What changes a military hero from a great patriot to a treasonous traitor? Benedict Arnold is the only man in our history to be a military hero for both sides. He is known to most in our country as a traitor but without his valiant efforts in battle against the British forces our country may not be singing the National Anthem but God Save the Queen. His passion for defeating the enemy in the end was what defeated him.
What was the turning point in this patriot?s career? The Saratoga campaign was a series of battles fought during the months of June through October in 1777 in New York. During these battles it was Arnold who led the Americans to defeat Britain?s armed forces.
Although it was General Horatio Gates who was in charge it was Arnold?s action that helped lead them to victory. During the Battle of Saratoga, specifically at Freeman?s Farm, the American?s were retreating but Arnold would not accept that. He got on his white horse and led a brilliant charge against the British. It was during this charge that Arnold?s leg was crushed beneath his horse.
This was such an important event in the American Revolution that one of his solider would later write that he was ?the very genius of war.? In fact, the enemy also held this viewpoint, for it was British General Johnny Burgoyne who said that it was because of Arnold that he surrendered.
However, not everyone saw Arnold in this light. Arnold angered General Gates because of his constant defiance. Gates didn?t want Arnold to fight because if a previous injury. This made Arnold, who was known for his loud voice and hot temper, furious. This caused General gates to become jealous and because of his ?sheer pettiness? Gates would strip Arnold of his command.
After the battle Arnold needed to recuperate his wounded leg which in the end would be left crippled. Unfortunately, it was during this time that the thoughts of treason started to form. Arnold became very bitter with the fact that he was not recognized ?for his military genius on the part of Congress and the Continental Army.? While others were promoted for their actions in the battle at Saratoga Arnold was punished. This injustice caused Arnold to turn against his nation.
?Faced with financial ruin, uncertain of future promotion, and disgust with congressional politics, Arnold made a fateful decision.? A year and a half-later Arnold was in command of West Point, an American Fort on the Hudson River. Arnold was in great debt, couldn?t make any money, was crippled and couldn?t fight he desperately wanted the war to end. Embittered Arnold had had enough and decided that if he help Britain he could end the war sooner. He planned to turn over West Point to the British for 20,000 pounds. In the beginning there was much success in his plan. His contact was British Army Major John Andre. Arnold wanted 500 pounds a week for life, 10,000 pounds no matter what, and 20,000 to turn over West Point to the British. Arnolds plan was simple make it appear that West Point was becoming stronger while he was really weakening it.
Arnold sent a rowboat, Vulture, up the Hudson to get Andre. Arnold took Andre behind American lines to Joshua Smith?s house. However, in the midst of this plan Andre took off to New York. Three men stopped him. Andre mistook them for Tories but they were actually Americans. When they searched him they found letters implicating Arnold in Andres boot. They learned that both Andre and Arnold were spies. Arnold escaped on the boat that brought Andre. Unfortunately for Andre he was caught, tried and found guilty of spying. He was later hanged.
Arnold escaped to Britain and was paid 6,000 pounds to join their armed forces. He believed that by letting himself join the British military it would somehow weaken the American forces and quest for liberty.
In 1785, Arnold returned to American soil as a commander of British forces in his native Connecticut. The most famous of these battles would be the burning of New London. This would be Arnold?s gravest decision for he turned traitor to the losing side and lost his position in his Native country.
?Benedict Arnold?s name lives in infamy. He stands as the American embodiment of treason, yet he was brilliant, and without his military genius, the country would have been lost on three occasions. No other general in American history has ever commanded a single battle that, if lost, would have spelled defeat for the entire nation, yet Arnold commanded three such battles: Valcor Island, the Mohawk Valley, and finally Saratoga.
Had Arnold been killed at Saratoga, today there would have been cities and states named after him, and no one except Washington would have been so revered for his accomplishments. But his treason has erased much of his glory. He died deeply on debt, as an obscure, pitiful figure in London in 1801. He is buried in a common grave with his wife, Peggy, and daughter, Sophia, in a crypt in the basement of St. Mary?s Battersea Church in London, where British officials have inscribed an epitaph that says: ?Arnold was sometimes General for His Majesty and sometimes General for the Colonies.??