In His Excellency: George Washington, author Joseph Ellis devotes only a paragraph to the treachery of Benedict Arnold during the American Revolutionary War. But, when Arnold plotted to turn over the American fort at West Point to the British, his treason became the stuff of history books. Perhaps his downfall is more poignant because in the early years of the war, he was one of the Continental Army’s most accomplished leaders. He led successful campaigns to capture Fort Ticonderoga and at the Battle of Saratoga among others.
But, perhaps because he was passed over for promotion, or because of mounting debts and an investigation for corruption, Arnold asked and was given command of West Point in order to turn it over to the British. The plot was discovered with the capture of British Major John André. Arnold fled to the British side where he was later named a Brigadier General and led raids in Virginia and attacked New London, CT. He eventually settled in London, returned to New Brunswick to run a mercantile business, but ended up back in London, where some say, toward the end of his life, he was bitter and remorseful. Andre, despite pleas that he should be shot as was befitting for an officer, was hanged. He was only 31 years old.
For more on the hero turned traitor and the West Point affair, see:
George Washington and Benedict Arnold: A Tale of Two Patriots
by Dave Palmer
Benedict Arnold’s Navy: The Rag-Tag Fleet That Lost the Battle of Lake Champlain, but Won the American Revolution by James Nelson
Benedict Arnold, Revolutionary Hero: An American Warrior Reconsidered
by James Martin
The Man in the Mirror: A Life of Benedict Arnold by Clare Brandt
Benedict Arnold: Traitor to the Cause by Norma Jean Lutz
Major John André: A Gallant in Spy’s Clothing by Robert Hatch
Check out the library’s All Fairfax Reads selection, His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph Ellis for more information.