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Through a Howling Wilderness

Benedict Arnold's March to Quebec, 1775

Thomas A. Desjardin

St. Martin's Griffin

In September 1775, eleven hundred soldiers boarded ships in Newburyport, bound for the Maine wilderness. They were American colonists who had volunteered for a secret mission to paddle and march nearly two hundred miles through some of the wildest country in the colonies and seize the fortress city of Quebec, the last British stronghold in Canada.

The march, under the command of Colonel Benedict Arnold, proved to be a tragic journey. Before they reached the outskirts of Quebec, hundreds died from hypothermia, drowning, small pox, lightning strikes, exposure, and starvation. The survivors ate dogs, shoes, clothing, leather, cartridge boxes, shaving soap, and lip salve. Their trek toward Quebec was nearly twice the length shown on their maps. In the midst of the journey, the most unlikely of events befell them: a hurricane. The rains fell in such torrents that their boats floated off or sunk, taking their meager provisions along, and then it began to snow. The men woke up frozen in their tattered clothing. One third of the force deserted, returning to Massachusetts. Of those remaining, more than four hundred were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner.

Finally, in the midst of a raging blizzard, those remaining attacked Quebec. In the assault, their wet muskets failed to fire. Undaunted, they overtook the first of two barricades and pressed on toward the other, nearly taking Canada from the British. Demonstrating Benedict Arnold's prowess as a military strategist, the attack on Quebec accomplished another goal for the colonial army: It forced the British to commit thousands of troops to Canada, subsequently weakening the British hand against George Washington.

A great military history about the early days of the American Revolution, Through a Howling Wilderness is also a timeless adventure narrative that tells of heroic acts, men pitted against nature's fury, and a fledgling nation's fight against a tyrannical oppressor.

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Praise for Through a Howling Wilderness

"Desjardin is able to portray fascinating, vivid characters, more human and more credible than the leaders who organized the expedition."--Associated Press
 
"[A] stirring account...Desjardin has salted his account with great bits of regional history."--The Boston Globe
 
"In an age of bloated, overstuffed history books...Desjardin has pulled off this feat in just 240 pages of terse, well-hewn prose."--The Bangor Daily News
 
"Thoroughly researched and well written, this is likely to be the standard history of the campaign for some time to come."--Booklist
 
"Desjardin recounts the march in descriptive, detailed prose studded with visceral imagery . . . A vivid narrative of a vital American event.'"--Kirkus Reviews
 
"[A] highly readable book."--The Journal Star
 
"One of the great adventure sagas in American history . . . This is a story that helped shape the American Revolution, dramatically told in this highly readable new book."--James Kirby Martin, author of the award-winning Benedict Arnold, Revolutionary Hero: An American Warrior Reconsidered
 
"A model of accessible, vigorous narrative history, Through a Howling Wilderness re-creates an important but largely forgotten episode in early American history and tells a fascinating story in the bargain."--Jackson Lears, Board of Governors Professor of History, Rutgers University

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Thomas A. Desjardin

  • THOMAS DESJARDIN is the Historic Site Specialist for the State of Maine. He is the author of Stand Firm, Ye Boys from Maine: The 20th Maine and the Gettysburg Campaign and These Honored Dead: How the Story of Gettysburg Shaped American Memory.
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    Through a Howling Wilderness

    Benedict Arnold's March to Quebec, 1775

    Thomas A. Desjardin

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    St. Martin's Griffin

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