Benedict Arnold


No other American is remembered quite the same as Benedict
Arnold. He was a brave soldier, a patriot- and a traitor.
Benedict was born in Norwich, Connecticut, on January 14,
1741. When he was 14 years old, Benedict ran away from home
to fight in the French and Indian War, but he was brought
back by his mother, who apparently was driven insane later
in her life. If I had a son like Benedict, I might have
gone insane too! After his mother insisted that he return
home, he ran away for a second time. After he was finished
playing boy hero for awhile, he learned the apothecary
(pharmacy) trade and then in 1762, he opened a book and
drug store in New Haven. Benedict was also involved with
trade in the West Indies. By 1774, he was one of the
wealthiest citizens in New Haven. It's a good thing that he
had money, because he was one of those people who like to
ride around in their Mercedes and wear expensive clothes,
even if he couldn't afford them. Benedict then got hooked
up with the sheriff's daughter Margaret Mansfield, and they
hit it off. They decided to get married in 1774. But this
marriage was short lived because the next year Margaret
caught a disease and died. When the Revolutionary War began
that year Arnold was already an experienced soldier. He had
helped Ethan Allen capture Fort Ticonderoga. Then Benedict
came up with a great idea to capture Quebec. This idea
failed, but Benedict had already proven his bravery. He was
then commissioned as a colonel in the patriot forces. He
was one of General George Washington's most trusted
Benedict led his troops to the siege of Boston and Valcour
Island and proved once again to be a bold and skilled
officer. At the battle of Valcour Island he was wounded
severely in his leg. His bravery won him the respect of
many people. He was promoted to the rank of brigadier
general. Arnold felt that his services were not properly
rewarded. In 1777, Congress promoted five officers, who
were junior to Benedict, to major general. Only a personal
plea from General George Washington kept him from
resigning. He did receive a delayed promotion to major
general, but he was still angered that he was not promoted
to a rank above the junior officers promoted earlier. Then
to top things off, a fellow officer charged Arnold with
misconduct, but Congress found the charges groundless and
dismissed them. In late 1777, Benedict fought at Saratoga.
Before the final battle Arnold quarreled with his superior,
General Horatio Gates, and was relieved of his command.
Despite his relief of command, Benedict led his troops into
battle. He charged from place to place, rallying Americans
and was again wounded in the leg. He received much of the
credit for this American victory.
In 1778 Benedict married Peggy Shippen, the daughter of a
wealthy Loyalist when he was assigned to military commander
of Philadelphia. Life in Philadelphia was pleasant but very
costly. Before he knew it, Arnold was deeply in debt. In
1779 he was charged with using his position for personal
profit and charged with using the soldiers in his command
as personal servants. A court martial cleared him of most
of the charges, but had General Washington reprimand him.
Washington issued the reprimand, but softened it with the
promise of a high promotion in the future. But Arnold had
already sold his services to the British. Since May of 1779
he had been supplying them with valuable military
information. He did this because he was still upset with
the Continental Congress for not giving him the promotions
that he thought he deserved. He was also very desperate for
money because of his extravagant lifestyle. In 1780
Benedict was given command of the fort at West Point in New
York. He decided that he would give this strategic post to
the British. In return he was to be made brigadier general
in the British Army. He was also promised money. On
September 21, Benedict met with Major John Andre of the
British army to discuss and arrange the details. Two days
later, Andre was captured when he attempted to return to
the British lines. Some American soldiers stopped and
searched him and found incriminating papers hidden in his
stockings and the plot was revealed. Andre was executed as
a spy. Arnold learned this news in time for him to escape.
He fled to a British ship that took him down the Hudson
River to New York City.
The British rewarded him with 6,315 pounds although he had
asked for 20,000 pounds. They also gave him the rank of
brigadier general. As a British officer he led his troops
to Richmond, Virginia and New London Connecticut. In
December of 1781, Benedict moved with his wife and children
to England where he was received warmly by King George lll
But others didn't except him so easily. It's hard to trust
a traitor, even if he is betraying the other country. The
British government granted him 13,400 acres in Canada, but
that land was of little use to him. He spent most of his
remaining years as a merchant in the West Indies trade. In
his last days Benedict was burdened down with debt and
misery. He was distrusted by everyone who met him-Americans
and British. He died in England on June 14, 1801 an unhappy
and discouraged man.
Benedict Arnold is considered to be one of the most famous
men in history. Although I'm sure that a lot of people
wouldn't want the kind of fame he received. But without
him, our country wouldn't have won all the battles that we
did. Yes, he was a traitor, but he was also one of the best
generals we had. But how do we know that he betrayed our
country just our of anger? The history books say that he
was deeply in debt, and he did have a wife and children.
When we think of Benedict we tend to just look at the worst
parts of his life. His first wife died, but he pulled
himself out of grief and got on with his life. He married
again and had children. If he was in debt, then he couldn't
pay for the things that his family needed. Maybe he
betrayed our country so that he could use the money that he
would get from the British to pay for the things that he
wanted to be able to give his family. We saw how Paul
Revere twisted things around with the Boston Massacre and
now most of us know believe that the firing on an innocent
crowd. That's what I believe the case is with Benedict
Arnold. There's more to the story than we know. Benedict
wasn't pure evil, as we make him out to be sometimes. But
unfortunately we can't go back in time and see what really
happened, so now we'll just have to rely on what we believe
to be the truth.


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