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    Benedict Arnold Autograph Letter Signed "B Arnold". One page with integral address leaf, 7.5" x 12.75", La Chine [Montreal], May 24, 1776, addressed to "The Honble General [William] Thompson at Sorell [Quebec]". The letter reads, in full:

    "I am much obliged to you for your agreeable favour of the 22d and kind offer of coming to my assistance - with 450 men which I now have when joined by Colonel [John] De Haas, I believe we shall be a match for the enemy, by the best information I can obtain they are five or six hundred strong. Their advanced guard was at Pt. Claire three leagues above this last night and gave out they intend to attack us this morning we are well prepared to receive them - I heartily console with you the loss of poor Major [Henry] Sherburne. I am told his party fought well and many were killed, I cannot learn if he is among the number, our prisoners are at St. Ann's and used well. I hope by sending up a strong party by water to cut off the retreat of the enemy and retake our prisoners at the same time I intend to attack their main body here. I hope soon to transmit you a more favorable acct of matters here - I am with great esteem and affection, your obedient humble servant."

    Benedict Arnold (1741-1801) had been tasked in September 1775 with leading a force of 1100 Continental Army troops from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Quebec City as part of a two-pronged invasion of the British colony. It was a journey beset with problems: leaky boats, desertion, bad weather, and inaccurate maps (the actual trip was nearly twice the expected distance, 350 miles vs. 180 miles). By the time Arnold's expedition reached the Saint Lawrence across from Quebec, their number was down to 600 men and they were starving and ill-equipped to continue. With aid from the French-speaking Canadiens they crossed the St. Lawrence and failed at their attempt to put Quebec City under siege. Then withdrawing to Point-aux-Trembles, they waited for General Richard Montgomery, who had just successfully taken Montreal, to come to their aid. The ensuing Battle of Quebec, on December 31, 1775, was disastrous with General Montgomery being killed and Arnold seriously wounded; more than 400 men were taken prisoner. Arnold and his men retreated back to Fort Ticonderoga where, while recuperating from his leg wound, they were able to delay the British advance. Arnold was appointed as military administrator of Montreal in April.

    Benedict Arnold placed a detachment of his troops at The Cedars, west of Montreal, in April 1776 based on rumors that the British and Indian Troops, under General George Forster, were preparing to attack, which they did on May 19. The garrison surrendered. American reinforcements under Major Henry Sherburne decided to advance on May 20 and they also surrendered and were taken captive by the Iroquois (though soon released). It is apparent that Arnold was unaware of Sherburne's fate as of the writing of this letter. Arnold gathered his remaining forces together in Montreal and sent requests out to nearby outposts around the city for additional troop reinforcements. This letter, written on May 24, 1776, was in reply to General Thompson's offer to come to the assistance of him and his 450 men who were entrenched at Lachine. Colonel John de Haas also arrived with 500 Pennsylvania infantry and riflemen. At this point, Arnold's combined forces did outnumber the size of Forster's causing the British commander to negotiate a prisoner exchange which took place between May 27 and 30.

    William Thompson (1736-1781) was born in Ireland and emigrated to Pennsylvania. During the French and Indian War, he served as a captain in the Kittanning Expedition. After Bunker Hill, he was appointed colonel of a rifle battalion and sent to Boston to aid in its defense. His sharpshooters drove back a British landing party and he was promoted to brigadier general (to George Washington's chagrin). Then sent to reinforce American troops in Canada, Thompson was captured during the Battle of Trois-Rivières in Quebec on June 8, 1776 (just a few days after this letter was written). He was not exchanged for four years and blamed Congressman Thomas McKean for the delay to the point that he was censured by Congress and successfully sued by McKean for libel. His wife was Katherine Ross, daughter of Declaration George Ross of New York.

    Condition: Toned overall with some areas of light foxing, ink smudged on date, weakness at fold, light tear from seal affecting no text.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2016
    5th Tuesday
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