Not even contemporaries of Benedict Arnold knew how much was in the lost chest of gold. Supposedly lost beneath one of the falls of the Chaudire River, on the abortive march against the walls of Qubec, the loot has never been found.
During Arnolds famous court martial in Philadelphia, he was asked to account for the money, and while the one-day traitor did produce sketchy records accounting for $5000, the remainder was lost in the forest wilderness of Maine, he claimed.
It all began in the summer of 1775, when the swarthy Colonel Benedict Arnold appeared before George Washington in Cambridge and laid before the new commander a plan for the capture of Qubec. Arnold went on to explain that he knew every rock of the famous bastion, as well as both routes, having frequently gone to the French city on horse-trading junkets. One wing of the expedition would go by way of Lake George, Champlain, and the Richelieu River. The other would proceed through the Maine wilderness. The pincer would snip off the walled city like a ripe plum. Besides, Arnold pointed out, the French had no love for their new masters.
Washington approved of the expedition, and Philip Schuyler was given command of the western wing, and Arnold was given command of the force that would proceed through the Maine wilderness. To allay the cost of the raising the necessary troops, purchasing supplies, hiring Canuck guides, and a dozen other things, the Virginian turned over an iron war chest to the volatile Arnold, ordering that he keep a record of how the money was spent.
The expedition left Cambridge on September 13, 1775, and headed for Newburyport, where the troops boarded ships, and they finally landed at the mouth of the Kennebec River. Arnold was shocked when he found that the two hundred bateaux awaiting his arrival were in such bad condition as to be practically unusable. Arnold grudgingly paid the carpenters who had constructed the unwieldy rafts out of the great chest, one of the few times his subordinates were to see the money.
In one of the most incredible marches ever made in military history, the little band moved through forests that even today would be difficult for an army to penetrate. With men dropping like flies from dysentery and starvation, Arnold encountered a new foe in the form of an early winter. Reduced to 600 men by desertion, the turning back of one regiment, and death, Arnold was to see his cup filled to overflowing with troubles, when the bateau carrying his personal baggage was crushed in the rapids, depositing the box in ten or twelve feet of icy water.
While no one is certain, the chest and the gold are supposed to be somewhere north of the modern village of Stratton on the Dead River, although many claim it was the Chaudire River.
On December 31, the two rag-tag armies launched an attack on Qubec. Montgomery was killed in the first volley, and the Americans were defeated. In the retreat that followed to the shores of Lake Champlain, the defeated Americans again suffered terribly.
Arnold was never able to pinpoint where he had lost the chest, and it has never been reported found.