Benedict Arnold, American traitor, born

Benedict Arnold, American traitor, born



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Benedict Arnold, the American general during the Revolutionary War who betrayed his country and became synonymous with the word “traitor,” was born on January 14, 1741.

Arnold, who was raised in a respected family in Norwich, Connecticut, apprenticed with an apothecary and was a member of the militia during the French and Indian War (1754-1763). He later became a successful trader and joined the Continental Army when the Revolutionary War broke out between Great Britain and its 13 American colonies in 1775.

During the war, Arnold proved himself to be a brave, skilled leader, helping Ethan Allen’s troops capture Fort Ticonderoga in 1775 and then taking part in the unsuccessful attack on British Quebec later that year, which earned him a promotion to brigadier general. Arnold distinguished himself in campaigns at Lake Champlain, Ridgefield and Saratoga, and gained the support of George Washington. However, Arnold had enemies within the military and in 1777, a group of lower-ranking men were promoted ahead of him. Over the next several years, Arnold married a second time and he and his wife led a lavish lifestyle in Philadelphia, racking up substantial debt. Money problems and the resentment Arnold felt over not being promoted faster were factors in his decision to become a turncoat.

In 1780, Arnold was given command of West Point, the American fort on the Hudson River in New York (and future home of the United States Military Academy, established in 1802). Arnold contacted Sir Henry Clinton, head of the British forces, and proposed handing over West Point and its men. On September 21 of that year, Arnold met with British Major John Andre and made his traitorous pact, in which the American was to receive a large sum of money and a high position in the British army. However, the conspiracy was uncovered and Andre was captured and killed. Arnold fled to the enemy side and went on to lead British troops in Virginia and Connecticut. He later moved to England, though he never received all of what he’d been promised by the British. The former American hero and patriot died in London, in relative obscurity, on June 14, 1801.

READ MORE: Why Did Benedict Arnold Betray America?


Benedict Arnold is Born

Today in Masonic History Benedict Arnold is born in 1741.

Benedict Arnold was an American soldier, British soldier and traitor to the American Revolution.

Arnold was born on January 14th, 1741 in Norwich, Connecticut. He was the only surviving son of his parents and had one sister. His family was wealthy, both on his father's side and mother's side. When his siblings passed away from yellow fever his father was devastated and turned to alcohol. His father squandered the family fortune. Matters became worse when Arnold's mother passed away in 1759, his father became so distressed his drinking became worse until he passed away in 1761.

In 1755, Arnold first attempted to join the Connecticut Militia. Being too young, his mother refused permission. In 1757, he signed up again and was accepted into the militia. The militia marched toward Fort William Henry, which was besieged by the French and their Indian allies. The siege ended prior to the Militia's arrival. News of the siege's end and the atrocities which occurred after, caused the Militia to turn around. It is claimed Arnold deserted from his unit. There is no documentation to back this up. Much of Arnold's personal history was re-written in the 19th century to make him more monstrous. His alleged desertion may be a part of the rewrite.

By 1762, Arnold had become a merchant in Connecticut, he ran a pharmacy. He and a partner purchased three trading ships and began trading with the West Indies. He was on a voyage to the West Indies when news reached him about the Boston Massacre. He felt people in the colonies were asleep and needed to wake up and push out the British. Like many business men in the American Colonies he essentially became a smuggler when the Stamp Act and Sugar Act came about. He also joined the Sons of Liberty. In one incident, Arnold and his crew brutally beat a man as members of the Sons of Liberty looked on, the man had reported Arnold as a smuggler to the British.

In 1775, with the start of the Revolution at Lexington and Concord, Arnold once again joined the Connecticut Militia. He marched with his unit to Massachusetts to aide in the battles there. Arnold, while at times not listened to, had a hand in many early victories of the Continental Army. He was promoted several times and became a brigadier general after marching his unit to Quebec. It was also during this time, Arnold made some friends, mostly though he made enemies both in the ranks of the military and in the Continental Congress. He was very bold with his strategies and at times was to rash according to some. A dispute between him and another officer resulted in the other officer making hand bills declaring of Arnold "Money is this man's God, and to get enough of it he would sacrifice his country."

By 1778, Arnold had been passed over for promotions due to political reasons, which George Washington sent a letter to Congress stating it was dangerous to make promotions for political reasons, it could be the downfall of the military. Eventually he was promoted and after an injury in one of the Battles of Saratoga, Congress granted him a return of the seniority he lost when he was passed over for promotion. This was probably a case of too little, too late as Arnold was already frustrated with the American cause and believed it was destined to fail. In 1778, he was put in charge of the military control of Philadelphia. There he met and married a woman who was a British Loyalist and it began Arnold's move to the British side of the war.

Arnold, through his new wife made contact with the British spy master. This began a lengthy negotiation between Arnold and the British spy master Major André. It took almost two years for the men to negotiate a deal, with Arnold at various times threatening to pull out of the deal because he did not like the way he was being treated. It also included a variety of information about troop sizes and locations which Arnold freely provided. Eventually Arnold was put in command of West Point, which controlled the access to the Hudson River and was of huge strategic importance. Once the deal was put in place, about two months after he took command, Arnold began weakening the defenses of West Point. The only thing left was for the two men to meet face to face and for Arnold to deliver the maps to West Point as well as other strategic information. It took several attempts and eventually Arnold delivered the information. When the two met, André came by ship which was attacked after the two men met. Arnold provided documents for André to allow him to pass through the American lines and return to the British. André was caught before he could get to the British lines and Arnold's treachery was discovered. André being caught as a spy was hung. Arnold escaped to New York and joined the British Military.

Arnold served the remainder of the Revolutionary War as a British general. Near the end of the war, Arnold served under Cornwallis and advised him to setup his command headquarters farther inland. Cornwallis dismissed Arnold. Arnold's suggestion may have changed the war since it took the French naval blockade out of the equation. Arnold was almost caught by the Marquis De Lafayette at one point as well. Washington had issued orders if he was captured to hang him immediately.

After the war, Arnold went to England and received an unpleasant reception. Public opinion about him was bad. Many in English society wanted nothing to do with him. Edmund Burke, a Freemason, spoke out against Arnold in the House of Commons stating he hoped the British Military did not put him in any position as to offend the honor of British officers.

Arnold eventually moved to New Brunswick and found similar troubles. At one point, due to people not liking how he did business in the community, burned him in effigy.

Arnold passed away on June 14th, 1801. A legend has it, on his death bed he stated "Let me die in this old uniform in which I fought my battles. May God forgive me for ever having put on another." Although it is believed this was a made up story.

Arnold was a member of Hiram Lodge No. 1 in New Haven, Connecticut. Arnold's history with the fraternity includes it's own legends. It is believed Arnold, while selling out West Point gained the trust of various officers using Masonic modes of recognition to gain their trust. In many lodges in the United States, Arnold's name is not to be mentioned in open lodge. Despite the fact the American colonists of the time committed what was high treason against the British crown, Arnold's betrayal was seen as dishonorable, probably due to the fact his motivation appeared to be purely financial.


Why is Benedict Arnold Considered An American Traitor?

Why is Benedict Arnold Considered A Traitor In American History?

When one thinks of Benedict Arnold, you can’t but help to think of him as a man who let ambition and greed distract him from what was generally important independence. A once treasured American hero, but a man who is now put in the same category as Edward Snowden. How does this happen? How does a man go from a national hero to a national traitor? Benedict Arnold fought for the Americans in the beginning of the American Revolutionary War: a well distinguished general who made an impact for Americans during his span. After his many sacrifices and accomplishments, he began to feel as though he deserved more. As though his contributions to the war had earned him higher standings. However, despite his successes on the battlefield, Arnold was passed over for promotion by the Continental Congress. Him not being promoted was only one of various other reasons he defected to the British Army. Arnold was bitter at the fact that other officers were claiming credit for some of his accomplishments, he felt as though his personal honor had been attacked, and as well his accounts were investigated by Congress and it was found that he was indebted to Congress after spending much of his own money on the war.

After the Battle of Saratoga, a frustrated Benedict Arnold threw in the towel on America and began to make secret negotiations with the British Army. Through his negotiations, Arnold received a commission as a brigadier general for the Brits. He was to lead British forces in raids on Virginia and Connecticut before the America victory at Yorktown, which ended the Revolution and also provide intelligence. Arnold provided them with some troop movement papers. In July 1780, Arnold was awarded command of West Point. Arnold and the British had schemed for Arnold to surrender the fort to the British, however their plan and the troop movement papers were exposed when the message carrier, British Major John.


Before Benedict Arnold was a traitor, he was a patriot

Though justifiably considered a traitor by Americans today, prior to September 1780 Benedict Arnold was justly hailed as an American hero. Two of the reasons are explored in two recent books.

Arnold’s first claim to fame is the subject of Thomas Desjardin’s Through a Howling Wilderness: Benedict Arnold’s March to Quebec, 1775 (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2006, $24.95). The plan was simple: While Brig. Gen. Richard Montgomery attacked Montreal from the west, Colonel Arnold was to take his force up through Maine and attack Quebec City from the south. If the plan was successful, Quebec would leave the British fold.

The plan was simple, the execution far from it. Arnold’s men would have to march through extraordinarily difficult terrain. Unaware that the march was actually twice as long as was shown on his maps, Arnold left Massachusetts with inadequate supplies. Poor weather made navigating up the Kennebec River difficult, and a third of his force deserted with badly needed provisions.

The expedition gradually became a death march as Arnold’s soldiers approached Quebec. There was no relief until they reached Quebec and received aid from the local population.

After Arnold combined his battered force with Montgomery’s, the Americans prepared to attack Quebec City. Although undermanned, the British held the upper hand thanks to their extensive preparations. The result was that Montgomery was killed, Arnold wounded and much of the American force captured.

Although the expedition was a spectacular failure, Desjardin argues that it showed the Americans they could “organize, endure and fight, even on the scale of a coordinated land-and-sea campaign against enemy strongholds.” The epilogue contains a compelling “What if?” exercise that is as interesting as Arnold’s story. The author posits that the failure to take Quebec may have been a blessing in disguise.

Whereas Desjardin focuses solely on the invasion of Quebec, James Nelson’s gripping Benedict Arnold’s Navy: The Ragtag Fleet That Lost the Battle of Lake Champlain but Won the American Revolution (International Marine/Ragged Mountain Press, Camden, Maine, 2006, $24.95) chronicles Arnold’s career from the capture of Fort Ticonderoga through the subsequent naval battle on Lake Champlain. At the start of the rebellion, Arnold was dispatched to grab control of Fort Ticonderoga from the British and send its cannons to aid in the siege of Boston. While the mission was a success, Arnold was hamstrung by infighting and a lack of resources.

Arnold then hatched the plan to invade Quebec. While Desjardin argues that the invasion came within a hair of success, Nelson believes that once surprise was lost, the weakened American force’s prospects disappeared.

Benedict Arnold’s Navy hits its stride when Arnold, after recovering from the wounds he suffered at Quebec, returns to Lake Champlain. He quickly realizes that the British will be sending men and ships down the lake in an effort to cut the colonies in half. He orders American forces to begin constructing naval vessels to halt the invasion.

The odds, however, were heavily stacked against the Americans. The British weren’t short of trained sailors to man the fleet they were assembling at the other end of the lake.

The battle off Valcour Island on October 11, 1776, was predictably a disaster for the Americans. Although Arnold had the advantage of picking the place to fight and the fleet fought ferociously, his ships were overmatched. The scene was set for a massive invasion from the north.

That invasion finally came in 1777 under Lt. Gen. John Burgoyne. Sweeping down Lake Champlain, Burgoyne aimed his forces in a direct line for Albany. Once again, however, Arnold stepped into the breach to halt the danger to the colonies. On his own initiative at the Battle of Saratoga, he rallied the faltering American lines. The battle ended with a large British army surrendering to the Americans for the first time.

While the Battle of Lake Champlain was a defeat for the Americans, Nelson points out that by delaying the British advance, it gave the United States time to build a permanent army, rather than relying on ad hoc militia units. Though the Americans would continue to suffer setbacks in battle, an invasion from the north was now no longer a worry. If the Americans couldn’t utilize Quebec in their fight, then neither could the British.

Both books chronicle Arnold’s original strong commitment to independence. For years he suffered alongside his men, displayed extraordinary personal courage and contributed greatly to the American cause. That doesn’t erase the stain of treason, but Desjardin and Nelson prove that a measure of respect is still due him.

Originally published in the September 2006 issue of Military History. To subscribe, click here.


A Line of Benedicts

Despite the trouble with their neighbors, William’s son Benedict (1615–1678) was an interpreter for the native tribes after 1645. He was also named the first Governor of Rhode Island in the New Charter of 1663 under King Charles II (his brother was then Deputy Governor the following year). This brother of my ancestor is the namesake of the Governor Arnold Burying Ground in Newport, Rhode Island.

His son Benedict (II) was a “Newport Gentleman” (as stated on his tombstone). However, his grandson Benedict (III) was a failed businessman and eventual alcoholic according to historical accounts of his son, Benedict (IV). Why is this great-grandson important enough to be written of two centuries later?

Governor Benedict Arnold was the start of a line of Benedict Arnolds leading to the infamous traitor of the American Revolutionary War.

Despite his family’s long history, the name Benedict Arnold came to mean one thing


Benedict Arnold: American Hero and Traitor

By Gabe Pressman &bull Published September 27, 2011 &bull Updated on September 27, 2011 at 6:48 pm

New Yorkers have long treasured their heroes -- from George Washington and Alexander Hamilton to Franklin D. Roosevelt. But, in the case of one man who went down in history, there is some debate about whether he was a hero or a traitor. His name is Benedict Arnold.

Arnold was not exactly a New Yorker, although he is most notorious for what he tried to do in upstate New York just 231 years ago this week.

Late in the Revolutionary War, in September 1780, Arnold, the commandant of West Point, conspired to deliver West Point to the British. On September 23 of that year, Major John Andre of the British Army, who was part of the conspiracy, was captured by the British with documents incriminating Arnold in the plot. Andre was hanged. Arnold escaped to England with his wife and children.

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Benedict Arnold, born in Norwich, Connecticut, was a great soldier. George Washington valued him highly. In the summer of 1777, as British General John Burgoyne pressed the Continental troops of General Horatio Gates near Albany, Arnold, cursing, riding, according to one account, “like a man possessed,” rallied the troops.

As one soldier wrote: “He was our fighting general, as brave a man as ever lived.” Although the battle was not decisive, Arnold had saved the day and established his reputation as one of the most brilliant generals in Washington’s army.

Benedict Arnold, a hero of the battlefields in the Revolutionary War, by the end of that war was regarded as a traitor. Indeed, in the history of the United States, his is the one name that is considered synonymous with traitor.

Was he a hero or a traitor? That’s debatable. Washington himself seemed to have positive feelings about Arnold, his hot-tempered subordinate, but, long before the plot with Andre was uncovered, Arnold was the object of conspiracies against him by politicians and military colleagues. They resented his brilliance and his often intolerant personality. Arnold wanted to do things his way and, if he couldn’t, he was not above rebelling against authority.

The controversy over Arnold’s place in American history has persisted into this century. In 2002, the citizens of Ridgefield, Connecticut observed the 225th anniversary of the Battle of Ridgefield. Arnold fought impressively in that struggle. The chairman of the committee that re-enacted the battle, Keith Jones, said: “I think more people appreciate that there were two sides to the gentleman and I think more of us are accepting what is fact is fact and when he was in Ridgefield was three years before he turned traitor.”

Jones told me that the life of Benedict Arnold was “definitely an American tragedy.”

“He gave his all in the battles of the American Revolution. At Ridgefield, he twice had horses shot from under him. He was a brave man, extremely devoted to his country.

“A patriot, he gave away his fortune to outfit American ships. He bought cannons for the Army. He gave his all to the cause. He was an ambitious man like Hamilton or Jefferson but he was not honored and respected as they were.”

Jones spoke of how Arnold was passed over for promotion time and again by the politicians and the military, how he was frustrated and angry at not being appreciated by Congress.

In the course of a tumultuous career, he lost his parents when he was very young and his wife died when he was 34. He found little solace in his public life. For many years, he suffered from a leg injury sustained in battle.

Jones said that those who frame the question as to whether Arnold was a hero or a traitor are being “simplistic.”

“You can’t describe him in the terms of sound bite journalism. There’s no easy way to describe this man. He was charismatic. He was extremely intelligent. And, at a time when many people were ambivalent, he loved both countries, Britain and America.”

Does that excuse betraying his country? Perhaps not. But, a couple of hundred years after he lived, it’s interesting to hear the point of view of a man who believes there is another way of looking at Benedict Arnold. He was a tortured soul, despised by many in America and Britain. He was not afraid to risk his life for a cause. But he risked his reputation and, history shows, he lost.


This article was originally published in the Calais Advertiser on April 20th, 2017. It is re-published with permission from the editor. Photos from our April presentation have been added.

Benedict Arnold and the St. Croix Valley

“When you think of Benedict Arnold, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?” asked Al Churchill at a meeting of the St. Croix Historical Society on Monday, April 4 th .

“Traitor!” The crowd unanimously shouted back.

Indeed, Benedict Arnold is the archetypal American traitor, having notoriously attempted to hand West Point over to the British during a defection to the British side. Not everyone knows the full story of Benedict Arnold, however, including the fact that during his time as a fugitive from the American government, he did a lucrative trading business in Passamaquoddy Bay.

Before becoming a traitor and a fugitive, Benedict Arnold was “unquestionably the best General we ever had, on both sides of the war,” said Churchill. “Without him, we probably wouldn’t have won the Revolutionary War.”

When the country was still a British colony, there were very few skilled military leaders or munitions available to stage the rebellion. Through Arnold’s talent with strategy and his bold bravado, he successfully rallied the troops on several occasions to demonstrate that America was not a lost cause.

The first victory of the Revolutionary War for the American side came at the hands of Arnold at Fort Ticonderoga, and important fort that gave access to Canada. Arnold had raised a militia and successfully captured the fort and all of its artillery, which were hauled back to Boston.

Benedict Arnold was instrumental in the capture of Fort Ticonderoga – representing the first American victory in the Revolutionary war.

Arnold also led the infamous “March Through Maine” wherein he and his troops traveled from Gardiner up the Kennebec River with the intention of traveling straight through to British-held Quebec City. Arnold’s march began in the fall and continued through the winter. By the time he and his troops arrived, they were mostly frozen, starved, and out of ammunition, with half of the men having perished or left along route. Arnold, though, went the whole length of the river and still managed to briefly hold part of the city before being ousted when the second group of Americans (led by Daniel Morgan) that had been anticipated to assist in the attack failed to make a good showing. Arnold was shot during the siege, but was undeterred from participating.

Benedict Arnold’s troops on their way through Maine.

“It was clear he was a born leader,” Churchill explained. Arnold had a famously difficult personality, making ten enemies for every one friend, and this contributed to a general animosity towards him from others in the military. Some accused him of fabricating the costs of the March Through Maine, alleging that he did not provide all of his receipts, an accusation that nearly made him leave the Revolutionary Army on the spot.

After the fairly disastrous March Through Maine, Arnold scored another major victory at Saratoga. While General Gates was in command of the Revolutionary Forces, Arnold acted against his orders and proceeded to rally the troops by riding up and down in full view of both sides brandishing his weapon – a brazen act that earned him a bullet in his boot. By doing so, he and his men were able to capture Breymann Redoubt, a critical point to put up artillery. With that victory, the French agreed to enter the war on behalf of the rebels, and the dream of America became that much closer to a reality.

Benedict Arnold at Saratoga

Also at Saratoga was a local boy – William Vance, among the earliest settlers of Baring and the first to raise a mill there. Vance was notoriously patriotic, having erected a cannon and pointed it at Canada during the War of 1812, threatening to blow up any British that could be seen approaching.

After Saratoga, Arnold was promoted to General as well as Governor of Philadelphia, but here is where his story begins to go more awry. Arnold had expensive tastes and an expensive young wife, and his finances plagued him. He successfully lobbied to become Commandant of West Point, an important fort that gave access to New York. Once there, he wrote a letter to the British offering to sell them West Point for 20,000 pounds (around $3 million in today’s money). The British accepted and sent a representative to complete the transaction. The boat that the British officer traveled on had to turn back before he could board it, and Arnold encouraged him to dress in plainclothes and sneak back to British territory. He fatefully agreed – and was soon captured and hanged as a spy. At the time of West Point being handed over, there was another local soldier present – one of the Boyden boys of Boyden’s Lake fame.

Benedict Arnold hands Andre the plans to West Point.

Arnold immediately fled, making his way northward through Machias to St. John. He traveled to England for a time before returning to St. John where he began a lucrative smuggling trade based in Snug Cove, Campobello. Arnold built a sprawling building to conduct his trades, though no evidence of it now exists. Accounts exist in Dennysville, Treat’s Island and Eastport of trades conducted with Arnold.

The Benedict Arnold Trading Post

At the time, Passamaquoddy Bay was the epicenter of smuggling between America and Canada. “It was how people made their living back then,” Churchill explained. Some fished, but, “You’d make a lot more money smuggling 100 barrels of flour to St. Andrews than you could in a whole year of fishing.”

Arnold, of course, was thoroughly disliked by those he interacted with. At one point another trader was so incensed he lifted up a log and went after Arnold before his comrades held him back. “But for this, I would not have left a whole bone in his skin,” the man said.

Not everyone maintained animosity toward Arnold. Jack Shackford of Eastport – one of the first settlers in that town – served under Arnold during the fateful March Through Maine. As a result of his service with Arnold, he always felt kindly toward him, remembering his ability as a leader. It was this disposition that prevented Shackford from arresting Arnold as a traitor.

For several years, Arnold did a roaring business in smuggling before returning to London where he eventually passed away. “Certainly, he was a traitor, but without him, the Revolutionary War would have turned out differently,” Churchill concluded.

The Arnolds lie buried in the crypt below St. Mary’s of Battersea, a Georgian-era stone church overlooking the Thames. Visitors can call the church to gain special access to the tomb.


Benedict Arnold

Benedict Arnold is the most famous Revolutionary War spy, though to Americans he is more commonly called a traitor.

His very name has become associated with being a traitor.

Battle Field at Ticonderoga, where Benedict Arnold was first stationed

Biography

Benedict was born January 14, 1741, in Norwich, Connecticut to Benedict and Hannah Arnold. As a young boy his family his father was a successful businessman. When the yellow fever came through their household it left only him and his sister Hannah alive out of the five children, his father drowned his sorrows in alcohol and their finances dwindled rapidly.

Benedict Jr. was pulled from school, and was apprenticed to some cousins on his mother’s side who ran an apothecary. He tried to join the militia once, but wasn’t allowed, though he eventually did join the militia to fight against the French in the French and Indian War. When his mother died, he took on the responsibility of taking care of his father and sister.

In 1767 Benedict Arnold took Margaret Mansfield to be his wife. He worked for his cousin for a few more years, during which time he fathered three boys.

Benedict Arnold, the Soldier

He joined the Army and became Captain of the Governor’s guard.

He was very successful in the beginning of his career in war, but he was soon sent on a mission and illegally joined by a group that was very disagreeable in his eyes. The whole mission he grew angrier and angrier with them. When he returned congress did nothing with the men. This infuriated him but was just to be the beginning of his troubles.

Through the years his social status went down, his wife died, and his rank as an officer was demoted several times. He was constantly in disagreement with the congress, and they were constantly infuriating him.

He was assigned a task to serve at Ticonderoga. There he was second in command, and after three days he discovered that he and the general had very different ideas on how to fight. They argued over it for a while, then they both just gave it up.

The next day Arnold ordered his horse and charged into battle. Upon seeing this, the soldiers received inspiration and charged in to fight alongside him. Just when victory was at hand, Arnold’s horse was shot in the breast. It fell and landed on Arnold’s leg, crippling it permanently. He was then deported to Philadelphia.

Benedict Arnold’s signature (public domain)

Benedict Arnold: British Spy and American Traitor

In Philly Benedict met his second wife, Peggy Shippen. She was 18 years old and he was 38 when they were married. His marriage to Peggy raised his social status immensely. Soon after, though, the congress did one more thing to make him angry, and by that winter he had decided to secretly trade with the British.

He was very useful to them due to his closeness with Washington from all those years of fighting. After a while, though, his courier was found with a letter in his sock to the British general.

The courier was brought before congress and beheaded.

Benedict Escapes

When Arnold heard of this he escaped on the ship his courier was supposed to use, and he went to London.

He was rewarded very well for his services and received land for himself and his family to live on in Canada. He tried to become a ship merchant, but they had no use for a cripple. He never found an actual job, but he did not live much longer so his reward money sufficed until he died.

All in all I think the worst thing that was hurt about Benedict Arnold was his pride.


Benedict Arnold: American history’s most heroic traitor

“Time Trial of Benedict Arnold,” the museum’s new theater program, opened on December 27 to rave reviews! The program explores the complexities of history by examining the case of Benedict Arnold, America’s best-known traitor.

But how does historical understanding develop over time? What happens between the facts of an historical event and the memories of history? And why do many people only know that Benedict Arnold was a traitor, while never hearing about his actions as a hero of the early Revolutionary War?

In “Time Trial of Benedict Arnold” the audience becomes the jury, hears Benedict Arnold’s side of the story, and deliberates on his contested legacy. Check out the video clip below to get a glimpse of our rehearsals, the show, and what people are saying about it. We hope you can make it to the museum to see the show, but if not, never fear, the Internet is here! In the next few months, we’ll be posting more information and a full video of the show. We also invite all the teachers out there to join the conversation about Benedict Arnold happening in the online teacher community run by our partner, Verizon Thinkfinity.

And Benedict Arnold is just the beginning! In the future, we’ll be putting other controversial historical figures on trial and asking visitors, “Why do we know what we know about history?”

“Time Trial of Benedict Arnold” runs Fridays and Saturdays at 11:00am, 1:00pm, 2:30pm, and 4:00pm through March.

Let us know what you think! What would you ask Benedict Arnold if you had the chance? Which other historical characters would you like to put on trial?

Susan Evans is a floor manager at the National Museum of American History.


LibertyVoter.Org

Benedict Arnold, the American general during the Revolutionary War who betrayed his country and became synonymous with the word “traitor,” was born on this day in 1741.

Arnold, who was raised in a respected family in Norwich, Connecticut, apprenticed with an apothecary and was a member of the militia during the French and Indian War (1754-1763). He later became a successful trader and joined the Continental Army when the Revolutionary War broke out between Great Britain and its 13 American colonies in 1775.

During the war, Arnold proved himself to be a brave, skilled leader, helping Ethan Allen’s troops capture Fort Ticonderoga in 1775 and then taking part in the unsuccessful attack on British Quebec later that year, which earned him a promotion to brigadier general. Arnold distinguished himself in campaigns at Lake Champlain, Ridgefield and Saratoga, and gained the support of George Washington. However, Arnold had enemies within the military and in 1777, a group of lower-ranking men were promoted ahead of him. Over the next several years, Arnold married a second time and he and his wife led a lavish lifestyle in Philadelphia, racking up substantial debt. Money problems and the resentment Arnold felt over not being promoted faster were factors in his decision to become a turncoat.

In 1780, Arnold was given command of West Point, the American fort on the Hudson River in New York (and future home of the United States Military Academy, established in 1802). Arnold contacted Sir Henry Clinton, head of the British forces, and proposed handing over West Point and its men. On September 21 of that year, Arnold met with British Major John Andre and made his traitorous pact, in which the American was to receive a large sum of money and a high position in the British army. However, the conspiracy was uncovered and Andre was captured and killed. Arnold fled to the enemy side and went on to lead British troops in Virginia and Connecticut. He later moved to England, though he never received all of what he’d been promised by the British. The former American hero and patriot died in London, in relative obscurity, on June 14, 1801.


Watch the video: The Stanford Digest EP 17 - Valiant Ambition, The story of Benedict Arnold