Benedict Arnold Essay, Research Paper
Arnold was born on January 14, 1741, in Norwich, Connecticut. Both his parents were of long-established, well-respected New England families. He was helper to a pharmacist when he was a young. However, he liked the battlefield to a druggist’s life and enlisted in the militia during the French and Indian War (1754-1763). When his father died in 1761, Arnold moved to New Haven, Connecticut, where he became a druggist, selling potions, and books. In 1764 he got into shipping and trade with Canada and the West Indies. Commercial success brought election to a militia captaincy in 1775.
Service in the Continental Army
As a militia colonel, Arnold joined with Ethan Allen to take Fort Ticonderoga in New York from the British at the start of the American Revolution in 1775. Military supplies from the fort helped George Washington’s ill-equipped American forces, which were surrounding Boston. Later the same year Arnold led a brave but unsuccessful attack on British Quebec and was promoted to brigadier general; enemy reinforcements subsequently forced his retreat to Lake Champlain.
On the lake Arnold was defeated (1776) by a British naval attack, but his delaying tactics delayed an enemy drive to New York City, which would have divided the colonies. His leadership in the Battle of Ridgefield, Connecticut (April 1777), won him a late promotion to the rank of major general. During the crucial Saratoga campaigns in New York in the summer and fall of 1777, his relief of Fort Stanwix and his courageous and imaginative battlefield leadership contributed to an American victory
After he became commander of Philadelphia in 1778, he met Margaret Shippen and married her the following year. The Arnolds spent money on a huge social life among the Loyalist families of Philadelphia. Needing money, Arnold then began a 16-month treasonable correspondence with the British commander in chief, Sir Henry Clinton. As commandant of West Point, key to the Hudson River valley, Arnold agreed in 1780 to surrender the fort to the enemy in return for a royal commission in the British army and a sum of money. The capture of Clinton’s envoy, Major John Andre, exposed the plot, and Arnold fled to the enemy.
Several factors stimulated Arnold’s anger and treachery. These included the promotion of junior officers over him; charges by Pennsylvania authorities that he had violated military regulations, which culminated in his court-martial; and the need for ready money to reimburse wartime expenses and to pay for his Philadelphia extravagances. Arnold also disliked the Franco-American alliance.
Work for the British
As a brigadier general in the British army, Arnold conducted raids in Virginia (1780) along the James River to Richmond and, later, to Petersburg. In 1781, to divert a projected French and American attack on British forces in the south, Arnold’s expeditions shifted to New London, Connecticut, where he, in effect, raided former neighbors. There he burned more than 150 buildings, and his troops massacred American militia at Fort Griswold, near New London.