Home » Benedict Arnold: A Loyalist and a Hero of the American Revolution

Benedict Arnold: A Loyalist and a Hero of the American Revolution

Americans today think of the War for independence as a revolution, but in important respects it was also a civil war. American loyalists or “Tories” as their opponents called them, opposed the Revolution, and many took up arms against the rebels. What motivated the Loyalists? Most educated Americans, whether Loyalist or Revolutionary, accepted John Locke’s theory of natural rights and limited government. Thus, the Loyalists, like the rebels, criticized such British actions as the Stamp Act and the Coercive Acts.

Loyalists wanted to pursue peaceful forms of rotest because they believed that violence would give rise to mob rule or tyranny. They also believed that independence would mean the loss of economic benefits derived from membership in the British mercantile system. About hundred thousand Loyalists left the country, including William Franklin, the son of Benjamin, and John Singleton Copley, the greatest American painter of the period. Most of them moved to Canada and some eventually returned.

Apart from Copley, the Loyalists became non-existed people in American history. However, one loyalist that stands apart from he rest. His name is Benedict Arnold. He is probably one of the most famous men in American history because he betrayed the country. He has become an infamous character and people seem to only remember the worst of him. However, he was a brave soldier and contributed greatly to both America and England. Benedict Arnold was a hero to the British people for having planned to hand over the keys to West Point, a crucial American fort on the Hudson.

They also admired him for his military skills and for the services he did for the British side. Yet, people mention his name with disgrace. Benedict Arnold’s career began when he and Ethan Allen led the brigade that captured Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain. Arnold continued to show his military tactics when he led an expedition of about one thousand men against Quebec. He must have shown great deal of leadership because although he had only six hundred and fifty men still with him after his travel though frightening Maine wilderness, these losses did not deter him.

Arnold and his army traveled, as Arnold puts it, “under almost as many ifficulties as the Israelites did as old, obliged to make brick without straw. ” (Clare Brandt, pg 82) Joined by General Richard Montgomery, who had arrived with three hundred troops after capturing Montreal, Arnold experienced great losses. General Montgomery was killed and Arnold himself had a ball through his leg. General Montgomery admired Arnold. He said with much pain, “I find Colonel Arnold’s corps and exceedingly fine one.

There is a style of discipline among them much superior to what I have been used to see this campaign, (and Arnold) himself is n active, intelligent, and enterprising” (Clare Brandt, page 64) Quebec was only the beginning. For the next five years Arnold served the Patriot side with distinction in one battle after another, including a dangerous assault against the center of the British line at Saratoga. When the fighting began at Lexington and Concord in April 1775, Arnold was thirty-four, an apothecary and minor merchant in New Haven, but a militia captain and ardent Patriot.

Eager to support the rebellion, Arnold coerced the Town’s selectmen into supplying powder and ball to his men and promptly marched them to Boston. On the way Arnold thought up the attack on Fort Ticonderoga and persuaded the Massachusetts Committee of Safety to approve his plan and make him a colonel. This move makes him take control and receive all the glory during the battle instead of it going to Ethan Allen. Arnold saw Ticonderoga as “the key of this extensive country. ” (Clare Brandt, page 34) Benedict led his troops to the siege of Boston and Valcour Island and proved once again to be a bold and skilled officer.

At the battle of Valcour Island he was wounded severely in his leg. His bravery won him the espect of many people He was promoted to the rank of brigadier general. Arnold felt that his services were not properly rewarded. In 1777, Congress promoted five officers, who were junior to Benedict, to major general. Only a personal plea from General George Washington kept him from resigning. He did receive a delayed promotion to a major general, but he was still angered that he was not promoted to a rank above the junior officers promoted earlier.

To add to his irritation, a fellow officer charged Arnold with misconduct, but Congress found the charges groundless and dismissed hem. In late 1777, Benedict fought at Saratoga. Before the final battle Arnold quarreled with his superior, General Horation Gates and was relieved of his command. Arnold, “infuriated by the conflict and maddened by Gates’s refusal to send reinforcements, which he repeatedly called for, and knowing (his men) were meeting the brunt of the battle… seemed inspired with the fury of a demon. ” (Clare Brandt, page 133) Despite his relief of command, Benedict led his troops into battle.

He charged from place to place, rallying Americans and was again wounded in the leg. He received much of the credit for this American victory. In 1778 Benedict married Peggy Shippen, the daughter of a wealthy Loyalist when he was assigned to military commander of Philadelphia. Life in Philadelphia was pleasant but very costly. Before he knew it, Arnold was deeply in debt. In 1779, he was charged with using his position for personal profit and charged with using the soldiers in his command as personal servants. A court martial cleared him of most of the charges, but had George Washington reprimand him.

Washington issued the reprimand, but oftened it with the promise of a high promotion in the future. But Arnold had already sold his services to the British. The charge was one of the reasons he became a traitor. Since May 1779, he had been supplying the British with valuable military information. In 1780, Benedict was given command of the fort at West Point in New York. He decided that he would give this strategic post to the British. “As life and everything is at stake,” Arnold declared, “I will expect some certainty: my property here secure and a revenue equivalent to the risk and service done.

Arnold received what he wanted for his service to the British. On September 21, Benedict met Major John Andre of the British army to discuss and arrange the details. Two days later, Andre was captured when he attempted to return to the British lines. Some American soldiers stopped and searched him and found incriminating papers hidden in his stockings and the plot was revealed. Andre was executed as a spy. George Washington said “Major Andre was taken under such circumstances as would have justified the most summary proceedings against him.

I determined, however, to refer his case to the examination of a board of general officers” (Clare Brandt, pg 225, 226) Arnold learned this news in time for him to escape. He fled to a British ship that took him down the Hudson River to New York City. The British rewarded him with six thousand pounds and also gave him the rank of brigadier general. Arnold served the King with the same enthusiasm and skills he had shown in the Patriot cause. As a brigadier general in the British army, Arnold was in charge of the raids in Virginia along the James River to Richmond and, later, to Petersburg.

In Richmond, he destroyed the grain stock and the ammunitions that were stored for the Patriots. In 1781, to divert a French and American attack on British forces in the south, Arnold’s expeditions shifted to New London, Connecticut, where he, in effect, raided former neighbors. There he burned more than 150 buildings, and his troops massacred American militia at Fort Griswold, near New London. New London was a major port for the Patriots. He is seen as a hero to the British for helping them in the war. In December 1781, Benedict moved with his wife and children to England where he was received warmly by King George III.

Arnold said, “our reception (in England) has been very pleasant. “(Clare Brandt, page 267) The British government granted him thirteen thousand acres in Canada. He died in England on June 14, 1801. The evil that men do lives after them. The good is oft’ interned with their bones . -Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare – Arnold was the most successful man in the revolution. Although he became a traitor to the Patriots, his destiny was to become one of the great heroes of the American Revolution. People seem to have forgotten his agnificent military skills, his victories, and the energy he had put into the Revolution.

His courage, brazenness and hunger for glory are what represent Arnold the most. He can be seen as a hero from both the Patriot and the Loyalist perspectives. Benedict Arnold was considered a military genius; he was able to bring his troops from near defeat to victory. He was highly regarded not only by his cronies but also was highly respected by his adversaries. Arnold was probably the only man to be respected by both the British and the Americans prior to 1779. One believe that Benedict was ne of the best Generals that had served during the Revolution and that he was a hero to both side of the war.

While he was an American general he was the hero of Saratoga, who sealed the French alliance that helped guarantee independence for the country he had betrayed. To the Loyalists, he is a hero for having planned to hand over the keys to West Point, a crucial American fort on the Hudson. They also admired him for his military skills and for the services he did for the British side. Yet, people mention his name with disgrace. The fact whether Arnold was a true loyalist or not is one that has een argued for many years. However, one believe that Arnold was a true loyalist.

He shared many common characteristics of a Loyalist. If he was a true Patriot he would not have married a Loyalist at all. Arnold claimed to have served the British “from a principle of love to my country,” (Clare Brandt, page xx) however, this is not true. He was not a political or an ideological man. Arnold was a man, driven was man craving for reassurance and confirmation that could never be satisfied, even by his own well-earned triumphs. His hunger of heroic proportions was one of the reasons that lead im to becoming a loyalist.

If he was not a true patriot he would not have betrayed the country to satisfy his wants. To him, money was far more than financial security, but a crucial ingredient of self-respect. One notice a change in his attitude towards the American people when he thinks that he was trumped by “a set of unprincipled, malicious scoundrels who have prostituted their honor and truth for the purpose of gratifying their private resentment against an innocent person. ” (Clare Brandt, page 170) and when he said “the villainous attacks made on my character by the President and Council of this state… Clare Brandt, page 173).

In my opinion, he became a loyalist, because he was determined to succeed and longed for recognition. Since the Americans did not recognize his victories during the Revolution, it seems as though he did not leave on betrayal but had no choice but to leave. People seem to emphasize on his betrayal and seem to have forgotten what victories he made during the American Revolution for both the British and the Americans. Benedict Arnold should be remembered as the military hero, who did not betray the country but entered the Loyalists side because of the way the Congress mistreated him.

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