Integrated Wisdom

Great American Scoundrels of the 18th and 19th Centuries

Benedict Arnold

For sure, Benedict Arnold belongs in this group — he is the definition of treason for Americans. But what you may not know is that Arnold is such a notorious figure because prior to his treachery he was one of the great heroes of the Revolutionary War. Honestly, who would care about his defection if he was incompetent at his job? Here’s some examples of his wartime exploits: In late 1775, Arnold attempted to seize Quebec and with that all of Canada, by leading a heroic march in the dead of winter through wilds of Maine. He almost succeeded, and if he had, North America might have become one country instead of two; His actions at Saratoga in 1777, in defiance of his commanding general’s orders, turned the tide of the battle, giving the colonists a much needed victory. He was beloved by his men and spent a good deal of his own money on the war effort.

It’s believed that Arnold became a turncoat because he grew tired of accusations of wrongdoing and corruption, being passed over for promotions, and not getting reimbursed by Congress for money he spent on the war. By 1780, he was facing financial hardships and felt betrayed and humiliated, and so made plans to hand over West Point to British. In return he was made a Brigadier General in the British army, receiving a £6,000 signing bonus and a good sized pension. As a British officer, he led British raids in Virginia and Connecticut, before the American victory at Yorktown. After the war, Arnold lived in London, and died there on June 14, 1801, at the age 60.

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