Wait, isn’t this supposed to be about unsung heroes? Benedict Arnold was the opposite of a hero, a traitor to a new nation that he had signed an oath of loyalty to. But that was just one act in Arnold’s American career full of heroic deeds on the hopeful American’s behalf.
Even at the young age of 14 Benedict wanted to fight in the French and Indian War, but his mother put a stop to his enlistment. Just two years later he enlisted in the militia but saw no action. A self-starter, Arnold rebuilt his family’s wealth as a business owner and was reasonably wealthy at the outbreak of the revolution, he even won a duel against a rowdy British captain during his travels.
Early in the war, Arnold co-led an attack on Fort Ticonderoga and the Patriots could take the garrison by surprise and won with no casualties. Arnold also had command of what would prove to be a disastrous mission to take Quebec. Marching through the wilds of Maine, Arnold fought against the walls of Quebec and was badly wounded in the leg in a failed assault.
In the Battle of Ridgefield, Arnold’s horse was shot from under him and landed on his leg, after intense fighting for his life, Arnold escaped the battle with his life. He fought twice at Saratoga, despite quarreling with General Gates and losing his command after the first battle. He still rode into the second battle of Saratoga and bravely rallied the Patriot troops at near-suicidal risk to himself. He was again wounded in the leg, more seriously this time, and would walk with a cane the rest of his life.
Despite his heroics, and he was widely praised for his role in the victory, Arnold had to see general Gates get most of the glory and medals for winning the battle. This perceived lack of appreciation, combined with growing debt accumulated through the war, led to Arnold finally deciding to turn to the British cause. Benedict Arnold is a synonym for traitor today, but you can still find an unnamed statue of a foot at the Saratoga National Historical Park honoring Arnold’s sacrifice without actually naming the notorious traitor.