Benedict Arnold’s independent thinking and self-interest led to his successful careers and to his act of treason. Benedict Arnold moved from being an orphan to a wealthy business man. He became one of the best generals of his time and also one of the most notorious traitors.
Benedict Arnold was born on January 14, 1741, in Connecticut. Arnold was the sixth Benedict in his important family. The Arnold family was a wealthy family and was one of the older families. One of Benedict’s sisters fell ill to diphtheria after the twelve-year-old Arnold left home. He soon heard that his other sister, Hannah, also had diphtheria. Soon, Hannah recovered, but her sister died. It hit Benedict hard.
But something worse happened to the Arnold family. Benedict’s father, an alcoholic, drained the family’s fortune. In 1759, Benedict’s mother died poor while Benedict was apprenticed by his older cousin, the owner of a successful apothecary business. Two years after Benedict’s mother, his father died.
Benedict Arnold ran away from his cousin and went to Newhaven to start his life over again. He bought a small shop and started to consider becoming a bookseller. Soon, he opened his shop and became a bookseller as well as a druggist. He became one of the most successful businessmen in Newhaven and achieved great wealth. While Arnold was in Newhaven, the population of the town doubled. Arnold’s cousins were surprised at how well he did in business. Arnold was successful in business through independent thinking and sheer will.
After Arnold’s success in business, he settled down in a smaller town. He soon became leader of the local militia. He wore a fancy military uniform when he was with his militia. When the British issued the Stamp Tax on the American colonists, Arnold was against it. In 1775, Benedict Arnold heard about the bloodshed at Lexington and Concord. He went to rally his militia to fight the British.
In 1775, Arnold’s independence drove him to try to capture Fort Ticonderoga without anyone approving of the attack. Arnold went alone. expecting to recruit men along the way. But someone else wanted to take Fort Ticonderoga. Ethan Allen was the head of the Green Mountain Boys. Allen and Arnold couldn’t be more different. While Arnold was dressed in a fancy military uniform, Allen was dressed in rags. While Arnold only drank a little, Allen was getting drunk almost every day. Allen and Arnold crossed paths thirty miles away from Fort Ticonderoga. Arnold expected that he would lead the assault on the Fort, but the Green Mountain Boys said they would only fight for Ethan Allen. Arnold found himself second-in-command.
Allen, Arnold, and 130 men approached Fort Ticonderoga. They found it relatively easy to get in the fort. All they did to take the fort is open the doors. The fifty sleeping redcoats inside were not prepared for an attack. Without firing a shot, Fort Ticonderoga was taken by the rebels. Allen and his men found a whole store of rum and went on a three-day binge. The fort was torn apart and Arnold had to clean up. But the worst part was when Allen wrote his report to Provincial Congress. Allen took all the glory and gave none to Arnold. It was an affront to Arnold’s honor that he would not soon forget.
In 1776, Arnold planned an invasion of Canada. He went to the commander of the Northern American Army, Major General Philip Schuyler. But Schuyler had already been instructed to make a campaign into Canada, and Schuyler was in charge. When Arnold met with Schuyler, Schuyler was surprised. Arnold was perfect for the job. Schuyler was so surprised that he had Arnold lead a thousand men to attack the city of Quebec. Arnold started his attack in the fall. He was accompanied by Daniel Morgan. He was devastated when he heard that Washington’s army had been defeated by General William Howe. Now Arnold wanted to make the British humiliated. But the march was long, and the terrain was rough.
After months of marching, Arnold was ready to attack Quebec. But Philip Schuyler became ill. His replacement was Brigadier General Richard Montgomery. Arnold then found out that Quebec had almost two thousand troops inside of it. He decided that instead of taking Quebec, he would go and join Montgomery and his two thousand that were attacking Montreal. British General Guy Carleton was sure he could hold off the Americans. Montgomery attacked the British with Arnold at his side. The Americans pushed the British back. The British were retreating. Montgomery and his men charged up the hill. He had no idea he was falling into Carleton’s trap. The British charged. Montgomery, just yards away from taking Montreal, was killed. Arnold and the remaining Americans retreated.
Arnold’s stomach turned up side down when he heard who the new commander of America’s Northern Army would be. Major General Horatio Gates would replace Montgomery. But for Carleton things were just as bad. He was getting replaced by Major General John Burgoyne, who had boundless ambition. Burgoyne launched a campaign in the spring of 1777. Burgoyne’s goal is to capture the Hudson River, which if caught could sever the lines of communication between Philadelphia and Boston and therefore destroy the Continental Army.
Gates was confident that he could win. So was Benedict Arnold. He was ready to prove to Washington that he was a better general than Gates. In the fall, Burgoyne made his move. He moved his troops onto a piece of land just south of Saratoga called Freeman’s Farm. Burgoyne’s troops thought it was a chance to rest after a three-mile march. But as soon as they entered the clearing, a company of five hundred snipers led by Daniel Morgan attacked the British from the forest. The British ran. Morgan and his snipers killed six hundred men. Thirty of the men who died were officers.
Gates invited Arnold to a dinner in his fancy home inside camp. Gates and Arnold talked strategy during their meal. Arnold, always eager to attack, proposed that a major assault on the British. Gates proposed a defence against the British. The discussion turned heated. Tempers flared. But Arnold took his argument one step too far. He said that Gates was not capable of commanding an attack on the British. Gates banished Arnold from his quarters. Arnold knew that the Americans would lose if it were up to Granny Gates, as some soldiers called him.
On the other end, Burgoyne was desperate for help. At the beginning of his campaign, he was told that General William Howe would help Burgoyne. But now his scouts told him that Howe was going toward Philadelphia. Burgoyne made his move. Fifteen hundred troops led by Burgoyne’s second in command, Brigadier General Simon Fraser, attacked Gates. Gates responded by sending twenty-four hundred men led by Benedict Arnold. Arnold, without the permission of Gates, lead a charge against Fraser. Arnold ordered a sniper to fire at Fraser. It took three shots to kill the general. Arnold watched the British flee, but before they did, one of their soldiers fired at Arnold, wounding him in the leg.
Just days later, Burgoyne surrendered to Gates. But the credit for winning Saratoga went to Gates. It was yet another wound to Arnold’s honor.
In 1778, Arnold heard about Howe’s departure as commander in America. Henry Clinton became the new commander and had already lost against the Americans. Clinton pulled his troops out of Philadelphia and went back to New York. Philadelphia was again in American hands. Arnold was to be the military governor of Philadelphia. The eight month occupation by the British had nearly destroyed the place. Continental Congress was back in session in Philadelphia. They had gone to Baltimore during the British occupation. Arnold’s job was to restore order to Philadelphia. It was not an easy task. Many had died due to the British. Arnold went right to work.
But what he did as military governor raised question. Without consulting others, Arnold closed all the stores in Philadelphia. Arnold said that it was to get an inventory of what there was in Philadelphia. He said that he was going to distribute food and supplies to the people and the army, but Arnold was immediately attacked in the press. The charges against Arnold were abuse of power and corruption. Arnold did little to help his situation by entertaining a suspected loyalist, named Peggy Shippen.
Peggy belonged to a wealthy family. She was the daughter of Edward Shippen, a judge in Philadelphia. Peggy was 18 when Arnold met her. During the British occupation, Peggy stayed company was British officers. Peggy spent the most time was General Henry Clinton’s 27-year-old Aide-de-camp Major John Andre. Andre and Peggy’s relationship did not end when the British left Philadelphia. They still wrote to each other. This tied Peggy dangerously close to the enemy. Arnold started courting Peggy, and the two were soon married.
But this did not help defend Arnold from the attacks against him in the press. Joseph Reed, a former American officer and now the governor of Pennsylvania, was the one attacking Arnold. Reed said there were eight charges against Arnold, including abuse of power and corruption. But another powerful force heard about the attacks on Arnold in the press. Continental Congress decided to take matters into its own hands. They decided to court martial Arnold.
Arnold was court marshaled early in 1779. After more than two exhausting hours, Arnold was proved innocent. For Arnold, it was a victory. But for Joseph Reed, it meant that Arnold was back in power in Philadelphia, and that was exactly what Reed didn’t want. Reed wanted to prove that the people had more power than the military.
Reed sent George Washington a threat. If Washington would not rebuke Arnold Reed would not give Pennsylvania’s support in the war. Washington had no choice but to rebuke Arnold.
Arnold received the rebuke in the spring. He was furious. Ethan Allen had given no credit to Arnold for the victory at Fort Ticonderoga. Arnold was gravely injured at Saratoga, and after the battle, was given no credit for that victory. Then he was accused by Reed and now rebuked by Washington. Arnold’s self-interest overpowered his loyalty to the patriots. And with encouragement from his wife, Peggy, Arnold reached out to Peggy’s friend, Major John Andre, to join the British.
Andre was glad to help Arnold join the British. With permission from his commander, Major General Henry Clinton, decided to make a deal with Arnold. Arnold would get 20,000 pounds and become a brigadier general in the British army, and the British would get a key fort along the Hudson River named Fort Arnold, also known as West Point.
But Washington had been eager to promote Arnold. Now that he had placated Reed by rebuking Arnold, Washington wanted to make Arnold one of his top generals. Washington met with Arnold in the summer. Washington offered the entire right wing of the Continental Army to Arnold. It was an offer that Arnold would have accepted just months earlier, but Arnold has already made his choice to commit treason. Arnold told Washington that he was too crippled to go back to a battlefield command. A stationary command would be good. Arnold asked Washington for command of Fort Arnold. Washington was puzzled that Arnold refused his offer. Washington gave in to Arnold. Arnold now has command of Fort Arnold.
In the summer of 1779, Arnold and Andre met. It was the first time the two met and the last. Arnold and Andre went over papers that gave intelligence about Fort Arnold. Two hours later, the two parted. In the morning, Arnold heard that he has a visitor coming. George Washington was coming to meet with Arnold. But something changed everything. Andre was captured, and along with him the plans to capture Fort Arnold. Arnold’s self interest made him abandon Washington. Arnold and Peggy quickly burned all the evidence of the treasonous plot. Then the two of them fled to New York.
When Washington came into Arnold’s office, he realised that something was wrong. Washington then looked at the information about Fort Arnold. The only one who could such detailed information was the commander of the fort. Washington was furious. His best general had sold out for the British. Washington tried to find and capture Arnold throughout the rest of the war, but Arnold was always be a step ahead.
Major John Andre was hanged ten days after he was captured. He was the one to pay for Arnold’s treason. In the British camp, there was a new officer: Brigadier General Benedict Arnold. Arnold went South with Henry Clinton and participated in the siege of Charleston. When he heard that the war was over, he went to England.
Arnold failed at business in England. He died poor in 1801. Only a few people came to mourn him. Accidentally, there was a different name on Arnold’s grave. Almost no one cared that he had died.
Benedict Arnold had success in business. He became a great military hero. He went on to become the most notorious traitors of his time. All of these things were because he was self-interested and independent in his thinking.