Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hardships

Whitehall, NY
43 33.27 N 073 24.13 W

I'm humbled.  Just last week I wrote about our hardships and fears.  We got stranded on the lake.  We had to tow.  We feared a storm that was coming if we sat at anchor.  We ran aground an had to kedge ourselves off.

Well, today I finished the book Benedict Arnold's Navy.  I must say I'm humbled.   

On the day that the British fleet left St. Johns on the Richelieu River there was no wind.   What did they do?  They kedged the fleet 25 miles upstream all the way to the lake.  The commander said that it worked "splendidly".   For those who don't know, kedging is the procedure in which the boat's anchor, chain and rode are placed in a little boat.  The little boat then rows out the anchor as far as it can and throws it overboard.  Then, back on the main boat they pull the rope and chain back in using the windlass.  Then the whole procedure starts again, 100=200 feet at a time.  To go 25 miles in 200 foot increments requires 660 such cycles. 

Then, there were Benedict Arnold's men.  They manned their boats on the lake for two months.  The smaller boats had no decks.  They were completely open to the weather.  They endured storm after storm, plus snow, freezing weather, and on board sickness.  I don't know what they had for provisions.  They couldn't go ashore because hostile Canadians, British and Indians were waiting there to kill them.   At the end of that period, they fought a brutal battle and fled for their lives in a 36 hour binge of exertion. 

My God; compared to those men, we are pussies.

In our defense, there is a significant difference.   They had huge numbers of young men to assign to any task.  Even the small open gondolas in Arnold's fleet had 45 men on board. On Tarwathie we have only one old man and one old woman.  Notwithstanding that, I have nothing for admiration for those men and their accomplishments and their endurance.

The book correctly states, if General Benedict Arnold had died from his wounds at Saratoga, he would be remembered in our history books as one of our greatest heroes along with George Washington and John Paul Jones.  But he didn't die there. Today, all our school children learn of him is that he was a traitor.


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