Benedict Arnold V, Drug Dealer & Hero?
Much to my chagrin, the Theory of Relativity about Benedict Arnold needs to be addressed, as he relates to my family. Benedict Arnold had a well-earned military reputation in the British Army. At the occasion of the American Revolution, Arnold's sentiments switched over to that of the rebelling American Colonists. Despite the stellar service that he contributed to the efforts for American independence, he chose to make one bad decision, betraying the plans of the Americans regarding West Point. That one bad decision painted his reputation for ever as a traitor.
However, it must be said that he was one of the most noble, fine and effective officers who served the British military, and subsequently the military of the American Revolutionist. His reputation was of a brave man of superior integrity. At the time he made his famous traitorous decision, I am confident he believed he was doing the right things for what he thought was a just cause, that of the British becoming victorious in that battle of revolution. Unfortunately for him, it was that one bad decision that colored his reputation for all of history!
Benedict Arnold is the great grandnephew of Freelove Arnold, the wife of Edward Pelham. Edward is the son of Herbert Pelham and his second wife, Elizabeth Bosvile. Herbert Pelham, who was the first Treasurer of Harvard College, is my 24th cousin, nine times removed. Herbert also is the 11th cousin, once removed, of Edward Southworth, the first husband of my seventh great grandmother, Alice Carpenter, on my Father's side of the family, which descends from her second marriage to Plymouth Colony Governor William Bradford. Southworth also is my 25th cousin, eight times removed. Alice is my ninth great grand aunt as well as a grandparent. Herbert is the second great grandnephew of King Henry VIII (through the King's marriage to Anne Boleyn). Herbert is the third great grandson of Thomas Boleyn, the father-in-law of King Henry VIII. Herbert is the 11th cousin, 14 times removed of my son-in-law, Steven O. Westmoreland.
"Benedict Arnold was a general in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. He is best known for plotting to surrender the American fort at West Point, New York to the British during the American Revolution. Arnold had distinguished himself as a hero of the revolution early in the war through acts of cunning and bravery at Fort Ticonderoga in 1775 and at the Battle of Saratoga in 1777. Arnold strongly opposed the decision by the Continental Congress to form an alliance with France, having experienced a bitter defeat at the hands of the French and their Indian allies during the French and Indian War (1754-1763).
"Disaffected due to grievances with the Continental Congress and the military, suffering from mounting personal debt, and facing corruption charges filed by the Pennsylvania civil authorities, Arnold also faced pressure at home from his young second wife, a British Loyalist. In1780, he formulated his scheme. If successful, this would have given British forces control of the Hudson River valley and split the colonies in half. The plot was thwarted, but Arnold managed to flee to England, where he was rewarded with a commission as a Brigadier General in the British Army, along with a reduced award of £6,000sterling. In the United States, Arnold's name is synonymous with treason.
"Benedict Arnold V was born the second of six children to Benedict Arnold III and Hannah Waterman King in Norwich, Connecticut. He was named after his great, great grandfather, an early colonial governor of Rhode Island. His parents had another son, Benedict Arnold IV, who died in infancy before Benedict Arnold V was born. Only Benedict and his sister Hannah survived to adulthood, the other three siblings succumbing to yellow fever while children.
"The Arnold family was financially well-to-do until Arnold's father made several bad business deals that plunged the family into debt. When this happened, the father turned to alcohol for solace. At age 14, Benedict was forced to withdraw from school because the family no longer could afford the cost.
"His father's alcohol abuse and ill health prevented him from training his son in the family mercantile business, but his mother's family connections secured an apprenticeship for him with two of her cousins, the brothers Daniel and Joshua Lathrop. The two ran a successful apothecary and general merchandise trade in Norwich.
"At 15, Arnold ran away to enlist in the Connecticut militia, marching to Albany and Lake George to oppose the French invasion from Canada during the French and Indian War. (See Battle of Fort William Henry). It is not clear if Arnold fought in the battle. Some sources claim he deserted and made his way home alone through the wilderness. Another source states his mother used her influence to obtain his discharge because of his youth.
"In any case, the British suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the French under the command of Louis Joseph Marquis de Montcalm. After the British surrender, the native allies of the French (called Indians) were outraged by the easy terms offered to the British and Colonial forces. They had been promised scalps, arms and booty, and none were forthcoming. They fell upon the prisoners as they were being escorted away and massacred as many as 180 of them. The French regulars were powerless to stop them. This event may have created an abiding hatred for the French in a young and impressionable Arnold that influenced his actions later in life.
"Benedict's mother, to whom he was very close, died in 1759. The youth took on the responsibility of supporting his ailing father and younger sister. His father's alcoholism worsened after the death of his wife and he was arrested on several occasions for public drunkenness and was refused communion by his church. With his father's death in1761, the 21-year-old Arnold resolved to restore his family name to the elevated status it had once enjoyed.
"In 1762, with the help of the Lathrops, Arnold established himself in business as a pharmacist and bookseller in New Haven, Connecticut.
"Arnold was ambitious and aggressive, quickly expanding his business. In 1763, he repurchased the family homestead that his father had sold when deeply in debt. One year later, he re-sold it for a substantial profit. In 1764, he formed a partnership with Adam Babcock, another young New Haven merchant. Using the profits from the sale of his homestead, they bought three trading ships and, by 1765, had established a lucrative West Indies trade. During this time, he brought his sister Hannah to New Haven and established her in his apothecary to manage the business in his absence. He traveled extensively during his business, throughout New England and from Quebec to the West Indies, often in command of one of his own ships.
"The Stamp Act of 1765 severely curtailed mercantile trade in the colonies. Arnold initially took no part in any public demonstrations, but like many merchants, by 1766, conducted trade as if the Stamp Act did not exist, in effect becoming a smuggler in defiance of the act.
"On the night of January 31, 1767, Arnold took part in a demonstration denouncing the acts of the British Parliament and their oppressive colonial policy. Local Crown officials were burnt in effigy. He and members of his crew roughed up a man suspected of being a smuggling informant. Arnold was arrested and fined 50 shillings for disturbing the peace.
"The oppressive taxes levied by parliament forced many New England merchants out of business. Arnold himself came near to personal ruin, falling £15,000 sterling in debt.
"Arnold fought a duel in Honduras with a British sea captain, who called Arnold a 'Darned Yankee, destitute of good manners or those of a gentleman.' Arnold was shocked by the rudeness and challenged him to a duel. The captain was wounded and forced to apologize.
"Arnold was in the West Indies when the Boston Massacre occurred on March 15, 1770, but later wrote he was 'very much shocked' and wondered 'good God; are the Americans all asleep and tamely giving up their liberties, or are they all turned philosophers, that they don't take immediate vengeance on such miscreants.' This statement shows his original sentiment and his opposition to the control the Mother Country was exerting on its American Colony.
"On February 22, 1767, he married Margaret, daughter of Samuel Mansfield. They had three sons, Benedict, Richard and Henry. She died on June 19, 1775.
"In July 1780, Arnold sought and obtained command of the fort at West Point. He already had begun correspondence with Gen. Sir Henry Clinton in New York City through Maj. André (the same man who had previously wooed his young bride). Arnold offered to hand the fort over to the British for £20,000 sterling and a Brigadier General's commission. His plans were thwarted when André was captured with documents that disclosed the plot and incriminated Arnold. Maj. André later was convicted of being a spy and hanged.
"Arnold learned of André's capture and fled to the British. They made him a Brigadier General, but only paid him some £ 6,000 sterling, because his plot had failed. The British never really trusted him, although he saw some action in the American Theater. In December 1780, under orders from Clinton, Arnold led a force of 1,600 troops into Virginia and captured Richmond, cutting off the major artery of materiel to the southern patriot effort. He burned Richmond on January 5, 1781.
"In the Southern Theater, Lord Cornwallis marched north to Yorktown, which he reached in May 1781. Arnold, meanwhile, had been sent north to capture the town of New London, Connecticut, in hopes it would divert Washington away from Cornwallis. While in Connecticut, Arnold's force captured Fort Griswold on September 8, 1781. In December, Arnold was recalled to England with various other officers, as the Crown de-emphasized the American Theater over more probable wins in others.
"While in London, he met with various cabinet officers and King George III, trying to convince them to continue fighting, despite the defeat of Cornwallis at Yorktown. He was, as at Quebec, too late. The Crown already was sending peace feelers. Distraught, Arnold moved to Canada (Saint John, New Brunswick) with Peggy to reestablish his earlier maritime successes. He loaned out great amounts of money to various loyalist families that had relocated from the American Colonies, but when he ran into financial hardship, no one would pay him back. He was forced to move back to London with Peggy and their four sons in 1792.
"Arnold spent his time in London attempting to make a go at the West Indies trade. With the coming of the French Revolution, he tried to obtain a command, but, despite the backing of Clinton and Cornwallis, Arnold lacked the necessary social connections. He died on June 14, 1801, poor and with almost no fanfare. He was buried in a crypt of St. Mary's Church, Battersea, which at that time was located in Surrey. According to some reports, while on his deathbed, he asked God for forgiveness in betraying the Patriot cause, and requested to be buried in the uniform of an American Continental soldier.
"Arnold attempted to justify his actions in an open letter entitled, 'To the Inhabitants of America.' In a letter to his former friend Washington, he stated, 'love to my country actuates my present conduct. However it may appear inconsistent to the world, who very seldom judge right of any man's actions.'
"Benedict Arnold is a paradoxical figure in American history. While there can be no doubt as to his eventual patriotism to British Empire, neither can there be any doubt as to his crucial role in the Battle of Saratoga, and thus the Revolution. It was Saratoga which persuaded the French, who had been skeptical of the colonists' chances, to intervention the war on the American side. This alliance tipped the balance and ensured the ultimate American victory.
"On the battlefield at Saratoga, a lone monument stands in memorial to this man, but there is no mention of his name on the engraving. The inscription reads: 'In memory of the most brilliant soldier of the Continental army, who was desperately wounded on this spot, winning for his countrymen the decisive battle of the American Revolution, and for himself the rank of Major General.'
"Another memorial to Arnold resides at the United States Military Academy. It bears only a rank, 'major general,' and a date, 'born1740.' The name has been left out. That the plaque exists at all is tribute to the undeniable contribution he made to American independence, a contribution fatally tarnished by an infamous act of betrayal.
"''Benedict Arnold' became a U.S. English expression used to describe traitors, and it remains widely recognized as such, even in 21st century America. From a British perspective, he is not considered a 'traitor', though it is generally understood that British never fully trusted him."
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