Home / Maine / Caleb Haskell Reports a Murder on Arnold’s Expedition to Quebec

Caleb Haskell Reports a Murder on Arnold’s Expedition to Quebec

Caleb Haskell, like all the soldiers who followed Benedict Arnold on his failed expedition to capture Quebec, suffered all kinds of hardship: cold, wet, hunger, hard physical labor and, in one case, murder. In his diary,  Caleb Haskell reported the killing almost as an afterthought.

Detail of 1795 map overlaid with Arnold's expedition route. A Cambridge; B Newburyport; C Fort Western; D Fort Halifax; E Great Carrying Place; F Height of Land; G Lake Megantic. Courtesy Boston Public Library.

Detail of 1795 map overlaid with Arnold's expedition route. A Cambridge; B Newburyport; C Fort Western; D Fort Halifax; E Great Carrying Place; F Height of Land; G Lake Megantic. Courtesy Boston Public Library.

Lothrop Withington, who edited the published version of Haskell's diary, explained in the introduction:

The soldier who struggled through the forests of the upper Kennebec, who lived upon the scanty remnants of a canine carcass, who lay at death's door within a pest house, who stood in the besieging trenches amid the snows of a Canadian winter, and did the bidding of such a driving master as Benedict Arnold, hurrying from place to place, had little time for graphic story telling on the line of march and field of combat.

Arnold’s men traveled 350 miles – twice as far as they planned -- through poorly charted wilderness in what is now Maine. They endured grueling portages up the Kennebec River. Their boats leaked, their gunpowder ruined, their food scarce. By the time Arnold reached the French settlements above the St. Lawrence River, he had only 600 starving men.

Caleb Haskell had enlisted as a soldier in the American Army in Newburyport, Mass. in May 1775. He marched to Cambridge, participated in the Siege of Boston and survived the Battle of Bunker Hill unscathed. Then he marched back to Newburyport with Arnold, boarded one of 11 transport ships and set sail for what is now Maine on Sept. 19, 1775.

On Sept. 23, they landed in Hallowell, Maine. The next day they marched to Fort Weston, where they camped. "Several of the companies have no tents here," wrote Haskell. "We are very uncomfortable, it being rainy and cold and nothing to cover us." Then he mentioned someone shot someone else in camp and the wounded man died the next day.

On September 25th, Caleb Haskell wrote:

This morning I was on quarter guard. A Court Martial sat on the trial of the murder, brought him in guilty and sentenced him to be hung.

One comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*