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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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By the following summer, Arnold was providing the British with troop locations, as well as the locations of supply depots.
Arnold gained access to even more sensitive information when he assumed command of West Point, in August of 1780. He began systematically weakening the fort’s defenses, refusing to order necessary repairs and draining its supplies. At the same time,
Arnold began transferring his assets from Connecticut to England.
Arnold and André met in person on September 21, to discuss the operation. Several days later, André was captured. Papers exposing the West Point siege plot were found and sent to George Washington, revealing Arnold’s role.
Learning of André's capture, Arnold fled downriver, sending a request to Washington that his family be given safe passage to Philadelphia. André was hanged at Tappan, New York, on October 2. Although Washington sent men into New York to kidnap Arnold, the effort was unsuccessful.
Arnold soon began openly fighting for the British. In December of 1780, he led a force into Virginia, capturing Richmond and destroying supply houses, foundries, and mills. Arnold commanded the army until May, when Lord Cornwallis assumed control. Arnold later devised and led an attack on New London.
When word of British surrender reached New York, Arnold requested leave to return to England with his family, which he did in December of 1781. Over the following years, he repeatedly attempted to gain positions with the British East India Company and the British military, but was unable to find a place for himself.
In 1785, Arnold and his son Richard moved to New Brunswick, Canada, where they established a West Indies trade. Following a series of business dealings that resulted in a crowd burning Arnold in effigy, the family returned to London. Arnold continued to trade with the West Indies during the French Revolution, and was imprisoned by French authorities for a short time on suspicion of spying.
In January of 1801, Arnold's health began to decline. He died on June 14, 1801, at the age of 60, and was buried at St. Mary’s Church in Battersea, London.
The treasonous actions of Benedict Arnold are legendary in the United States. Arnold’s name is omitted from a number of Revolutionary War monuments, and has been colloquially invoked as an accusation of traitorous behavior against individuals as disparate as Jefferson Davis and LeBron James.
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