Benedict Arnold

Military Leader / Traitor

Born: 14 January 1741
Died: 14 June 1801
Birthplace: Norwich, Connecticut
Best known as: The great traitor of the American Revolution

One of history's best-known traitors, Benedict Arnold was a successful general from Connecticut during the American Revolutionary War -- until he switched sides and was caught trying to help the British in 1780. Arnold grew up in a well-to-do family that had hit hard times by the time he became an adult. He apprenticed at an apothecary shop as a young man and fought in the French and Indian War. After a trip to Europe, Arnold settled in New Haven, Connecticut and opened his own apothecary shop, just a few years before the colonists' fight for independence began. Considered a hero at battles in Saratoga, New York and Quebec, Arnold nonetheless had a hard time getting along with other commanders and was continually feeling slighted by the upper brass, despite personal encouragement from General George Washington. By 1780 his dissatisfaction led him to contact the British and offer his services. He and British Major John Andre conspired to help the British seize control of West Point, an American fort on the Hudson River, but Andre was caught and the plan was revealed. Arnold escaped to the British side and Andre was hanged as a spy. For the remainder of the war Arnold led British forces against American colonists, then settled in London as an officer. The British didn't exactly welcome him as a hero, and the rest of his military career was forgettable. He started a not-very-successful shipping business, and died in London in 1801. However, his name lives on in the United States as a byword for treachery.

Extra credit:

West Point, the fort Arnold conspired to seize, later became the United States Military Academy at West Point — the primary miltary school for officers of the U.S. Army.

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