Benedict Arnold was born on January 14, 1741. He was a general in the Continental Army who defected towards the British side during the American Revolutionary War. In the Continental Army he became well known for successful campaigns, but slowly he became dissatisfied. It began with what he felt was too little recognition for his participation during the raid of Fort Ticonderoga. Five years after Ticonderoga in 1780 he conspired with the British to take control of the fort at West Point in New York. Luckily Benedict’s plan failed. If successful in the raid, the British would have split the colonies in half with their control over the Hudson River. Benedict avoided immediate capture by the Continental Army. After his escape he joined the British Army and after some time became a general. In America his name is synonymous with traitor.
Thanks to Iain C. for his comments on the show!
I have changed the name of the mp3 file so it will more easily read in the small ipod window.
Arnold was born in Norwich, Connecticut. He was named after his great-grandfather, a colonial governor of Rhode Island. He moved to New Haven and established himself as a pharmacist and bookseller. He obtained a large amount of property and began participating in West Indies trade, sometimes commanding his own ships as his father had before him. During his sailing days some of his business turned towards smuggling. He married Margaret Mansfield on February 22, 1767. They had three sons together. Margaret died on June 19 1775.
By the time the fighting started at Lexington and Concord in April 1775, Arnold was a seasoned army man, having fought in the French and Indian War. He was a militia captain in the Governor’s Second Company of Guards. On April 23, 1775 Arnolds troops broke into the New Haven Power house, armed themselves and marched off to Massachusetts, ready to fight. Once they arrived, Arnold requested permission from the Massachusetts Committee on Safety to capture Fort Ticonderoga. In response the appointed him colonel of the Massachusetts militia. In Bennington, Vermont Arnold ran into Ethan Allen who had a commission from Connecticut to attack Fort Ticonderoga. Allen would not submit to be under Arnolds command, but agreed to let him tag along with his Green Mountain Boys. On May 22, 1775 Fort Ticonderoga was captured from 22 stunned British troops who did not know they were at war.
After the successful raid Allen sent close friend Colonel James Easton to Massachusetts with a letter announcing the fort was no longer under British rule. The letter toned down Arnold’s role in the battle. Once Arnold learned about the letter he challenged Easton to a duel. Easton refused the duel. Arnold remained with some Connecticut replacements at the fort. Arnold had been left in command of the fort but soon Colonel Benjamin Hinman arrived and Arnold learned he was to be Hinman’s second in command. Infuriated, Arnold resigned from the militia. Heading to New York after he changed his mind about resigning, he submitted a claim for expenses that was scrutinized and legislators protested the amount, further enraging Arnold. Then, as previously mentioned in June his wife passed away.
In 1775 Arnold and Allen led separate invasions into Canada. Allen was successful in Montreal, however he was captured. Arnold on the other hand participated in the Battle of Quebec. In which he was shot and the battle was a loss. Arnold was put in command of Montreal and he remained the recuperating until they were forced to retreat from Canada in June 1776.
Arnold who was promoted to brigadier general supervised the construction of America’s first gun ships in 1776 at Lake Champlain in the town of Whitehall, New York, which is why it is now known as the birthplace of the US Navy. In 1777 Arnold missed the opportunity for promotion. At the Battle of Saratoga Arnold lead the charge without approval and earned himself some awkwardness among his superiors. Although, I should mention that he played a crucial part in winning that battle by gathering the necessary troops. While rallying the troops his horse was shot and he fell on the leg, which was previously shot. This new injury rendered him partially disabled.
After the British evacuated Philadelphia Arnold was put in charge of the city. While there he met 18-year-old Peggy Shippen, the daughter of family that was known to he loyal to the crown. On April 9, 1779 they were married. They would have four sons and a daughter together.
Arnold was angered by the alliance Congress & Washington had made with France. He had been distrustful of the French since his time during the French and Indian War. Arnold began communicating with British Major John Andre. John Andre had courted his wife while the British were still in control of Philadelphia. Arnold had secured a position as head of the fort at West Point. In 1780 Arnold struck a deal with Henry Clinton to hand over the fort at West Point to the British for $20,000 (about a million today). On September 23, 1780 Major Andre was captured with documents outlining his relationship with Arnold found in his boot.
When Arnold learned of Andre’s he switched sides. Arnold’s wife played stupid and was returned to Philadelphia. Arnold’s two top aides also were also deemed innocent. Arnold became brigadier general and proceeded to do well, burning down Richmond, Virginia and New London, Connecticut, his home colony.
After the war Arnold moved with his wife to London where he was never fully trusted. He was paid only $6,000 for his participation in the conspiracy to obtain the fort at West Point. He died in 1801 and is buried with his wife and daughter in a crypt at St. Mary’s Church, Battersea, London. He is buried in the uniform of a Continental soldier.
In a letter titled “To the inhabitants of America” Benedict tried to explain his conduct. Links to this and other information from this podcast are on the website.