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A Tale Of Three Colonels

A Tale Of Three Colonels

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Published by Charles Francis
The story of how American hero John Allan and American traitor Benedict Arnold lived as neighbors on Passamaquoddy Bay islands long after the American Revolution and how Benedict Arnold's son James redeemed the Arnold name.
The story of how American hero John Allan and American traitor Benedict Arnold lived as neighbors on Passamaquoddy Bay islands long after the American Revolution and how Benedict Arnold's son James redeemed the Arnold name.

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Published by: Charles Francis on Apr 11, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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A Tale of Three Colonels By Charles Francis Early that morning, before opening his store, John Allan stood

looking out to sea. Campobello, the island that serves as the dividing point between Passamaquoddy Bay and the Bay of Fundy, bulked clear in the bright morning sunlight but the waters out towards Grand Manan were obscured by a fog bank rolling in with the tide. Between Campobello and Treat's Island, which Allan owned and where he had his store, a small pink was tacking up the bay. Allan wondered if it would make land ahead of the fog. In the time that passed since he had stood looking out to sea, Allan worked on his ledger and waited on customers. At some point the fog arrived, blotting out the sun and creating an other worldly atmosphere of swirling, gray dampness. Looking out the window after putting another log on the fire, Allan saw a dog seeming to materialize out of the mists barely five feet from the store only to disappear after taking a few steps. Turning from the window, he went back to his desk and his ledger. Suddenly the door swung open and a man in a sodden great coat and broad-brimmed hat dripping beads of moisture stepped in, bringing tendrils of fog along with him. As Allan looked at the man his brow creased with perplexity. There was something about the man that had more than a hint of the familiar. John Allan, or, more properly, Colonel John Allan, is one of the Patriot heroes of the American Revolution. Born in Scotland's Edinburgh Castle, Allan came to Nova Scotia as a child and lived much of his adolescence and early adulthood in Cumberland Township at the head of the Bay of Fundy. Here he married Mary Patten and began to raise a family. A respected member of the Tatamagouche region, he was elected to the Nova Scotia Legislative Assembly in 1775. The next year his seat was declared vacant by reason of non-attendance. The reason for Allan's non-attendance at the sessions of the Nova Scotia Legislature was simple. He was in active rebellion against George III: first by attempting to wrest Fort Cumberland, one of the forts that commanded the Chignecto isthmus, out of British hands. When the attempt failed, Allan, branded traitor, fled to Machias in what is now the State of Maine. From there he continued on to Boston to volunteer his services to the Patriot cause. All the while his family was in Halifax, his wife in prison, separated from the children. John Allan held the office of Superintendent of the (American) Federal Government's Eastern Indian Department from the close of the Revolution until 1794. Prior to that he was appointed by Massachusetts as military commander of all Indian tribes in the Commonwealth, which at that time included Maine. In that capacity he was instrumental in securing the aid of the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, and Maliseet in wresting much of southwestern Nova Scotia from British hands. Had it not been for Allan's efforts all of Maine east of the Penobscot River might well be a part of New Brunswick. Now, as the retired colonel looked at the dripping figure who had just entered his store, a glimmer of memory from his days as a soldier serving under George Washington came to him. The vaguely familiar figure looked as if he might once have been powerful. Though he ran to fat, it was evident he had once been well muscled. Even though his clothes were on the shabby side, he carried himself well. There was even something reminiscent of the military in his bearing. His face, once he had taken his hat off, showed remnants of strength of character that had suffered from too much alcohol or perhaps even drugs. The man's eyes had a haunted look, constantly

shifting and seeming unwilling to meet Allan's quizzical look. Then the stranger spoke. "Colonel Allan, I wonder if I might purchase some supplies?"

With the sound of the man's voice, John Allan's mind went back in time some twenty years to the summer of 1775 and Cambridge, Massachusetts, when General George Washington had given him his orders to proceed to the eastern frontier to persuade and organize the tribes there to fight the British. That same summer another young colonel had received orders from General Washington to proceed east also. That colonel's orders involved the most audacious plan of the entire war: an attack, which, if successful, would add Quebec to the rebelling thirteen colonies. This was the man who now stood in John Allan's store on Treat's Island. The man was none other than Benedict Arnold. Colonel John Allan is a legitimate American hero who earned commendations from George Washington. Benedict Arnold is viewed as an American pariah for his perfidy in turning over the plans for West Point to the British and for becoming a British officer. At best he was treated as a social outcast in England as well as in the Maritimes. That both men would spend a portion of their last years as near neighbors and have business dealings is one of the great quirks of history. Included in this bit of historic irony is that Colonel James Robertson Arnold, Benedict Arnold's son and the man in part responsible for making the Citadel in Halifax the true Gibraltar of the North, also visited Fundy's western shores to see where his father and for a time the entire Arnold family lived in ignominy. On the surface it would appear that Colonel John Allan and Colonel Benedict Arnold were complete opposites. Yet the lives and careers of the two have some surprising parallels. John Allan and Benedict Arnold were almost of an age. Allan was born in 1746 and died in 1805. Arnold was born in 1741 and died in 1801. Both men were shopkeepers in civilian life. Allan ran a general merchandise store and Arnold an apothecary. It is in their military careers, however, that one finds the greatest degree of similarity, at least up until the time Arnold became a turncoat. Both colonels got their first important assignments at the same time and both assignments were centered in what would become the State of Maine. Arnold, however, failed in his while Allan was successful up to a point. Arnold did not succeed in adding Quebec to the rebelling thirteen colonies while Allan added a portion of Nova Scotia to what is now Maine. In part John Allan's assignment was to keep the eastern tribes from joining forces with the British. In June of 1775, Allan brought a group of Penobscot leaders to meet with the Massachusetts Provincial Congress in Watertown. The Penobscots, who had been complaining of white settlers on their traditional lands, were persuaded by Allan to aid the Patriot cause in exchange for needed provisions. Important as this accomplishment was, it was Allan's work with tribes further to the east, particularly the Passamaquoddy, that had the greatest impact. To gain the support of the Passamaquoddy, Allan first negotiated a treaty with the Maliseet and the Mi'kmaq. The treaty required these two tribes to try to persuade the Passamaquoddy to provide troops for Washington's army. While most Maliseet and Mi'kmaq were at best nominal allies to the Patriot cause, they did fulfill that part of the treaty relating to the Passamaquoddy. It must be understood that at this time communities on the western shore of the Bay of Fundy were largely ignored by the government at Halifax. For example, when Machias applied to Halifax for a town charter, it was refused. Machias then turned

to Massachusetts, which granted the request. Maugerville, one of the settlements which would eventually serve as a foundation for St. John, was in even a more noman's-land set of circumstances. Although it tended to look to Massachusetts for leadership, officials there viewed it as too far to the east to maintain close ties. However, Colonel Allan did travel up the St. John River and gain support from some Maliseet there, the most notable being the sub chief Pierre Tomah. It was the Passamaquoddy, though, who were to prove Allan's chief bulwark. In the summer of 1775, Machias forces captured several vessels out of Halifax, including the armed schooner Margaretta. In retaliation Sir George Collier sent a force of British regulars to occupy the town. The British arrived expecting to overawe an unprepared local rabble. What they found instead were armed earthworks. Upon landing and forming into ranks, the soldiers marched on the defenders. Suddenly, as if from nowhere, Passamaquoddy erupted with loud war whoops and charged the astonished troops, who turned tail and fled back to their ship. From then on Machias was left alone. For the rest of the war Allan's Passamaquoddy served as patrols and spies, passing on information to Allan who in turn passed it on to General Washington. Largely because of the Passamaquoddy the British stayed east of the St. Croix River. With the close of the war John Allan moved to Treat's Island, off Moose Island where Eastport is today. There he opened his store and began a successful shipping business. With the withdrawal of the British from the thirteen colonies, Benedict Arnold and his family moved to London. When he and his family were treated as outcasts there, they returned to North America, living in Halifax and St. John, where Arnold opened an apothecary. However, the New Brunswick Loyalists- New Brunswick had become a province in 1786- didn't want anything to do with him either. In fact they boycotted his business and then ransacked it. Finally Arnold separated from his family and moved to Passamaquoddy Bay, an area that was neither clearly British nor American. Eventually, he returned to London where he died. James Robertson Arnold was a child at the conclusion of the Revolution. In 1788, he became one of the first students to enroll at King's College in Windsor, Nova Scotia. He went on to become an officer in the British army serving with the Royal Engineers. From 1818 to 1825 he was stationed in Halifax, where, with the rank of colonel, he was in charge of refurbishing the Citadel. While Colonel Arnold only began the work and it was completed by his successor, the Citadel began to take on the look that it has today while James Arnold was in command. While he was in Halifax James Arnold sailed to St. John to visit the house he and his family had lived in. What he thought during the visit is anyone's guess. John Allan's store ledgers carry the record of the many transactions Benedict Arnold made there. Perhaps the most ironic aspect of this Bay of Fundy tale is that it involves two colonels who were branded as traitor. One, however, went on to become a hero, the other to live in ignominy. Yet, the hero treated the outcast with a degree of humanity that the outcast probably could not have found elsewhere. As for Colonel James Robertson Arnold, he would seem proof that the sins of the father are not passed on to the son.

Author's note:

While the description of initial meeting of John Allan and

Benedict Arnold is purely conjecture, the only way Arnold could have gotten to Treat's Island for supplies was by boat. Arnold's sojourn in Passamaquoddy Bay was the lowest point in his life. Among other things his wife, the former Philadelphia socialite Peggy Shippen, refused to live in the sordid condition's Arnold was willing to accept there. Arnold's abuse of alcohol is documented. Extensive drug abuse, while more a matter for speculation, is suspected. As for Mary Patten Allan, she was eventually released from her incarceration in Halifax. She and the Allan children were reunited with John Allan in Massachusetts.

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