Arnold, Hazen and the Mysterious Major Scott

The War Years (1775-1783)

February 23, 2016
by Ennis Duling Also by this Author


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In July 1776, Brig. Gen. Benedict Arnold brought charges against Col. Moses Hazen for disobeying orders and neglecting merchandise seized in Montréal. Hazen was a Massachusetts-born Québec landowner and merchant who commanded a small regiment of Canadians in the Continental army. In April when Arnold took command in Montréal, he called Hazen “a sensible judicious officer, and well acquainted with this country,” but soon the two men despised each other.[1]

In the French and Indian War, Hazen had been a lieutenant and captain in Roger’s Rangers and then a lieutenant in the 44th Regiment of Foot. As a ranger, he led brutal raids against the Acadians in present-day New Brunswick. He fought in the major battles along the St. Lawrence River, and Gen. James Murray commented that he had seen so much “bravery and good conduct” in Hazen “as would justly entitle him to every military reward he could ask or demand.” At the start of the American invasion of Canada in the late summer and fall of 1775, Hazen was caught between the warring sides: his property along the Richelieu River was plundered by the Americans, who considered him an enemy, and then he was imprisoned by the British. With the fall of Montréal in November, he committed wholeheartedly to the American cause. He was forty-three in the summer of 1776, eight years older than Arnold.[2]

Although historians argue about details, as a teenager Arnold had only limited experience in the French and Indian War.[3] He became a rising star in the first year of the Revolutionary War, helping to seize Fort Ticonderoga, leading an expedition through the Maine wilderness to Québec, and maintaining the siege through the harsh winter. Arnold and Hazen may have had more in common than they might have admitted to. Both were ambitious, aggressive, mercenary in business, and quick to take offense if they believed their honor was at stake.

Their dispute began as the American invasion of Canada was collapsing. On May 26, 1776, following the American surrender at the Cedars west of Montréal, Arnold wanted to lead a relief expedition to cross the Ottawa River and attack the Natives and British from the rear at dawn. Citing his “long experience with the Indian character,” Hazen argued that the Indians would not be surprised and would quickly kill their American captives. Col. John Phillip De Haas of the 1st Pennsylvania Battalion, who had fought on the western frontier in the earlier war, supported Hazen’s view. Arnold was “highly irritated” when the council of officers agreed with the colonels and voted not to attack. “Some reproachful language . . . passed between Arnold and Hazen,” observed young Cap. James Wilkinson.[4]

Arnold returned to Montréal certain that the invasion of Canada was a lost cause. With the agreement of the Commissioners from Congress, Samuel Chase and Charles Carroll, he ordered goods and provisions seized in the city, but always with a promise of payment. The merchandise was tagged with the owner’s name as if Arnold and the commissioners expected the debt to be repaid when the Continental treasury was full.[5]

Arnold entrusted the goods to a Major Scott for transport to Fort Chambly where Scott tried to turn them over to Hazen, who was the commander on the upper Richelieu River. “Colonel Hazen refused taking the goods into store, or taking charge of them; they were heaped in piles on the banks of the river,” wrote Arnold to Maj. Gen. Philip Schuyler on June 13. Even after Hazen placed guards, the goods were “neglected in such a manner that [a] great part were stolen or plundered.” [6]

Arnold told Brig. Gen. John Sullivan, “It is impossible for me to distinguish each man’s goods, or ever settle with the proprietors . . . . 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.”[7]

In response, Hazen called for a court of inquiry or a court-martial. “I am very conscious of having done my duty in every respect; but if otherwise, I am equally unworthy the honour which the Congress conferred on me, as unfit for the service of my country.”[8]

No statement from Maj. Scott survives. Although he is central to the incident and to the court-martial that followed, no historian seems to have identified Scott’s first name, regiment, or state, let alone to have found details that might allow for an evaluation of his trustworthiness as an officer or a witness.[9] The difficulty is understandable. Francis Bernard Heitman’s Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army during the War of the Revolution, April, 1775, to December, 1783 lists twenty-two Scotts, but none at first glance meets the criteria. The only Major Scott did not serve in Canada or on Lake Champlain and was promoted to the rank in the fall of 1777. Only one Continental officer named Scott served in the north, Captain John Budd Scott of Col. William Maxwell’s Second New Jersey Regiment.[10]


Packed into one hundred fifty bateaux, the retreating American army reached the Crown Point narrows on Lake Champlain during the night of July 1-2, 1776. Within a few days, Hazen was arrested.[11] Arnold wanted an immediate trial, but Hazen protested to Maj. Gen. Horatio Gates, who was in command at Ticonderoga, arguing that the men on the court-martial panel were not all field officers, meaning colonels, lieutenant colonels, and majors. Gates agreed that Hazen had a right to be tried by his peers. Hazen contended as well that the panel had been “named by his accuser.” “This (if a fact) is also very irregular,” Gates commented in a letter to Arnold.[12]

A new panel consisting of thirteen field officers was announced on July 18. Captain Scott, no first name given, was appointed judge advocate.[13] This Scott was unquestionably John Budd Scott, a young attorney from Sussex County, New Jersey. He had served in the New Jersey Provincial Congress and was chosen as “First Major” of the county’s First Regiment of Militia. The Sussex County Committee of Safety objected to that appointment for reasons they did not record, but the Provincial Congress confirmed it. Then Scott took a captain’s commission in the 2nd New Jersey under Maxwell, but continued to use his loftier militia rank when he could.[14]

The trial opened on July 20, but was adjourned quickly because Arnold was busy with the construction of the fleet to defend Lake Champlain. For about five days he was in Skenesborough (present-day Whitehall), New York, giving – as Gates told Continental Congress president John Hancock – “life and spirit to our dock-yard.”[15]

Col. Enoch Poor, a merchant and shipbuilder from Exeter, New Hampshire, presided over the panel of twelve other officers. Impartiality based on a lack of knowledge of events and people was impossible. There were only about forty regimental field officers in the camps at Ticonderoga and across Lake Champlain on Mount Independence. They knew each other, Arnold and Hazen, and the gossip in the army. Four officers on the panel were part Arnold’s First Brigade, located on the high ground on Mount Independence. Two men had recent disagreements with him; another was soon to write a savage characterization.

Two months earlier, Colonel De Haas, who had already sided with Hazen against Arnold’s proposed surprise attack after the Cedars, resisted written orders from Arnold, received May 30, to “burn and destroy the town and inhabitants of Canassadaga [present-day Kanesatake],” a Mohawk settlement forty miles northwest of Montréal. De Haas called a council of officers, which agreed not to attack. A false rumor went through camp in early July that De Haas, like Hazen, had been arrested.[16]

Col. Elisha Porter, an attorney from Hadley, Massachusetts, clashed with Arnold just a few days before the trial reconvened. Porter’s militia regiment, which was part of Arnold’s brigade, had cleared ground on Mount Independence and had nearly completed their camp of log huts when a staff officer ordered Porter to “remove ye officers’ houses, &c., and alter the front of my encampment.” Porter protested to Arnold, but he agreed with the alterations, and grudgingly Porter complied.[17]

And Col. William Maxwell, whose regiment had joined the siege of Québec in March, had seen as much of Arnold’s leadership as anyone in the army. Like Hazen and De Haas, Maxwell was older than Arnold and had extensive experience as an officer in the French and Indian War. After the defeat of Arnold’s fleet on Lake Champlain in October, 1776, he told New Jersey governor William Livingston that Arnold was “our evil genius to the north.” This opinion was likely formed before the court-martial.[18]

In Arnold’s absence, the court met from July 22 through July 28, bringing discipline to an army that had been devastated by the disaster in Canada. Scott facilitated the trials as judge advocate. He was prosecutor and legal adviser, but he was also expected to be so impartial that he could be a “friend” to the accused. Usually judge advocates coordinated trials, walking witnesses through their testimony without engaging in aggressive questioning.[19]


Hazen’s trial reconvened on Wednesday, July 31. “Nothing extraordinary,” noted Colonel Porter, who must have expected something else.[20] By August 1, the trial was not going as Arnold or Scott wanted. “Divers[e] witnesses” testified that the goods had been damaged or lost under Scott’s care, not Hazen’s, and Scott himself admitted he never gave Hazen written orders from Arnold. The court was told Hazen never took control of the goods and had no place to store them if he had.

According to Arnold, during the trial Hazen offered the “grossest abuse,” and the court allowed him to speak without reprimand. Historians have suggested that Hazen, who knew the Montréal merchants personally, accused Arnold of seizing property for personal gain. In fact, there were rumors of packages of select goods being labeled with Arnold’s initials.[21]

Scott’s role in the court-martial is confusing. A few days later, Poor told Gates that the court saw in Scott a man with an “overstrained zeal to serve as Judge Advocate during the course of the trial,” who was “extremely solicitous to give evidence in the cause.” Some historians have interpreted Poor’s comment as meaning that Scott was not judge advocate but acted “as if” he were. But while it is hard to believe that any court would rely on a legal adviser so personally involved in a case, Scott unquestionably had been appointed to the position. Perhaps Poor meant that Scott had stopped presenting evidence dispassionately and had become an aggressive prosecutor. Once Scott asked the court for permission to cross-examine a witness who was favorable to Hazen, but it is unclear whether his request reveals he was no longer judge advocate or if it shows him wanting to confront a witness whose statement he found objectionable (Poor did not note the court’s response.) At some point in the proceedings, Scott was replaced as judge advocate by Maj. William D’Hart of the 1st New Jersey Regiment.[22]

Finally, when Scott himself was called to testify, presumably by Arnold, Hazen objected, and after hearing arguments, the court agreed. Scott was viewed as “so far interested in the event of Colonel Hazen’s trial, as to render his testimony inadmissible.”[23]

Arnold objected, saying he would enter a formal protest if Scott was not permitted to testify. In his written objection, Arnold told the court that Scott was “my principal evidence.” He had “punctually obeyed” orders and “of course is not the least interested in the event of Colonel Hazen’s trial.” Arnold concluded, “I do solemnly protest against their [the court’s] proceedings and refusal as unprecedented, and I think unjust.”[24]

The panel of officers believed that Arnold had questioned the integrity of the court and directed Colonel Poor to demand an apology. He told Arnold, “You have drawn upon yourself their just resentment, and that nothing but an open acknowledgment of your error will be conceived as satisfactory.”

Poor explained to Gates that Arnold’s protest was “couched, as we think, in indecent terms, and directly impeaching the justice of the Court.” If a superior officer could “blast” a court-martial with a protest, then an honorable acquittal would be impossible and an accused officer would always be sent “back to his room a melancholy prisoner.” Poor assured Gates that the protest was not the only affront: “The whole of the General’s conduct during the course of the trial was marked with contempt and disrespect towards the Court.”[25]

Asked for an apology, Arnold refused to back down and in a written response delivered on August 2, he told the officers, “Your demand I shall not comply with.” The directions of the court and the “extraordinary demand” of the President were “ungenteel and indecent reflections on a superior officer.” Then Arnold issued a challenge to any and all members of the panel: “As your very nice and delicate honour, in your apprehension, is injured, you may depend, as soon as this disagreeable service is at an end (which God grant may soon be the case,) I will by no means withhold from any gentleman of the Court the satisfaction his nice honour may require.”

With that, the court exonerated Hazen and in a few days sent Gates a forty-two-page record of the trial, which suspiciously does not survive, along with copies of letters filled with outrage. Gates accepted the dismissal of the charges against Hazen. On August 10, in celebration of his vindication, Porter and the other members of the court dined with Hazen. Then on August 12, they ordered Arnold arrested for “conducting himself in a contemptuous, disorderly manner, in the presence of said Court; by using profane oaths and execrations; by charging the court with injustice in the course of the proceedings; and by using menacing words before them.” Gates promptly dissolved the court. [26]

Finally on September 2, Gates wrote Congress about the trial. He told President Hancock that Arnold might have crossed the “precise line of decorum” and that he, Gates, had been “obliged to act dictatorially, and dissolve the Court-Martial,” since “the United States must not be deprived of that excellent Officer’s Service, at this important Moment.” By then, the fleet under Arnold’s command was sailing north to battle.[27]


For the most part, historians have taken Arnold’s side in the court-martial, seeing jealous, lesser men trying to bring down the most talented and active officer on Lake Champlain.[28] Arnold insisted that he was the victim of “their private resentment.” In a letter to Schuyler on September 11, 1776, Gates wrote: “To be a man of honour, and in an exalted station, will ever excite envy in the mean and undeserving. I am confident the Congress will view whatever is whispered against General Arnold as the foul stream of that poisonous fountain, detraction.”[29]

But critics of the panel miss how seriously the officers tried to do their job. “We had nothing but the good of our country and the discipline of the army in view,” they told President Hancock. If they erred, they believed, it was in giving Arnold too much leeway in the hope that he would “become sensible of the impropriety of his conduct.”[30] Some men on the panel were petty and undeserving, but others were rock-solid.

Col. William Bond died of bilious fever within a month of the court-martial and was greatly mourned. Maxwell, De Haas, and Poor were soon promoted to the rank of Continental brigadier general. Historian David Hackett Fischer has called Maxwell “a combat leader of true genius” for his conduct of the New Jersey winter war of 1777. At Saratoga, Poor worked for reconciliation between Arnold and Gates, who had lost all respect for each other, and helped to keep Arnold in camp for the decisive battle on October 7, 1777. De Haas soon resigned from the Continental army, but in July 1778 following the raid on the Wyoming Valley in northeast Pennsylvania, he rallied the settlers and militia on the frontier, winning praise for his actions.[31]

At the other end of the spectrum, Maj. Nicholas Haussegger, by then colonel of the Pennsylvania German Battalion, was captured (or perhaps he deserted) at Assunpink Creek on January 2, 1777, dined happily with Hessian officers in New York, and was eventually declared a traitor.[32] In the summer of 1779, Maj. Jotham Loring, by then a lieutenant colonel, was tried on numerous charges, including defrauding his regiment, and was dismissed.[33]

Hazen’s career after the court-martial had a few constants. He worked for a second invasion of Canada, launched from the upper Connecticut River. He petitioned for compensation for his financial losses and for promotion. And he was never far from the courtroom, facing or bringing charges. In June 1781, he was breveted as a brigadier general. He and substitute judge advocate D’Hart were the only men from the court-martial on Lake Champlain still in the Continental army when Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown.

For Arnold, the controversies of the spring and summer of 1776 never went away. In December 1776, Lt. Col. John Brown of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, presented Gates with thirteen charges against Arnold for incompetent, dishonorable, cruel, illegal, and traitorous activity.[34] Brown expected to have nearly thirty witnesses testify against Arnold, including Hazen, De Haas, and Maj. John Sedgwick, a member of the court-martial panel from Burrall’s Connecticut State Regiment. In May 1777, the Congress’s War Board met with Arnold and reported that Brown had “cruelly and groundlessly aspersed” his character.[35]

By the winter 1778-1779, Arnold was facing new charges from the Pennsylvania Council, which claimed that, among other crimes, he was profiteering from his position as military governor of Philadelphia. In the Pennsylvania Packet, Arnold engaged in a war of words with secretary of the council Timothy Matlack. Arnold defended himself by taking the patriotic high ground, writing that he had “served my country faithfully for near four years, without once having my public conduct impeach’d.” In response, the Packet published Brown’s thirteen charges, and Matlack commented, “When I meet your carriage in the street, and think of the splendour in which you live and revel . . . and compare these things with the decent frugality necessarily used by other officers in the army, it is impossible to avoid the question: From whence have these riches flowed if you did not plunder Montreal?” Within two months Arnold made his first offers to the British through a Loyalist merchant.[36]

And what of Captain/Major Scott, the forgotten man at the heart of Hazen’s court-martial?[37]

Scott was soon back in court. Early in October 1776 he was arrested by Col. Maxwell and charged with embezzling from the regiment’s payroll. Scott asked Gates to discharge him from arrest so he could help defend the Lake Champlain forts, and then he tried to resign his commission before a court-martial could be held. But Gates would not allow him an easy way out. He was found guilty and cashiered for “defrauding the Continent, by presenting a full pay-roll, drawing the pay accordingly, and also of ungentlemanlike behaviour in extorting extraordinary prices for some articles purchased for his men.”

Soon afterwards Scott attempted to join a Loyalist regiment, the 5th Battalion of the New Jersey Volunteers, but officers objected. In May 1778, he became a captain in another Loyalist corps, the Royal American Reformees, led by Rudolphus Ritzema, who had also served in Canada on the American side. The regiment was short-lived before it merged into the British Legion. In the fall of 1778, a John Scott, apparently the same man, was a captain in the British Legion. Six months later, he retired before the regiment was sent south. In May 1779 John Budd Scott was married in British-held New York.[38]


[1] Benedict Arnold to Philip Schuyler, April 20, 1776, in Peter Force, ed. American Archives (Washington, D.C.: 1837-1853), Ser. 4, 5:1099. Abbreviated below as AA.

[2] Allan S. Everest, Moses Hazen and the Canadian Refugees in the American Revolution (Syracuse University Press, 1976), 1-45, quote on 13.

[3] James Kirby Martin, Benedict Arnold, Revolutionary Hero: An American Warrior Revisited (New York University Press: 1997), 28-29 discusses other possibilities and concludes the future general served for only a few weeks in 1757.

[4] James Wilkinson, Memoirs of My Own Times (Philadelphia: Abraham Small, 1816), 1:45-46.

[5] Commissioners in Canada to President of Congress, May 27, 1776, AA, Ser. 4, 6:590.

[6] Arnold to Schuyler, June 13, 1776, AA, Ser. 4, 6:1038.

[7] Arnold to John Sullivan, June 10, 1776, AA, Ser. 4, 6:797.

[8] Arnold to Schuyler, June 13, 1776; Arnold to Sullivan and Moses Hazen to Sullivan, June 13, 1776, AA, Ser. 4, 6:1105.

[9] A sampling: Mark R. Anderson, The Battle for the Fourteenth Colony (Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 2013), 325; Isaac N. Arnold, The Life of Benedict Arnold: His Life and Treason (Chicago: Jansen, McClurg & Company, 1880), 97-99; Douglas R. Cubbison, The American Northern Theater Army in 1776: The Ruin and Reconstruction of the Continental Force (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, 2010), 165; Everest, 42, 44; Robert McConnell Hatch, Thrust for Canada: The American Attempt on Quebec in 1775-1776 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1979), 219; Martin, 218-219, 239-240. Alone among primary or secondary accounts, Wilkinson identifies Captain Scott as having charge of the plundered goods. Wilkinson also knows Scott’s future career. (Wilkinson, 1:70.)

[10] Francis Bernard Heitman, Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army during the War of the Revolution, April, 1775, to December, 1783 (Washington, D.C., 1893), 358-359.

[11] Lewis Beebe, “Journal of a Physician on the Expedition against Canada, 1776,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 59 (October 1935), 4:341-342.

[12] Horatio Gates to Arnold, July 15, 1776, AA, Ser. 5, 1:358.

[13] Doyen Salsig, ed., Parole: Quebec ; Countersign: Ticonderoga: Second New Jersey Regimental Orderly Book 1776 (Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1980), 173-174; “The Wayne Orderly Book,” Bulletin of the Fort Ticonderoga Museum, vol. 11, no. 2, (Sept. 1963), 98.

[14] New-Jersey Provincial Congress, List of Deputies, AA Ser. 4, 3: 41; New-Jersey Provincial Congress, October 26-27, 1775, AA, Ser. 4, 3:1234-1235. Scott’s exact age is unknown, but his parents were married in October 1750. Florence E. Youngs, ed., Genealogical Record: Saint Nicholas Society of the City of New York (New York: Saint Nicholas Society, 1905), 249.

[15] Gates to Hancock, July 29, 1776, AA, Ser. 5, 1:649.

[16] Wilkinson, 1: 47; Arnold to Commissioners, June 2, 1776, AA, Ser. 5, 1:16; Beebe, 342.

[17] Elisha Porter, “The Diary of Colonel Elisha Porter, of Hadley, Massachusetts,” Appleton Morgan , ed., The Magazine of American History with Notes and Queries (New York: A.S. Barnes, 1893), 202.

[18] William Maxwell to Governor Livingston, October 20, 1776, AA, Ser. 5, 2:1143.

[19] “The Army Lawyer: A History of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, 1775-1975,” (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1975), 16.

[20] Porter, “The Diary of Colonel Elisha Porter ,” 203.

[21] Papers of the Continental Congress, R71 i58, p 385, 397. Or Fold3: Continental Congress Papers / Papers of John Hancock, 385, 397.

[22] Poor to Gates, Aug. 6, 1776, AA, Ser. 5, 1:1273; Martin, 240; “Arnold and a General Court-Martial,” The American Historical Record, vol. 3, no. 34 (October 1874), 448.

[23] Poor to Gates, Aug. 6, 1776, ibid.

[24] “Arnold’s Protest,” AA, Ser. 5, 1:1272.

[25] Poor to Arnold, Aug. 1, 1776, Ser. 5, 1:1272; Porter, 203; Court to Gates, Aug. 6, 1776, AA, Ser. 5, 1:1273-1274.

[26] Porter, “The Diary of Colonel Elisha Porter ,” 204; “Arnold and a General Court-Martial,” 448.

[27] Gates to Hancock, Sept. 2, 1776, AA, Ser. 5, 1:1268.

[28] For examples, Isaac Arnold, The Life of Benedict Arnold, 99; Martin, Benedict Arnold, Revolutionary Hero, 242.

[29] Arnold to Gates, Aug. 7, 1776, AA, Ser. 5, 1:1274; Gates to Schuyler, Sept. 11, 1776, AA, Ser. 5, 2:294-295.

[30] Field Officers to Hancock, Aug. 19, 1776, AA, Ser. 5, 1:1072.

[31] David Hackett Fischer, Washington’s Crossing (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 348-349; Henry B. Livingston to Schuyler,” Sept. 24, 1777, in Isaac Arnold, The Life of Benedict Arnold, 182; “Disposition of Jeremiah Fogg,” New-Hampshire Gazette; or State Journal, and General Advertiser, January 15, 1781, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register 60 (July 1906), 311; Abram Hess, “The Life and Services of General John Philip de Haas, 1735-1786,” Paper Read before the Lebanon County Historical Society, February 10, 1916 (Lebanon, Pa.: Lebanon Historical Society), 87; Jeff Dacus, “Brigadier General John de Haas: A Bad Example to Others,” Journal of the American Revolution,

[32] Fischer, Washington’s Crossing, 300, 528; Ethan Allen, The Narrative of Colonel Ethan Allen (Bedford, MA: Applewood Books), 88-89.

[33] General Orders, Aug. 12, 1779, George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, online at

[34] Brown to Gates, Dec. 1, 1776, AA, Ser. 5, 3: 1158-1159; Brown to Theodore Sedgwick, Dec. 6, 1776, Massachusetts Historical Society.

[35] Brown to Gates, Dec. 1, 1776, AA, Ser. 5, 3:1158-1159; May 23, 1777, Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789, ed. Worthington C. Ford et al. (Washington, D.C., 1904-37), 8: 382; John to Abigail Adams, May 22, 1777, Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789, Smith, Paul H., et al., eds., (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1976-2000), 7:103.

[36] Pennsylvania Packet, Feb. 9 and March 6, 1779, Readex Microprint.

[37] There is a second mystery involving a Captain Scott. On September 23, 1776, two hundred fifty Americans attacked Montresor’s Island (present-day Randalls Island now joined to Ward Island) in the East River off Manhattan (AA, Ser. 5, 2:523-524). Captain John Wisner of Isaac Nichols’ New York militia regiment and a Captain Scott (no first name or regiment given) failed to land their boats, setting up a disaster for those who did. Both were charged with cowardice. Wisner was tried and cashiered (AA, Ser. 5, 2:610-613), but Scott was never brought to court-martial and seems to have vanished from the record. Historian John C. Fitzpatrick, the 1930s editor of The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799, identified the Montresor’s Island Scott as John Budd Scott of the 2nd New Jersey Regiment, basing his view on Heitman’s information that Scott was cashiered on November 2, 1776 (“General Orders, September 29, 1776,” note 50, The George Washington Papers, Library of Congress: American Memory at; Heitman, 359). However, there seem to be no primary sources that identify the Montresor’s Island Scott, and it is unlikely that John Budd Scott left Lake Champlain at a time when the forts were daily expecting attack, embarrassed himself at Montresor’s Island two hundred fifty miles away, and then hurried back to Ticonderoga to be dismissed on other charges.

[38] Scott to Gates, Oct. 17, 1776, AA, Ser. 5, 2:1103-1104; Scott to Gates, Oct. 27, 1776, AA, Ser. 5, 2:1267; Orderly Book, Nov. 2, 1776, AA, Ser. 5, 3:534; “A History of the 5th Battalion, New Jersey Volunteers,” The Online Institute for Advanced Loyalist Studies, ; “Roll of Officers in the British American or Loyalist Corps,” Collections of the New Brunswick Historical Society (Saint John, N.B.: Sun Printing Company, 1899), 2:246; Genealogical Record: Saint Nicholas Society of the City of New York, 249.



  • I was very excited to see this subject dealt with in depth as I have often wondered how it tied in with Arnold’s reputation with the officers and men. I was particularly interested to see the references to Arnold plundering Montreal for his own benefit. Arnold biographers don’t seem to emphasize such things very much even though there are repeated examples of his attempts to plunder and profit from his command positions in the war. Arnold’s behavior during the Virginia raid in the Winter of 1781 was another example of how his priority was on personal gain. This time his attempts came at the expense of the Patriot population. In any event, very nice job and excellent choice of subject matter. An episode often ignored in the overall whitewash that has become our current notions about Benedict Arnold.

  • There seems to be a few “people of interest” during the American invasion of Canada, 1775-76. “Major Scott,” if that was his real name, is yet another one. The more I read about this part of our Revolution, the more I’m finding out about people, some, Canadians, that took part
    but remain to this day, in the shadows.
    The one that initially got me reading about this was when Franklin, in May of 1776, met secretly in Montreal with certain Canadians of the business community and other “select representatives” about giving aid to the American cause up there.
    I’m not talking about Chateau Ramezay. That wasn’t a secret at all. But from what I understand, there was another meeting Franklin had while up there in Montreal.
    This article, with the mentioning of “Major Scott”, is yet another person that at least at this time, played a role here and is a virtual unknown. But if any one knows anything of this highly secretive meeting Franklin had with others, and would like to share what they know, please feel free to post. Thanks for the article Mr. Duling!

  • Very nice job laying out the circumstances of one of the primary episodes in the Arnold Saga. As to the Scott “mystery”, you’ve just noted the tip of the iceberg…

    Arnold may have met John Budd Scott in Philadelphia in July or August 1775, when both were in town; Arnold, attempting to clarify his actions in the Champlain campaign, and Scott providing reports on New Jersey’s militia status as a member of New Jersey’s Provincial Congress, representing Sussex County (Minutes of the Provincial Congress and the Council of Safety of the State of New Jersey (Trenton: Naar, Day & Naar, 1879), 183–184). If so, Scott would have been introduced within the context of his militia honorific “First Major”, a title Arnold may have used when the two served in Canada. And they did serve together in Canada. There’s little doubt that “Major Scott” is also Captain John Budd Scott.

    While serving his term in the New Jersey Provincial Congress in Aug 1775, Scott got himself appointed Captain of the 6th company in Col Maxwell’s 2nd New Jersey Battalion (“Jersey Blues”) (letter from the Convention of New Jersey to the Board of War 16 Aug 1776). The unit formed in December and marched up the Hudson Valley, through Crown Point and into Canada, arriving after the failed attempt on Quebec City (pension record of Jonathan Catterlin, (S.12444, (accessed at ). Catterlin served in Scott’s company).

    Following the episode you describe, Scott was transferred to the army at Harlem Heights and found himself in command of a whale boat attempting a landing on Montressor Island (also Known as “Randall’s Island” in the Hudson. Washington’s orders of 29 Sep 1776 announce the court martial of Capt Weisner and Capt Scott who were found guilty of cowardice before the enemy during that engagement. They were found guilty and cashiered from the Army on 2 Nov 1776 (

    John Budd Scott next appears in New York City where he married Elizabeth Betts In Trinity Church on 26 May 1779. Curiously, he was appointed by “Royal Charter” as a “Governour of King’s College” (The Saint Nicholas Society of the City of New York: History, Customs, Record of Events, Constitution, Certain Genealogies, and Other Matters of Interest, Vol 1, (Princeton University Press, 1905), pg 249). Scott was also appointed by the British Commander-In-Chief (Clinton) as “Translator of Languages” to his Majesty’s British Troops. Of course King’s College (now Columbia University) was closed during this period, so being appointed as a “Governour” was simply a way to provide him with a title and money in gratitude for … what? Perhaps a reward for “translating” Arnold’s secret correspondence with the British. Digging deep we also find an almost invisible reference to him in the employ of Loyalist Colonel and intelligence officer Beverly Robinson, where Scott appears performing un-named duties on the muster rolls of Robinson’s “Loyal American Regiment” (LAR) ( Beverly Robinson was one of Benedict Arnold’s early and principal contacts on the British side, and along with John Andre, was one of Arnold’s principle handlers throughout his defection. Arnold’s residence while at West Point was in Robinson’s home (across the river from West Point); Robinson was aboard HMS Vulture at the time of Arnold’s defection, and was also one of the three “witnesses” appointed by Henry Clinton to attend Andre’s trial and execution (many sources).

    1. There’s disagreement about whether the Captain Scott tried for cowardice at Montressor’s Island was the Captain John Budd Scott described in this article. The Founder’s Online link above claims it was the same man, but gives no evidence. It doesn’t seem likely.
      John Budd Scott would have had to leave the northern army at the end of July or early August, join a regiment and be given a command in time for the failed attack on Montresor’s Island at the end of September, then return to the northern army to be arrested by Col. Maxwell for embezzlement in October. Highly unlikely.
      The Captain Scott who was tried for cowardice is surely a different man (there were several captains named Scott in the Continental army and militias at the time). A worthy pursuit would be to learn more about who he was, and whether he was actually brought to trial given that no record of a trial is known to exist.

  • Jim, a very interesting set of “what ifs”. Could you provide some references for your comments on Robinson being one of Arnold’s earliest contacts and handlers? I would like to read more about this.

    1. Ken;
      Apologies for the delay in responding, I was otherwise engaged.

      To the task – what references document loyalist Colonel Beverly Robinson as an early participant in Arnold’s defection and establish him as one of Arnold’s handlers?
      The ground is well covered, and I readily defer to your expertise regarding anything spook and spy. Robinsons participation is very well documented, and was well known in the immediate aftermath of the event; somehow the import of his participation faded as time passed and the focus became Andre. First, look to the “examination” of Andre by the Board of General Officers (it was not a “trial”), and second, to the military “examination” of Joshua Hett Smith. Smith was a civilian, the military court heard evidence on the charge of aiding and abetting Arnold’s treason and the enemy, but in the end found they lacked jurisdiction to try a civilian. Washington ordered him turned him over to civil authorities who dithered in their prosecution. Smith escaped from the Fishkill jail in women’s clothes and fled to New York City, then left the country. (Henry B. Dawson, ed., Record of the Trial of Joshua Hett Smith, Esq., for Alleged Complicity in the Treason of Benedict Arnold. 1780 (Morrisania, New York, 1866). In his defense Smith describes Robinsons role in the end game of Arnold’s defection, reinforced in Smith’s later published (and embellished) account, “Narrative of the Death of John Andre” (

      Of course the letter from Robinson to Arnold purportedly dated “May 1779” is often cited as the British overture to Arnold which induced him to defect. However there is some doubt that this letter may have been inserted into the record after the fact. Indeed the parallelism between this letter and Arnolds subsequent 7 Oct 1780 “explanation” is undeniable. Unquestionably Arnold’s explanation was written under British guidance in hopes it would form an inducement to other Americans to abandon the war or to defect. The parallel theme of the two both call out criticism of the French alliance, however if Arnold actually was so critical of the alliance we would expect to see such a strenuous objection reflected in his correspondence prior to his defection; and it is conspicuous in its absence.

      The obvious primary source for Robinson-Arnold correspondence, under a variety of assumed names, lies in “The Papers of Sir Henry Clinton”, which were acquired by and reside at the Clement Library, U Michigan (very unfortunately not digitized). Numerous authors (Lea: “A Hero and Spy”, Wilson, Randal, Wallace, etc. Michael Kranish’s “Flight from Monticello” being the most recent) have cited Clinton Papers content (directly or indirectly) in works regarding Arnold and Andre, although these would be secondary sources at best, and there’s no substitute for direct reading of the extensive Clinton Papers (which are divided into well indexed volumes).

      One letter not generally well known is the letter from Andre to Robinson, 6 Oct 1779, found in the Harvard U. Arnold collection (digital copy from Arnold Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard U, ). Andre writes:

      “The Commander in Chief[Clinton] has reviewed your letter and desires you would employ the man you speak of on the Service proposed, he will give the required Reward for any dispatches of Importance and aproportion where there shall have been evident enterprise and int[elligence]. He leaves you the care of not suffering ourselves to be imposed upon.”

      Andre’s language confirms Robinson’s ongoing first-person management of Arnold’s information flow and payment negotiations, both prior to this date and to onward. This is logical given that at that time Sir Henry Clinton, with Andre attending as Adjutant General, was engaged in substantial preparations to oversee the southern campaign. They departed New York, after delays, in December 1779. While they were besieging Charleston, Robinson was detailed to handle Arnold.

      Arnold’s choice of headquarters at West Point seems based on Robinson’s involvement. Robinson’s Hudson home was available for previous West Point commanders to inhabit, but they had declined for obvious military reasons: it was two miles from West Point and on the wrong side of the Hudson. It could have been cut off by land or by water. Arnold alone found it suitable for his purpose. The status of Robinson’s appropriated house and land provided cover story for meetings between Robinson and Arnold, which Arnold shared with his aides, Col Lamb, and other officers. Arnold issued passes to Robinson for this purpose, and it was under one of these passes that Andre, as “Anderson”, landed for the fateful meeting at Smith’s.

      Yes, a great deal of the evidence is circumstantial. But, as you well know, there is more in this situation than usually available in clandestine matters. That should get you started. Good luck; I’ll be interested in what you make of it.

  • Excellent article Ennis! This suggests an answer to a lot of questions I had about why Arnold was held in dubious, if not low, regard by many of his fellow officers after the Canada campaign. George Reid’s letter to his brother from Fort Edward in July of 1777, following the retreat from Ticonderoga/Mount Independence, makes the casual observation that “Gen. B. Arnold arrived here yesterday, for what purpose I can’t yet tell”, which is an interesting way to describe the event.

  • You know I appreciate your thorough Revolutionary War research, Ennis, as I have mentioned it to you in person on a previous occasion.

    This is another excellent piece of work. Glad you mentioned John Brown. He is one of my favorite patriots because he was the first person to tag Arnold in print as a potential traitor several years before the dastardly deed transpired. I hope Jim Martin sees this article and comments. I also hope we see some new work on Seth Warner soon.

  • Don;
    You’re right, interesting possibilities. Mr. Duling covers “Scott confusion” in his footnotes (37, 38). That confusion means its not certain that the 2nd NJ Scott and the Montessor Island Scott are mutually exclusive. After becoming intensely disliked at Ft Ticonderoga in August, Scott could have been conveniently re-assigned elsewhere; or rewarded by Arnold with a transfer. The Montessor Island attack, two months later (22-23 Sep 1776), was hodge-podge by volunteers, officers from various units and states, and unnamed troops. Wisner is attributed as in command of NY levies just before the attack. At Wisner’s court martial for cowardice before the enemy, testimony was given that when Wisner cowered, his panicked commands caused his boat to foul the oars of the other boat (with Scott in command), temporarily immobilizing both; testimony possibly sufficient to have pulled the noose from Scott’s neck (Washington’s orders, note 2, at As a result of the Montessor Isle affair and death of the popular Henley, having become intensely disliked for a second time, Scott could have been shipped back from whence he came. The timing and correspondence of his 2nd NJ court martial would be illuminating, especially with Maxwell’s promotion to Brigadier General in Oct and re-assignment to New Jersey. In terms of travelling down the Hudson valley and back to Champlain, there was plenty of time for Scott to have done so between the Hazen trial and Montessor (almost two months) and then between Montessor and his cashiering (6 weeks – or two weeks between Wisner’s CM and Scott’s cashiering). There were plenty of troops and supplies flowing back and forth to the Champlain region, especially with the NJ brigade’s enlistments about to run out in November (Scott’s unit would have run out at the same). Obviously Maxwell made the trip… again, Scott’s NJ court martial would be informative. I’m not saying it happened, but that it cannot be ruled out.

    Why-ever he was cashiered, its more curious that John Budd Scott was later rewarded so lavishly by the Crown and by Clinton; essentially for a short stint in the Jersey volunteers and then raising a company of deserters to serve in the Legion and “retiring” in 1778. There has to be more reason for the later awards of a faux governorship at the militarily-occupied King’s College and assignment as “Translator for British Troops”. Could it be the same guy entered in Beverly Robinson’s LAR rolls; and could that entry point to a roll in a higher-stakes game? If it is the same man on the LAR roll, then he also might have accompanied Arnold to Virginia, as that LAR company is documented there. Like you said, “Scott” s a common name; common enough to not require an alias. The Scott mystery is a really good one, a great subject to write on for Ennis’ JAR debut – great debate!

    And I just saw Ken’s question, will respond to that after assembling the sources.

  • For more on what Benedict Arnold focused his time on during the summer of 1776 and his brilliant defense of Lake Champlain, see my article that will appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Revolution. Title: “Benedict Arnold: Natural Born Military Genius.” If it was always all about money for BA, then what was he doing preparing to challenge a major British invasion force moving south onto Lake Champlain from Canada instead of grabbing some filthy lucre somewhere else for himself. As for John Brown, his contribution that summer consisted of bad mouthing BA among Congressional delegates in Philadelphia at the very time that BA was helping to construct a patriot fleet with the near impossible, suicide-like assignment of stopping a British advance seeking to overrun the rebellious colonies from the North. Brown’s comments were so intentionally derogatory that delegate Samuel Chase of Maryland wrote to BA in August 1776: “Your best friends are not your countrymen,” hardly encouraging words to receive while preparing to go up against an undoubtedly superior British military force and naval fleet. As for Hazen, he contributed little more than dissension that summer. And in regard to General Maxwell, who also did nothing of note that summer, Arnold was an “evil genius” for having fought off the British. BA should have been saving the patriot fleet rather than engaging in combat against a more powerful enemy. Samuel Chase was right, much more than he realized. BA’s best friends were not always his carping countrymen.

    1. JKM;
      I must confess that I am thoroughly enamored of “American Warrior Revisited”. I am certain that you have presented Arnold’s case EXCATLY as he would have done. I have two copies; the one on my shelf, and my paper copy with dog-ears, sticky-notes and color codes that I refer to any time I’m considering an Arnold question and want to properly frame both sides of the response… and there’s almost always another side. For example, you posted Arnold’s activity in the summer of ’76, during which it could be argued that Arnold reaped exactly what he’d sewn the previous winter and spring.

      – Even you, the “Arch-Arnold-Advocate”, wrote that in February ‘76 Arnold “was not so judicious” in sending the smear letter to Congress about John Brown for a matter which you note was already under examination by commanders in Canada. You can’t very well condemn Brown for travelling to Philadelphia during the militarily quiet summer of ’76 to defend himself, nor should Arnold have been surprised at Brown’s retaliation.

      – Likewise, Arnold’s charges against Hazen for the trifling matter of failing to properly receive and safeguard the goods shipped from Montreal was great example of him digging in over a trivial matter which cost him a great deal of time and energy. In this case the perceived slight appears not so much Hazen’s actual argument against his dubious plan to leapfrog Forester’s retreat from Cedars and Ft Ann, but more its resulting loss of a “glory opportunity” to buttress the perception management campaign he’d been pursuing with the Congressional commissioners in Canada. After successfully wining and dining the commissioners for months to curry favor and convince them of his military prowess, “BA” couldn’t reveal that he’d concocted a fallible plan or that his officers didn’t unquestionably follow his leadership, so as you note he lied in his report to the commissioners. By lashing out at Hazen over a trivial matter, trying to pack the board for the court martial, prompting Scott to overstate his case, BA created a situation he couldn’t back down from and had to suffer through; that’s what this article was about.

      – As to Arnold’s involvement with the construction of the Champlain fleet… He is consistently over-credited. The fleet was Schuyler’s idea, already implemented before Arnold returned from Canada, with construction begun as early as April under the guidance of Hermanus Schuyler and Jeduthan Baldwin. But in addition to a shortage of shipbuilding components, they lacked military stores necessary to properly arm the vessels. Schuyler wrote to Washington with the status of construction, requesting support, on 12 June. Later, after Arnold’s arrival in Albany, knowing Arnold’s favor with Washington, on 25 June Schuyler asked Arnold to support his plan by writing Washington, which Arnold did and to good effect. “American Warrior Revisited” notes that David Waterbury arrived 15 July to take control of daily shipbuilding oversight. It also notes that Gates wanted Arnold to relocate from Ft Ti to Skenesborough, and told Arnold to do so twice to get him away from the field grade officers at Ft Ti. But you note Arnold only made a touch-and-go visit. As a result of Gates orders, “BA” travelled there 23 July, where he found the first three gundalows built and two more nearly finished, and returned to Ft Ti 26 July (Hazen’s Court martial was 31 July -2 Aug). Arnold next travelled to Skenesborough when the fleet was ready to sally forth, departing Ft Ti 6 Aug and departing Skenesborough with his fleet on 9 Aug, to arrive at Ft Ti 10 Aug. It appears his sole contribution to construction, other than his brief appearance at the construction site, was correspondence forwarding on Waterbury’s catalogue of critically needed supplies. Otherwise, Arnold left construction to Waterbury, who, along with Schuyler, is under-credited.

      – I do agree that Arnold conducted a brilliant defense of Champlain from 15 August to 12 October, but don’t agree that Maxwell’s plan should be summarily dismissed. Carleton didn’t appear on the lake until 10 Oct, so late in the year that impending winter was the American’s best defense. There were options to the plan Arnold settled upon. Preserving the fleet via a delaying strategy, withdrawing the American fleet further south for mutual support near Ft Ticonderoga and Mt Independence where Carleton would have had a more difficult time attacking, was a valid strategy. Preservation of the American fleet would have represented a real threat to British logistical support that they would have needed to consider and to counter, consuming additional time. There are arguments for both strategies; six of one, a half dozen of the other, and Arnold played his pair of threes. Had Arnold been able to destroy more of the British fleet at Valcour, his position further north would have allowed additional advantages relative to forces in the region; and Arnold was offensive minded – he played the hand the way it appealed to him. As it happened, the Valcour fight only delayed the British landing at Crown Point by two days; after which Carleton lingered for two weeks then withdrew. What was wrong with Maxwell’s idea was not that it was bad, but that he continued to bandy it about after the fact as a Monday-morning quarterback. Arnold’s stand at Valcour was a decision which he made with the best information available to him at the time, and as someone who has been forced to make military decisions, Arnold gets my full support. It shouldn’t have been second-guessed except as a learning point (which wasn’t Maxwell’s intent). I imagine you’ll touch upon that as well as the unstated third strategy in your upcoming article, which I’m sure to enjoy.

      As I said, there’s a flip side to every assertion in the continuing Arnold debate. Being enamored doesn’t mean I agree, but appreciate your work as a consummate representation of the Arnold point of view. In the Arnold debate I try to neither condemn nor condone, but ensure all cards on the table. While agreeing Arnold’s defection was a decision he came to over time, it strikes me that his disillusionment with Congress descended more from his perceived slights in their relations to him than from some noble conclusion that they had failed the revolutionary cause (though that was a part of it). Similarly, I don’t agree that Arnold was solely “in it for the money”. However I do think that his family history led him to an insatiable quest for notoriety (not “fame” so much as “reputation”). In his time that could be attained via a title (royal), wealth, or military glory (in the Amherst style). The title was out of reach, so wealth initially was his means to achieve the respectability he craved. When the revolution came along military glory was attainable. He pursued both simultaneously and didn’t understand why that was a problem. Further, in the Amherst style, death upon the battlefield was the ultimate glory, which at least partially explains his battlefield recklessness. I find the pro-Arnold camp tends to overlook events that reflect poorly on him, and to consistently interpret debatable actions to his benefit; while the anti-Arnold camp overlooks his significant contributions to the early war and relies too heavily on statements made post-treason.

      Thanks for weighing in, and thanks JAR for the opportunity for exchange! I hope Ennis doesn’t mind I’ve hijacked his comment section and that other readers at least tolerate my imposition.

  • Jim, I am most appreciative of the comprehensive response. Your information and references should provide many hours of solid research on this subject.
    One point, in a letter to, I believe a relative as I do not have the document with me, Clinton stated that Arnold was the “write-in” volunteer. I think it is important to be clear that Arnold was not manipulated into becoming a traitor, Peggy’s probable encouragement not withstanding. He did so based upon his own ego.
    Again sincere thanks for sharing your research expertise.

  • Jim, good point. The old saw is that money, Peggy, and /or the devil made him do it. In reality, BA went through a long period of growing disillusionment with the patriot cause, of which he originally was an enthusiastic proponent. In time, the weight of people and events that demeaned him personally–think honor and reputation–turned his disillusionment into a bad case of bitterness toward a cause that he originally cared deeply about but that, in his mind, was falling far short in measuring up to its pronounced ideals. Thus he was ripe to transfer his allegiance back to the British, and go back he did. In the end, he committed the act of treason twice in his life–and forever ruined his reputation as an invaluable patriot in the process.

  • Nicely researched article, Ennis.

    This is my opinion obviously, but the whole court martial affair was inconsequential and valueless. It was a kangaroo court that Gates had the smarts to shut down. The only item of amusement is when Arnold in effect called out members of the presiding board to challenge him to a duel if they felt he had defamed their honor. That is one of the best challenges I’ve heard.

    First and most importantly, unlike many of the other officers in these proceedings, Arnold was actually preparing a naval force to prevent the British from taking Ticonderoga/Crown Point and possibly setting them up for the destruction of New England and the Continental Army. Each day he was taken away from that project hurt their chances of success.

    Second, whether Hazen felt the goods were plundered for Arnold’s personal use or not is irrelevant. The fact that Arnold was ordered by the Canadian Commission to seize goods for the army’s survival makes one question Hazen’s motives in not protecting the goods.

    An episode lost in this whole incident is the credit due to Arnold in the Cedars affair. To put the Cedars situation in perspective, this was in response to the capture of Major Henry Sherburne and about one hundred troops by British Captain George Forster after he just captured a few hundred Continentals stationed at the Cedars. Arnold led a force to rescue the prisoners as Captain Forster started to retreat. It’s interesting how that tended to happen when a British detachment received word of Arnold’s approach. To make a long story short, and I’m paraphrasing here, the prisoners were treated horribly, clothes stripped, everything plundered, and apparently a couple of troops were brutally killed by Forster’s Native American allies. Arnold wanted vengeance and planned an attack on where Forster was entrenched. After some back and forth communication, Forster sent over terms for an unequal exchange which also threatened to have the prisoners killed. Arnold’s response clearly stated that the exchange had to be equal or he would be taking out his vengeance on Forster and his allies. Arnold secured the best out of the situation considering almost all of his field officers didn’t want to attack, and he didn’t want to chance the lives of the 500 or so prisoners.

    Hazen likely carried a grudge from his argument with Arnold on whether to attack Forster’s force. Based on Arnold’s military track record before and after this event, it’s hard to dispute that Arnold could assess a given situation as good as any other officer and take the best possible action if necessary. So it’s hard to go against Arnold in this situation, except when it comes to making his point.

    It’s interesting to note that Hazen was subject to a second court-martial. He was alleged to assault French Canadians retreating from Canada with goods in Chambly. One of those individuals was a captain of the Canadian militia under commissions from Wooster and Sullivan. During the court martial he used a similar tactic of making accusations against the accusers.

    1. We so desperately want to vindicate Arnold. Its human nature to want to see the best in a person, and Arnold made that hard. Unfortunately, his conduct in this affair is not reflective of an episode in which he deserves vindication, rather, it’s an example of his own vindictive behavior foiling rightful accolades for holding a vagabond, rag-tag army together in the face of disease, poverty, and retreat from the failed invasion. The congressional commissioners, at least Carroll and Chase (a one-time business partner of Arnold’s), were providing reports favorable to Arnold but he sullied himself by attempting retribution against Hazen. What we see here is Arnold accusing Hazen, not the other way around. This is Arnold being vindictive, his grudge, not Hazen’s.

      Arnold’s plan to rescue the Cedars prisoners required travelling by water down and across the Ottawa river, at night, to leapfrog Forster’s force; a force at least equal and perhaps greater in number than Arnold’s own. This maneuver would have placed the Americans between Forster and potential reinforcements to the west, and cut off the Americans from any hope of support from their own lines. A loss, or even a draw, would have left Montreal virtually defenseless. It was a high-risk military maneuver at the best, and depended upon achievement of complete surprise. Surprise was unlikely given the position of Forster’s native allies, who, it was further argued, would murder the prisoners upon detection of an attack. Hazen’s comments regarding the attentiveness of the natives were accurate and remain unchallenged, the collective reasoning sound. The vote went against Arnold; he didn’t like that.

      The “goods” Arnold entrusted Scott to transport to Chambly are stated as “goods”, not “provisions”. This is a situation in which semantics are important. The commissioners, to prevent looting, authorized the seizure of “provisions” for which our troops are “in immediate want of”. They were specific in their language. There is a difference between “provisions” and merchandise necessary to satisfy “the immediate want” of the army and “goods”. The record is clear in using the term “goods”, Arnold himself used the term, and it can be equally concluded that if they were necessary to satisfy “immediate want” they would have been distributed rather than transported back to Ticonderoga. Hazen, who had married a Canadian and had been living nearby for many years, may have believed Scott was transporting “goods” that exceeded the characterization of “immediate want” to the detriment of the reputation of the army. Hazen defended himself by saying that that Scott had not provided him with direction for what to do with the goods, no proof that General Arnold had ordered their transport, and that he had no place to store them anyway. The implication is that Hazen thought Scott might be plundering. When Arnold confronted Hazen, Hazen’s immediate reaction was to demand a court martial to clear his name of any wrongdoing. Arnold countered with formal charges, to ensure that Hazen was on the defensive and to prevent any counterclaims of plundering which Hazen might provide.

      Arnold had good reason to squelch those counterclaims. As I noted in a previous post, Arnold did not comprehend that his commercial and military quests were incompatible. In evaluating the whole Arnold we cannot overlook Arnold’s economic endeavors in Canada. American officers in Canada, and eventually Continental Congress, were well aware of Arnold’s profiteering during the Canadian expedition and what they perceived to be his deliberate preparation to ship Quebec “goods” home. Arnold’s elephant in the room lay wrecked 200 yards from Quebec harbor. Arnold’s brigantine “Peggy” was destroyed as a fire ship launched in a last ditch and unreinforced attempt on ships in Quebec harbor, and is often cited as one of Arnold’s noble sacrifices to the cause. “Peggy” was anything but that; neither noble or a sacrifice. In late August or September 1775, after Arnold was named commander of the expedition to Quebec, “Peggy” set sail, turning up later that fall in the Saint Lawrence between Montreal and Quebec. How nice it would have been if Arnold had arranged for a cargo of food, clothing, and blankets to have met his “famine-proof” troops at the far end of their trek. But no, “Peggy” carried luxury goods for sale: rum, horses, oats and fodder. Obviously Arnold had ordered her to the St Lawrence in anticipation of his arrival there, planning to profit from the needs of his army. When Arnold straggled out of the woods in November 1775, with winter on the doorstep, we must wonder why he didn’t unload her cargo and order her back to southerly waters. Nobody kept wooden ships in the St Lawrence through the winter. J.K. Martin described how the Americans deliberately scuttled the captured ship “Gaspe” to avoid the ice and then raised her the next spring. “Peggy” was apparently beached on Isle Orleans through the winter to avoid being crushed by ice (she couldn’t be scuttled with her cargo still on board). She didn’t fare well. After drying out and being bounced around on the rocky shore she was barely serviceable. In mid-winter Arnold had soldiers offload her cargo and sold the rum to his own army. By spring, with the British in control of the lower St Lawrence, Peggy was going to be lost to Arnold. She was too big to move into Champlain and would have been taken on sight by the British if she tried to escape to the sea. Arnold did the commercially sensible thing; he condemned her for use as a fire ship. By doing so he ensured she met her end in a military purpose, a purpose for which he could be compensated. When Arnold submitted his bill to Congress (found in Journals of Congress), he included the value of “Peggy” (800L or $2,666.60) and its cargo of rum (110 pounds, 16 shillings, 6 pence or $369), horses (25 at 10L each = 250L), oats (485 bushels, 36L) and fodder (6L) (“Peggy’s” cargo is one reason why his accounts took so long to be settled by Congress. Congress paid for the vessel and rum, but could not find evidence that the horses had been “taken for public use”; and if they weren’t in public service, then they refused to pay for their feed. They also found that Arnold was overcharging for the horses and reduced his bill accordingly. Although Congress allowed that they would pay for the horses and feed if Arnold could prove their public service, Arnold could not find anyone who would certify that 25 horses had been taken from his ship for public service in Canada). Clearly Arnold intended to profit by the sale of Peggy’s cargo. But the question is, and was: why did he have her linger in the St Lawrence? A far more prudent course would have been to order her cargo unloaded when he arrived in November so that she could escape the St Lawrence before either ice or Britain controlled her fate. What possible use would he have had for an empty cargo vessel at Quebec or Montreal in the Spring of ’76? His officers, and Congress, must have reached an unflattering conclusion that rendered his petty plundering charge against Hazen laughable. “Peggy” is forgotten in modern time, but it certainly wasn’t in 1776. Arnold had to know she would be featured in any profiteering and plunder charges countered against him during the name-clearing court martial that Hazen requested. So Arnold seized the initiative, put Hazen on the defensive by pressing a dubious charge, and then tried to control the outcome by gerrymandering the court composition.

      As for distracting Arnold from the task of building the fleet. Simply not true. As my previous post covers, construction was in Waterbury’s able hands. Arnold wasn’t appointed Commodore until the end of June, when he was in Albany; and didn’t return to the Champlain area until around 5 July (relying on memory here). He had time to visit if it had been important, and he only made one quick trip. He was busy packing Hazen’s court with junior, favorable officers until caught, and by the time Hazen’s court was mercifully disbanded, Arnold travelled to Skenesborough to assume command of the ships completed by mid-August. And to agree with your argument, had Arnold not pressed charges against Hazen, ALL of the officers involved would have had time for more productive pursuits… perhaps fortifying Mt Defiance…

      1. Can you please provide the source for “How nice it would have been if Arnold had arranged for a cargo of food, clothing, and blankets to have met his “famine-proof” troops at the far end of their trek. But no, “Peggy” carried luxury goods for sale: rum, horses, oats and fodder. Obviously Arnold had ordered her to the St Lawrence in anticipation of his arrival there, planning to profit from the needs of his army. When Arnold straggled out of the woods in November 1775, with winter on the doorstep, we must wonder why he didn’t unload her cargo and order her back to southerly waters.”

        I’m researching the Peggy, and I’d like to read/listen further.

        1. Jeanette,
          Peggy came to Quebec with a Caribbean cargo in August and was preparing to export horses, fodder and fish on a late fall sail to somewhere on the Atlantic trade routes before her departure was interrupted by the invasion — the Peggy and cargo were then sold (by someone acting as Arnold’s agent?) to prevent government seizure. She was being kept at Ile d’Orleans–downriver from Quebec City–perhaps where the horses had been purchased.
          Looks like a typical Arnold trade arrangement — Carleton and Loyalists derided him as “a horse jockey” after all.
          My notes on the Peggy include:
          From the Quebec Gazette, August 17, 1775 “Custom-House, Quebec, Entered in: … Peggy; John Gordon, from St. Croix” (Gordon was Arnold’s captain per Certification of Charles Lee, below).
          There are important details (including outbound cargo and sale) in the Papers of the Continental Congress (M247), r147, i136, v4
          Certificate of Charles Lee, April 27, 1780, p270
          Certification of Jno Taylor, August 6, 1779, p272
          Certification of William Cross, August 5, 1779, p274
          Hope this is helpful!

  • I re-engaged with this topic while researching my forthcoming book on the Cedars. Circumstantially, I believe that even though Scott was commissioned a captain, he followed conventional practice and held the “major” title when serving as “Town Major” in Montreal. A town major was temporarily appointed at the discretion of senior military officials, and was responsible for day-to-day management of garrison duties, billeting, discipline and other civil-military affairs in a city. Scott would have reverted to being “Captain Scott” when not actively executing those duties. I cannot find explicit orders confirming Scott’s appointment as a town major, but there are hints in the records.
    The 27 May 1776 Commissioners in Canada letter (note 5 in the article) says that it was the “town major” who was directed to gather provisions or merchandise needed for the troops—and this would explain Scott’s subsequent active role in delivering the goods “he had in charge” to Hazen. George Nicholson also noted that “Captain Scott” held some of the goods that Nicholson had seized during service as the Montreal town major before 7 March 1776—presumably custody of these confiscated goods would be transferred to successive town majors (October 1776, AA Ser. 5, 2: 1392).
    Arnold appears to be the only individual consistently referring to “Major Scott,” and almost exclusively during the time when Scott was probably the Montreal town major. Arnold made one later reference to “Major Scott” when protesting the Hazen court martial–he may have been applying Scott’s rank based on the period in question, or Scott might even have been filling another temporary position as “brigade major” at the lake forts that summer/fall. One of Scott’s soldiers, Samuel Dunn, mentioned that “Capt. Scott acted as Major at Crown Point” (M804 W.7048)—since the Second New Jersey’s Major David Rhea does not appear to have been absent during this timeframe, presumably Scott would have been serving by appointment on one of the four brigades’ staffs.
    On a separate aspect of this complicated subject, I wholeheartedly agree with Don Hagist’s observation that the timing between events at the lake forts and Montresor’s Island make it highly unlikely that this is the same Captain Scott. In John B. Scott’s 17 October letter to Horatio Gates, the captain indicates that he had already been under arrest at Mount Independence for eleven days (AA, ser. 5, 2: 1103-4).
    And finally, regarding some of the semantic discussion in the comments section between provisions, goods, etc. in regards to Arnold’s ‘guilt’, I don’t believe there was a rigid discrimination between those terms at the time—as an example, on 4 June 1776, Philip Schuyler asked General John Sullivan to “take Measures for bringing away from Montreal all the Goods you possibly can…” (Letters and Papers of Major-General John Sullivan, Continental Army, 1: 215). Additionally, the senior leaders’ very broad guidance was applied to encompass goods that might be used in the Indian trade too—both to deny them to the British for recruiting and supplying Indian allies, and for the use of the army or Continental Northern Indian Department, which was always short of money and material to support its diplomatic efforts.

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