On September 21, 1780, American General Benedict Arnold met secretly with British Major John Andre to discuss turning over control of West Point to the British in exchange for a large financial reward and a high position in the British army. To mark the anniversary of this treasonous act, we've put together some trivia questions about Benedict Arnold.
What Were Some of Arnold's Achievements as a Military Leader? Angered by British laws that in effect forced him to become a smuggler to continue operating his business, Arnold in March 1775 became a captain in the Connecticut militia. Shortly after the American Revolution began, he joined forces with Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys to take control of Fort Ticonderoga from the British. Arnold suggested an attack on British forces in Quebec City and together with Major General Richard Montgomery, he mounted an assault on Quebec, which largely failed to loosen the British grip on the city. Promoted to brigadier general after the siege at Quebec City, Arnold took part in successful campaigns at Lake Champlain, Ridgefield, and Saratoga.
Why Did Arnold Defect to the British? It has been speculated that it might have been caused by his lavish lifestyle, which left him and his new wife deeply in debt, or it may have been due to the fact that he was skipped over for promotion numerous times. Angry about his inability to win promotions in the military and increasingly overburdened by his debt, Arnold decided that a deal with the British would not only offer a way out of debt but also punish those in the Continental Army who had frustrated his efforts to advance. Although Arnold had proved himself as a skilled military leader, he abandoned the American cause and went on after his defection to serve in Connecticut and Virginia, leading British troops against the Americans.
How Was Arnold in Collusion With the British?
He was in collusion with British Major John Andre and General Sir Henry Clinton. At this point in the war, Arnold was in command of West Point, which at that time was an important fort located along New York’s Hudson River. Arnold’s plan was to hand the fort over, along with his soldiers, to British forces. On September 25, 1780, Arnold defected to the British.
By July 1799, Arnold was supplying the British with information on American troop strengths and locations. During this period, he was also negotiating for financial compensation for his losses with the British along with an additional large sum, which had been granted to General Charles Lee by the Continental Congress for his services.
Lee himself had been an interesting character during the Revolutionary War. He was retired from the British Army and had tried to take over the Continental Army from George Washington. Following his conduct at the Battle of Monmouth in 1778, he was dismissed from his position in the American army.
How Was Arnold's Act of Treason Discovered?
Arnold supplied Major Andre with a passport and civilian clothing to enable him to escape through the American lines. The name on the passport was John Anderson. Hidden inside Andre’s stocking were papers written by Arnold showing the British how to take over the fort at West Point. The British major traveled safely until he was stopped at Tarrytown, New York, when he mistook several militiamen for Tories. Then he made the mistake of telling them that he was a British officer. While he tried to insist that he was American, he was arrested and the papers were found in his sock. Having learned of Andre's capture, Arnold managed to board a British ship downriver from West Point and make good his escape from American authorities before he could be arrested and tried for his crimes.