Benedict Arnold, whose name became an epithet for traitor in the United States, was born on this day in 1741. Here are five things you may not know about this controversial figure in American history.
Arnold Was An American Revolution Hero
Prior to his defection to the British, Benedict Arnold was hailed as on of the best generals in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. He was instrumental in capturing Fort Ticonderoga, which held a large amount of artillery. He also led around 1,000 men to march through the backwoods of Maine in an effort to capture Quebec. According to the British Secretary of State, Lord Germaine, Arnold was considered the "most enterprising and dangerous” general in America.
Arnold Used His Own Money to Pay His Troops Congress failed to pay Benedict Arnold’s troops, so he paid them from his own pocket, despite the fact that his shipping business was hard hit by the British blockade. Congress failed to pay Arnold as well, but expected him to keep exact records of any funds he advanced. Later it would charge that he owed the United States £1,000.
Arnold's Treason Was Fueled By More Than Just Money Arnold's treasonous act is perhaps what is most well-known about him. And one of the big motivating factors was certainly money. But that wasn't the only driver of his acts. Arnold had also started to lose faith in the underlying cause of the revolution. He believed he had been overlooked by the Continental Congress when it came to promoting junior officers. He also believed that some fellow soldiers had attempted to take down his reputation and take credit for Arnold's battlefield successes. Some historians also believe that Arnold’s second wife, Peggy Shippen, who came from a loyalist family, influenced his actions and change of heart.
George Washington Plotted to Have Him Kidnapped
As a result of Arnold's treason, General George Washington enlisted a Continental Army sergeant major named John Champe in a daring mission to capture Arnold from behind enemy lines. The plan required Champe to stage a defection from the colonials and join up with the British. Once behind enemy lines, Champe would get close with Arnold and haul him away to New Jersey where Washington would deal with him. The plan almost worked. Champe fooled the British and even won an introduction to Arnold, who asked him to join his unit. Yet on the very same night that Champe and his accomplices were scheduled to make their move, Arnold was ordered to leave town on a campaign against the southern colonies. With his plan foiled, Champe had no choice but to join in on the mission. He would continue to masquerade as a redcoat for several months before finally sneaking back to the Continental lines.
Despite His Treason, There’s A Monument Of Arnold’s Boot At Saratoga
Arnold may have been guilty of treason, but his previous history as an asset to the American Revolution has not been forgotten. Perhaps that is why a monument of Arnold's boot was built on the site of the Saratoga battlefield in 1887 by a General from the New York Militia of the Civil War. The boot was symbolic of Arnold's leg injuries sustained earlier throughout his battles. That said, the memorial does not bear his name. It is the only American war memorial that does not bear the name of its honoree.