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The Traitorous Benedict Arnold

September 20, 2012 by  

No one, particularly not Gen. George Washington, doubted Benedict Arnold’s skill as a military commander. But Arnold had many faults, among them: he was hotheaded, a glory seeker, brash and haunted by the ever-swirling taint of corruption.

Following his victory at Ticonderoga in 1775, his life became one of humiliation and pain. He wanted to invade Canada, but he was rebuffed and the command was turned over to another officer. He sought reimbursement for the money he had spent on the Ticonderoga excursion, but the Massachusetts Committee of Public Safety passed his request to the Continental Congress. This caused his unpaid soldiers to mutiny. They arrested Arnold and negotiated for themselves with Massachusetts.

While this was going on, he learned that his wife had died. And after a long battle with the Massachusetts Board of Examiners, he was finally reimbursed for less than half of what he had spent to capture two forts and a wealth of materiel.

But Washington recognized Arnold’s skills as a tactician and commander; and, over the next two years, Arnold proved Washington’s faith was well-founded. Despite his successes, the Continental Congress passed over Arnold for promotion. Other officers sought credit for his successes. And Arnold became ever more bitter.

In 1778, Arnold, who had been injured during the Battles of Saratoga, was made military commander of Philadelphia. There, he took a new wife, the 18-year-old daughter of a British loyalist. She was almost 20 years his junior.

Charges of corruption and bribery hounded him. These included the misuse of army wagons for profit and accepting bribes to let private cargo ships pass freely between Philadelphia and New York. In 1780, he was court-martialed. Though found innocent of most of the charges, he was found guilty of improperly issuing a pass for one cargo ship and of an imprudent use of army wagons for his own commercial trade. Washington reprimanded him, but acceded to his request to make him commander of a critical fort at West Point, N.Y.

On Sept. 21, 1780, Washington was on his way to visit Arnold and inspect the West Point defenses. He arrived at Arnold’s home just outside the fort to pay a visit to Arnold and have breakfast. Arnold wasn’t home. Washington was told that Arnold had already gone to the fort and that Arnold’s wife was too ill to take visitors. Washington had breakfast and went to the fort, but was told Arnold had not been seen.

After the inspection, Washington returned to Arnold’s home and inquired as to his whereabouts. No one had seen or heard from him, so Washington waited.

That afternoon, Alexander Hamilton handed Washington a pack of letters just taken from the boot of a British spy captured that day by three highwaymen. The spy, who claimed to be John Anderson, tried to bribe the highwaymen into delivering him to the British. But the men, fearing arrest by the British if they did as the spy requested, decided to turn him over to the local American commander.

The man turned out to be Major John AndrĂ©, Sir Henry Clinton’s adjutant general and Arnold’s accomplice. The papers in André’s boot included a plan of the fortifications at West Point, an engineer’s analysis of how to defend the fort and secret minutes of Washington’s last war council.

Washington acted quickly. He sent Hamilton to try to capture Arnold, rushed forces to West Point to increase the defenses and interrogated Arnold’s wife, who was raving that her husband was gone forever.

But Arnold had gotten out of reach. His plans, which had been a year in the making, were falling apart. He had learned of André’s arrest earlier that morning, while Washington was still inspecting the fort. Arnold had bid his wife goodbye, boarded his barge and ordered his crew to take him to the British ship Vulture, which was anchored nearby. On the trip he told the crew of his switch in allegiance and promised promotions in the British army if they would join him.

The coxswain, Cpl. James Larvey is reported to have replied: “No sir! One coat is enough for me to wear at a time.” When they arrived at the Vulture, Arnold had the crew arrested.

Arnold served the rest of the war on the side of the British. He led British troops in battles in Virginia and Connecticut. After the war, Arnold moved to England. He died there in 1801, having never received all he was promised by the British for his betrayal. André was hanged as a spy.

Source: Patriots by A.J. Langguth


Bob Livingston

is an ultra-conservative American and author of The Bob Livingston Letterℱ, founded in 1969. Bob has devoted much of his life to research and the quest for truth on a variety of subjects. Bob specializes in health issues such as nutritional supplements and alternatives to drugs, as well as issues of privacy (both personal and financial), asset protection and the preservation of freedom.

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  • swampfox

    I despise traitors!

    • Nadzieja Batki

      Before B. Arnold was a traitor he was a narcissist and a megalomaniac. What a lethal combination.

    • Vigilant

      The story of Benedict Arnold is a story of tragedy. I highly recommend Willard Sterne Randall’s “Benedict Arnold: Patriot and Traitor” for a more complete treatment of this complex and tragic figure.

      There can be no doubt that Arnold, for all his faults, was the most capable and energetic military officer in Washington’s army. Nor is there any doubt that he, not Horatio “Granny” Gates, won the two battles of Saratoga in 1777. It was called the turning point of the Revolution, as it brought the French into alliance with us. He commanded the respect and fierce loyalty of his troops as did no other American officer.

      When Arnold was invading Quebec, and later when he obtained British surrender at Ticonderoga, the Continental Congress was arguing over the size and shape of buttons to be used on military tunics. Thanks to political maneuvering, Arnold never received the recognition he so richly deserved.

      His decision to become a traitor was an abominable one, and he ultimately ended up dying in abject poverty as a result of it. It is indeed a valid speculation to surmise that, had he been given the support he deserved, he would have been ranked among the greatest heroes of the Revolution.

      • SJJolly

        Well spoken!

  • dan

    One wonders what would have become of him had he received proper recognition and compensation for his victory at Fort Ticonderoga….

    • Nadzieja Batki

      No recognition would have been enough for Arnold. That is the nature of this beast.

    • raw

      Thanx Dan, I was beginning to wonder if I was the only one who caught that. I doubt very seriously if the ones calling him a traitor would have gotten back up & let the gov’t continue to screw them over continuously – some do nothing about it & continue to grumble, while those who do something about it are called names. Kind of like what we have going on today – a few are leaving the US permanently, knowing the screw is going to continue to tighten, just not on them. Not so much traitors as opportunists, no?

    • Cliffystones

      Arnold doing what he did due to a “lack of recognition” is just like the Muslims doing what they do because of a few cartoons or a video clip. He could have simply stepped down as General. But no, he proceeds to turn against the entire American population because he feels slighted. Boo Hoo.

  • http://msn Albert

    Arnold’s ways are almost if not like Obama’s. Lies thru his teeth, while stabbing us in the back!!

    • JoMama

      Hi Albert – I was going to say that & you took the words right out of my mouth!! So true. So true.

  • Strighttothepoint!!!!!

    Maybe Anold should have taken a closer look at what he was fighting for,instead of being so pissed off about everything bad that happened to him(some of things he brought on himself)!!!I wonder if he ever though of the men who gave their life’s in battle, before betraying them???

    • Patsy

      I have enjoyed reading all of the comments posted, but I have a different view and hope that everyone will enjoy it. During the revolutionary war, Washington spent his own money to help feed and clothe the young army of the US. Much of that money was eventually returned to him, but at the time of the war, he did not know that would happen. During the winter, many of the troops that fought with Washington were not only without coats and shoes, some were even naked. Still they fought and would not leave the army that Washington had raised. These are the men that need the recognition and accolades, not someone like Arnold, who sold his allegiance to the highest bidder.

      • SJJolly

        “Highest bidder” ? More a matter of only one bidder — the British.

        For those who think American government is corrupt and incompetent today, the operations of the Continental Congress, at the time of the (sainted) Founding Fathers, were not much better!

  • Seanoamericano

    This just proves politicians are and always will be useless

  • gunner689AI

    That’s what happens when you listen to a nagging, ambitious wife.


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