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I went to St. John's yesterday, where I found every thing in the greatest confusion ; not one stroke done to fortify the camp ; the engineer a perfect sot ; at that place and this-, near three thousand sick. I have given orders that the sick draw only half rations in future. I have ordered Colonel Antill to St. John s, and an abatis and lines to be immediately begun, to inclose the two old forts, and an encampment sufficient to hold six thousand men.
I am fully of opinion not one minute ought to be lost in securing our retreat, and saving our heavy cannon, baggage, and provisions. The enemy will never attack you at Sorel. Their force is doubtless much superior to ours, and we have no advice of any reinforcements. Shall we sacrifice the few men we have, by endeavouring to keep possession of a small part of the country, which can be of little or no service to us ? The junction of the Canadians with the Colonies, an object which brought us into this country, is now at an end. Let us quit them, and secure our own country, before it is too late. There will be more honor in making a safe retreat, than hazarding a battle against such superiority, which will doubtless be attended with the loss of men, artillery, &c., and the only pass to our country. These arguments are not urged by fear for my personal safety. I am content to be the last man who quits this country, and fall, so that my country rise. But let us not fall all together.
The goods I seized at Montreal and sent to Chamblee, under the care of Major Scott, have been broken open, plundered, and huddled together in the greatest confusion. They were taken in such a hurry it was impossible to take a particular account of them. Each man's name was marked on his packages. When Major Scott arrived at Chamblee, he received your positive orders to repair to Sorel. The guard was ordered to return, and the goods to be delivered to Colonel Hazen, to be stored. He refused receiving or taking any care of them, by which means, and Major Scott's being ordered away, the goods have been opened and plundered, I believe, to a large amount. It is impossible for me to distinguish each man's goods, or ever settle with the proprietors. The goods are delivered to Mr. McCarty. This is not the first or last order Colonel Hazen has disobeyed. I think him a man of too much consequence for the post he is in. I am giving him orders to send directly to St. John's all the heavy cannon, shot, powder, bateaux, valuable stores, and the sick. I go to Montreal immediately, and beg to have your orders as soon as possible for my future conduct. I am, with respect and esteem, dear General,
Your obedient, humble servant,
P. S. If you should think proper to retire to St. John s, will it not be best to order a number of carts to be ready here from the neighbouring parishes, and enforce your order by sending a number of armed men to secure them ?
- Benedict Arnold
- Correspondence of the American Revolution; Being Letters of Eminent Men to George Washington, from the Time of His Taking Command of the Army to the End of His Presidency, Volume I., Jared Sparks, 1853