Kenneth Roberts in the Current News: Hodding Carter and Retracing Arnold’s March

Kenneth Roberts’ first novel, Arundel, is the tale of Benedict Arnold’s ill-fated march to Quebec through the wilderness of Maine. Readers experience the pain and toil of the soldiers as they traverse boggy land, carry heavy bateau across rapids, and fight cold and hunger on their way to capture Quebec. It was an epic march; despite the loss of men and supplies, a remnant of Arnold’s army was able to meet up with General Montgomery to attack Quebec (though they failed in capturing the city).

If you recall, Kenneth Roberts’, through the narrator of Arundel, blames Reuben Colburn for the failed expedition. Colburn had built the bateau used to traverse the waters, but they ended up being more of a burden than a help. Like many other historians, Roberts blames Colburn for using green wood to build the boats, as well as using the wrong kind of boat needed for the expedition. Continue reading

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K.R. in Current Works: Mark York’s “Patriot on the Kennebec”

Today via the comment section of this blog, I was introduced to Mark York and his work titled Patriot on the Kennebec: Major Reuben Colburn, Benedict Arnold and the March to Quebec, 1775 .  According to York, here is a short blurb on his book:

In late 1775, a few months after the first shots of the Revolution were fired, Benedict Arnold led more than one thousand troops into Quebec to attack the British there. Departing from Massachusetts, by the time they reached Pittston, Maine, they were in desperate need of supplies and equipment to carry them the rest of the way. Many patriotic Mainers contributed, including Major Reuben Colburn, who constructed a flotilla of bateaux for the weary troops. Despite his service in the Continental army, many blamed Colburn when several of the vessels did not withstand the harsh journey. In this narrative, the roles played by Colburn and his fellow Mainers in Arnold’s march are reexamined and revealed.

In my reply to his comment, I’d asked Mark if he could provide a short summary on how he interacts with Kenneth Roberts’ works in his own Patriot on the Kennebec.  Mark kindly responded in an email with the following:

The journals of the members of the expedition Roberts collected and compiled in March to Quebec are critical to the study, but some of Roberts’ pet peeves, chinks in his historical armor, that he reveals in the margins of March are also disproven by the journals themselves. For example, the banquet at Fort Western and Aaron Burr’s exploits. The meal happened, and yet since his relative, Edward Nason, was an enlisted man, he would have been sleeping outside in the rain and not feasting inside with the Howards, Reuben Colburn, Burr and other officers. There was also some unflattering portrayals of the guides from my neck of the woods in Arundel that are sort of insulting. Roberts was a man of privilege, but he could be unapologetic and uncaring of anyone not so lucky.

My essay in the opening of Patriot reflects these flaws while praising his efforts and making my job so much easier. Yet, I believe I’ve broken new ground in uncovering things about the expedition that other authors have miscalculated. Robert’s and I agree on the complex story of Natanis and Sabatis, though. He reveals his initial bias against my central Maine people in the dialogue of Arundel. ” I was prepared to mislike Colburn for Washington and Arnold’s fondness for bateaux, but I had wronged him.”

I find this very intriguing.  While Roberts was indeed a great writer and to be appreciated for his research and writing, he was not without his foibles and errors.  What I appreciate about Mark is that despite his appreciation for Roberts (or maybe because of ?), he is willing to critique Roberts and point out possible errors in his works.

I look forward to reading this book and I hope you get a chance to purchase this book.  You can find it via Amazon by clicking here.

Kenneth Roberts in Current Works

It’s been a long time coming, but here’s a new post in regards to Kenneth Roberts (about time!). 

I’ve recently read parts of James L. Nelson‘s Benedict Arnold’s Navy: the Ragtag Fleet that Lost the Battle of Lake Champlain, but Won the American Revolution, which focuses on the Northern Campaign, beginning with Arnold’s and Allen’s capture of Fort Ticonderoga, and goes through … well, I gave up during the attempted capture of Quebec. 

The book read very nicely; it was easy to follow and kept one’s attention.  I was rather disappointed, though, with the disconnect between the title and the content of the book.  I expected to see more development on Arnold’s work on his make-shift navy before the Battle of Valcour Island, but instead, Nelson just traced the military career of Arnold.  This read more like a biography of Arnold than it did an explanation of Arnold’s influence on America’s navy in Lake Champlain.

One pleasant surprise, though, was Nelson’ reference to Kenneth Roberts during his account of the attempted capture of Quebec.  Interestingly, Nelson refers to Roberts not as a historical fiction author, but as an “[a]uthor and historian” (146).  I checked out Nelson’s bibliography at the back of the book (quite extensive), and he refers only to Roberts’ March to Quebec.

Excellent to see Roberts in a recent work!

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