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Benedict Arnold's Invasion of Quebec: A Geographic Perspective

Authors: Mark Read*, United States Military Academy
Topics: Military Geography, Historical Geography
Keywords: Benedict Arnold, Military Geography, Quebec
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Benedict Arnold is well known for his leadership of Continental forces during the Battle of Saratoga in 1777, and for his traitorous plot to surrender West Point to the British Army in 1780. Far fewer people know of Arnold’s invasion of Quebec in 1775. Though not as well known, the Quebec expedition has been studied and written about by historians for more than two centuries. Many studies focus on Arnold’s leadership during this arduous military operation through the Maine wilderness, while other studies examine the suffering and perseverance of the soldiers during the journey and ensuing siege of Quebec City. Few studies examine the overwhelming effects of physical geography on the operation. Climate, weather, and terrain presented Arnold and his subordinates with far greater problems than any enemy forces during the expedition, accounting for a significant number of casualties, delays in the operation, and logistical challenges. This paper explores the 1775 Arnold expedition through a geographic lens, studying the effects of climate, weather, river systems, mountains, and biomes on the operation. Additionally, the paper examines the more limited effect of the cultural landscape on the expedition. The study draws on numerous first-hand journal accounts of soldiers who participated in the expedition, as well as previous studies and maps, offering a unique geographic perspective on the operational and strategic implications of Arnold’s quest.

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