Benedict Arnold: From Founding Hero To Traitor
Benedict Arnold: From Founding FatherTo Traitor
The name Benedict Arnold in American lore is synonymous with being a traitor to the United States. And with good reason. Benedict Arnold for his own personal reasons and benefit committed crimes against the American Cause in the Revolutionary War while holding a position of power and prestige. Oddly, this act of disloyalty ruined what would have been one of the most celebrated and distinguished players in America’s fight for Independence.
Benedict Arnold – Before The Treachery
Arnold was born in Norwich, Connecticut in 1761 the second of six children. Arnold was a descendant of John Lothropp, an ancestor of four future U.S. Presidents, including both Bush President and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Arnold showed great intelligence as a child but the death of most of his siblings and his father’s ill health kept him from going to college. When Arnold was 14, he attempted to enlist with the militia in the French-Indian War. His mother refused to give her permission. Arnold eventually deserted the militia.
Arnold returned to Connecticut after the war and became a successful businessman. Angered by the Stamp Act and other measures of the British Parliament, Arnold joined the Sons of Liberty in 1767, a secret group with aims at ousting the British Government.
In 1775 Arnold was chosen as Captain of the Governor’s Second Company of Connecticut Guards for the Revolutionary army. During the early parts of the Revolutionary War, Arnold, along with Ethan Allen, led the expeditionary forces into Canada. Arnold was unpopular with many of his peers but was a respected military leader.
The Battle At Saratoga
The famous Battle of Saratoga was one of the most important battles of the American Revolution. In reality, it was two Battles that occurred in September and October 1777. Both battles were fought nine miles for Saratoga, New York.
The September battle saw the British General, John Burgoyne, win a tactical victory over General Horatio Gates and the Continental Army. In October, Burgoyne attacked to Continental Army again. The American Troops were rallied by Colonel Benedict Arnold and were thrown back to the positions they held before the September battle. Suffering huge casualties, Burgoyne was forced to retreat and surrendered ten days later. Burhoyne’s surrender saw the end of any threat to come out of Canada. The Battle of Saratoga is seen as the turning point in the war as it was a dramatic victory and finally convinced the French to intervene on the side of the Americans.
Arnold was injured at the end of the battle. The History Channel in telling Arnold’s story made the comment that Arnold would have been remembered as a hero had he died at Saratoga. However, his injury did not kill him. Instead, it left it out of service for a year and gave him a limp and need to walk with a cane the rest of his life.
Benedict Arnold – Treachery
After Saratoga, Arnold recuperated first in a New York Hospital and then a hospital in Connecticut. In 1778, Arnold returned to service and arrived at Valley Forge to rejoin his troops where he was welcomed with thundering applause and participated in the first recorded Oath of Allegiance.
When the British Army evacuated Philadelphia, George Washington appointed Arnold the military commander of the City. However, Arnold had decided that he was going to financially benefit from the war. He engaged in numerous business deals regarding supply movements and protection. Arnold’s actions were uncovered by the powerful Joseph Reed.
Reed alleged that Arnold’s actions were illegal and unpatriotic and two began quarreling publicly. By 1779, charges were brought against Arnold. Arnold demanded a full trial in order to clear his name but it was delayed furthering angering Arnold.
Even though Reed was successful in delaying the Court Martial Arnold had his day in Court. In 1780, the Court Martial issued its verdict finding that Arnold was only guilty of trivial charges. However, in order to appease Reed, Arnold received a carefully worded reprimand from General Washington. Arnold was furious and decided to take action.
Arnold had begun a relationship with a British Loyalist and a British General. Arnold began executing a plan to give the British control of the Hudson River. By giving this service to the British, Arnold believed he would be rewarded with power and prestige. In order to achieve his goals, Arnold sought and obtained command of West Point. His plan was to surrender it to the British. However, his British contact was captured and Arnold fled to the British in New York and was properly branded a traitor. Arnold received a demotion in the British Army as a Brigadier-General and led a force into Virginia. Eventually Arnold left the United States for England where he was well received. He remained in England the rest of his life.
Benedict Arnold’s Place in History
Benedict Arnold will forever be remembered as a traitor, and for good reason. After the Battle of Saratoga, Arnold could have joined the other founding fathers in history as one of the great men who founded this Country. However, for reasons of ego and financial benefit, Arnold sold out his countrymen and ensured that his name would be synonymous with treachery and disloyalty.