1700s |

Benedict Arnold's Most Famous Act – 9/21/1780

On September 21st of 1780, sometime during the American Revolution, Benedict Arnold committed the act of treason. For this, he became so well known that, these days, anyone who switches sides in a conflict (in other words, anyone who is a traitor) might be referred to as a “Benedict Arnold.”

It started when American General Benedict Arnold met with British Major John Andre to discuss handing over West Point to the British, in exchange for a large sum of money, and a high position in the British Army. The plot was unsuccessful, and Benedict Arnold was caught in the act of treason. Once an American Hero, now he was shamed, and the name Benedict Arnold, all of a sudden, became another word for traitor.

Benedict Arnold was born in 1741 to a respectable colonial family in Norwich, Connecticut. When he grew up, he was a member of the militia during the French and Indian War, and later joined the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.

Benedict Arnold had his good qualities. He was a brave and competent leader. This was a skill that earned him a promotion to the rank of brigadier general. He distinguished himself in various military campaigns, and even gained the support of George Washington. His successes included the Capture of Ticonderoga in 1775. The following year, Arnold established himself at the battle of Valcour Island, and the battle of Ridgefield, among others. He was injured in the battle of Saratoga, and his combat career ended for a few years.

For some reason, in 1777, five men of lesser rank were promoted to ranks above him. Over the next few years, Benedict Arnold withdrew from combat, got married, and lived an elite lifestyle in Philadelphia. This sent him heavily into debt. Any of these events might have influenced his decision to become a traitor. Even sheer greed may have been the motivating factor.

In 1780, Benedict Arnold was awarded the position of commanding West Point. Back then, West Point was an American fort on the Hudson River. It did not become a military academy we know today until 1802. From his lofty position at West Point, Arnold contacted the head of the British forces, Sir Henry Clinton, to discuss handing over West Point, and all of the men therein.

On September 21st, Benedict Arnold met with John Andre. There, Benedict Arnold became a turncoat by signing the pact. The conspiracy was discovered, and Andre was captured and executed by the colonials. To avoid execution, Arnold fled to the enemy side, where he fought for the British Army in Virginia. Then he fled to Great Britain, and lived in England for the rest of his life, despite that the British did not deliver as promised. After all, the plot was foiled. Benedict Arnold died in London on June 14th of 1801.

When the Revolutionary War finally ended in 1783, the colonies had won their independence from Great Britain and became the United States of America, no thanks to Benedict Arnold.  

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Kelly Sutherland

Writer

Hi! I'm Kelly. My favorite time period was the 70s. I had a boatloads of fun traveling around with my close friends spreading love and just living my life to the fullest... if you know what I mean ;) Now I enjoy sitting in my cozy nook writing and learning about history.