1780: Benedict Arnold Revealed

 Pictured: 1865 cartoon picturing Benedict Arnold and Satan welcoming Jefferson Davis

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Connecticut-born Benedict Arnold fought for the American Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Among the distinguished war successes in which he was involved were the capture of Fort Ticonderoga, organizing the militia response in the Battle of Ridgefield, Connecticut, and key actions during the two Battles of Saratoga. Despite his accomplishments, he was passed over for promotion and suffered other officers claiming credit for his deeds.

He became embittered. Arnold opened secret negotiations with the British to change his allegiance. He had gained command of the fort at West Point, and planned to surrender it to the British Army. On this day in 1780, Arnold learned that the Americans had captured British Major John Andre the previous day. Andre was carrying papers that revealed the West Point plot.

Arnold fled down the Hudson River to the British ship Vulture, narrowly avoiding capture. He was commissioned as a Brigadier General in the British Army, and led British forces in Virginia and Connecticut, before the war ended. After the war, he moved to London, where he lived out his life. Andre, on the other hand was hanged for his part in the West Point plot.

The name Benedict Arnold became a synonym for “traitor” in the 19th century and has remained so to this day. His early contributions to the American independence effort are generally unknown in popular culture.

Pictured: 1865 cartoon picturing Benedict Arnold and Satan welcoming Jefferson Davis to Hell

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