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Benedict Arnold was an American Revolutionary War general best known for his defection from the Continental Army to the British side of the conflict in 1780.
Benedict Arnold - Full Episode (43:07)
Benedict Arnold joined the American Revolutionary army in 1775 and won glory at the Battles of Ticonderoga and Saratoga. Arnold then married a Loyalist and racked up a lot of debt, causing him to switch sides.
The full biography of Benedict Arnold.
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Benedict Arnold was born in Norwich, Connecticut, on January 14, 1741. A member of the Sons of Liberty, Arnold rose to the rank of general in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. He subsequently became a spy for the British, plotting to arrange a siege of West Point. When the plans came to light, Arnold defected to the British side. He died in London on June 14, 1801.
Benedict Arnold was born in Norwich, Connecticut, on January 14, 1741. Arnold's father was a successful businessman who expected his son to be well-educated. Following the deaths of three of his children from yellow fever, Benedict Sr. began to drink heavily, and fell on difficult financial times. Benedict Jr. left school and apprenticed at an apothecary.
In 1757, Arnold enlisted in the militia, and traveled to upstate New York to fight the French. Two years later, Arnold assumed responsibility for his father and sister following his mother’s death. His father was arrested repeatedly for drunkenness before his death in 1761.
Arnold settled in New Haven, working as a pharmacist and bookseller. In 1764, he formed a partnership with merchant Adam Babcock. The pair bought three trading ships and established trade connections with the West Indies.
The Sugar Act of 1764 and the Stamp Act the following year restricted mercantile trade in the colonies. Arnold joined the Sons of Liberty, a secret organization opposed to implementation of unpopular Parliamentary measures. After participating in the assault of a presumed informant, Arnold was convicted of disorderly conduct and charged a penalty.
In 1767, Arnold married Margaret Mansfield, the daughter of the sheriff of New Haven. The couple had three sons over the following five years.
Arnold began the war as a militia captain. Following the fighting at Lexington and Concord shortly thereafter, his company marched northeast toward Boston. Arnold proposed and participated in a maneuver to seize New York’s Fort Ticonderoga. Returning home after the battle, he learned that his wife had died earlier in the month.
Arnold also proposed an invasion of Quebec. When the Continental Congress excluded him from the primary missions, Arnold convinced George Washington to lead a second expedition to attack via a wilderness route.
Despite his military successes, Arnold proved to be a divisive figure. He fought heroically in conflicts, including the Battle of Saratoga, but made many enemies. He was frequently accused of corruption, at one point facing a court martial for misappropriation of funds.
After the British withdrawal from Philadelphia in the spring of 1778, Washington appointed Arnold military commander of the city. There, Arnold met and married Peggy Shippen, the daughter of a Loyalist sympathizer. Peggy had met British Major John André during the British occupation, and had developed ways of maintaining contact with British soldiers across the battle lines. Arnold and André began a correspondence, sometimes using Peggy as an intermediary.
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