A lot of people are familiar with Benedict Arnold, though many might be surprised to learn that he was a famous hero of the revolutionary war before he decided to become a traitor. Arnold was a true patriot at the beginning of the American War of Independence.
Right at the outset of the war, Arnold headed north to establish bases of control and hopefully sway the Canadians to the rebel cause. In one of the first major actions of the War, Arnold snuck over to the poorly defended Fort Ticonderoga and captured it and all its artillery. Arnold’s idea was genius; though Ticonderoga was a small garrison, its capture hampered communication and inland logistics for the British. The captured cannons also played a role when they were brought to Boston and fired into the British-held town until they forced a retreat.
Arnold then had the idea to attack Quebec City, again a strategically sound choice. Arnold led a winter assault in 1775 that saw hundreds die just from the elements. At the battle, Arnold suffered a terrible injury to his leg. Later he oversaw the construction of a quick fleet to block an advancing British fleet at Lake Champlain. The battle was a tactical defeat for Benedict, but a heroic delaying action that held back British operations for almost a year.
Benedict Arnold thought that he didn’t get enough credit for his actions, and when he saw junior officers being promoted all around him he resigned. He was eventually persuaded to rejoin again but had to serve under General Horatio Gates. The two men despised each other, and when Arnold attacked without orders and secured an impressive victory, in was reportedly Gates who took the credit.
Finally fed up, Arnold took a military governor position in Philadelphia where he married the daughter of a British loyalist. Soon, crippling debt and lingering resentment of his treatment by the American forces led to him offering to turn over the fort at West Point for a substantial fee. Ultimately, the Americans discovered this plot and the whole plan backfired, with Benedict Arnold just escaping to British protection.
Benedict Arnold is remembered as a bitter traitor, seeking personal glory over fighting for his country. He fought in a few minor engagements before heading Britain. His betrayal actually relit the revolutionary fire in America after strings of grim campaigns and battlefield defeats the Americans had something to rally against. Arnold would live out the rest of his life in Britain, getting much less than the agreed upon sum for West Point as the plan was comprised. He could never return to America and he was treated with indifference in Britain as he never really gained much for them before the war’s end.