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Letter from General Arnold to Silas Deane



Camp before Quebeck, March 30, 1776.

DEAR SIR: I have often sat down to write you, and as often been prevented by matters of consequence crowding upon me, which I could not postpone. I am now so much perplexed with a multiplicity of affairs that I can hardly form an assemblage of three ideas, and those, I am afraid, will not be very pleasing to you, as they convey no very agreeable intelligence, but rather matters of complaint, (which, I make no doubt, you are daily troubled with.) Without further preamble, I shall give you a short sketch of our strength, situation, prospects, &c˙: From the 1st of January to the 1st of March, we have never had more than seven hundred effective men on the ground, and frequently not more than five hundred; since which we have been increasing in our numbers, as you will observe by the enclosed morning reports. Our numbers are far short of what I expected before this time, and the New-England Troops will be of very little service to us for some time, as the greatest part of them have the small-pox. That fatal disorder has got into our camp, though every method that prudence could suggest has been attempted to prevent it; a variety of orders have been repeatedly given, (some of which I enclose,) and as repeatedly disobeyed or neglected. The reinforcements, (as fast as they came in,) privately prepared and inoculated, (Colonel Warner' s Regiment and Major Cady' s detachment in particular;) not one-quarter of the former, and very few of the latter, are fit for duty; so that the publick will incur an expense of at least twenty pounds for each of those people, who will not, on an average, have done ten days' service to the 15th April, to which time they are engaged. Our Surgeons are without medicine; our Hospitals crowded, and in want of almost every necessary.

Enclosed is a small sketch of the City of Quebeck and vicinity, by which you will see the great extent of ground we are obliged to occupy. No less than twenty-six miles makes a tour of the rounds, including three ferries. A few small cannon — sixes, twelves, and one twenty-four-pounder, little ball, and less powder, cannot be expected to effect the reduction of a place so strongly fortified as Quebeck. Three seven-inch mortars, a few shells, (and those too small,) will cut a despicable figure at a bomb-battery, and serve but to expose our weakness; only one Artillery officer, and twenty matrosses, very few of whom know their duty; not one artificer for making carcasses, or any kind of fire-works. An able Engineer (a most necessary man in an army) wanting, and no prospect of being supplied with one; a well furnished military chest (which gives life and spirits to an army) entirely wanting, without which we cannot make one movement in this country. For, to tell you the truth, our credit extends no farther than our arms. Add to this catalogue, want of provisions, (not more than one month' s on hand,) and our resources uncertain, and most of the New-England, and all the New-York Troops, engaged no longer than the 15th April — these are some few of the difficulties we have to encounter.

The want of money and provisions laid me under the necessity, the 4th of this month, to issue a Proclamation, giving our paper money a currency; promising to exchange


it in four months for hard cash, at the same time declaring those enemies who should refuse it. About fifteen thousand dollars have been paid away. Many received it willingly, but the greater part of the people were averse to taking it. This step could not possibly be avoided, and will have this good effect: those who have received it will be interested in keeping the credit of it good. Notwithstanding this long catalogue of wants, &c˙, we are determined to exert ourselves. The officers and men are in general in good spirits, but too few in numbers to attempt an escalade. We are, therefore, raising batteries; one on Point Levi, of three twelve-pounders and one eight-inch howitz, will be ready to open to-morrow; another on the Heights of Abraham, within five hundred yards of the wall, of one twenty-four-pounder, four twelves, two sixes, and two howitz, we expect to open in four or five days. I have one gondola, mounting one twelve-pounder, at Sellery, with several armed boats. I am preparing a fire-ship to send into the Cul-du-Sac, where the two frigates and merchant ships are lying, which I make no doubt will have a proper effect if we are not prevented by ice, or contrary winds, until the ships can lay in the stream. If we should be happy enough to succeed in destroying the ships, I think it will be impossible for the town to hold out until they can be relieved.

A few days since I received intelligence from Point La Caile (twelve leagues from the south shore) that a party of sixty men had landed there from Quebeck, and that two hundred and fifty Canadians had joined them, and seized a convoy of our provisions. I immediately despatched Major Dubourgs, Captain Bruyn, and eighty men, in pursuit of them, who surprised their advanced guard, killed seven, wounded two, and took thirty-eight prisoners, with the King' s standard, without any loss on our side; the rest dispersed immediately, and everything now remains quiet.

It is now twelve o' clock at night, and I dare say you will be glad when I end my dull epistle.

I am, with great truth and sincerity, dear sir, your friend and humble servant,


To the Honourable Silas Deane, Esq.