed trees while their pinched stomachs growled for food that had long ago disappeared. No one died, though their misery in the cold, trackless, eerie woods is beyond my power to describe.
I wonder how hard they would laugh — or cry — could they see the craven buffoons tyrannizing their descendants – demagogic curs who exploit rain and high winds to terrify us into yielding more of our liberty. How furiously would Arnold and his champions urge us to throw off their absurd yoke and live free? Would they even begin to understand our apathy towards the freedom that kept them marching through a hurricane? (I’m working on a novel about Benedict Arnold and his march that I hope to release next year. Meanwhile, read more about the American Revolution in my first novel, Halestorm, available in paperback or for Kindle.)