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Who is Benedict Arnold?

Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco

Benedict Arnold was born on 14 January 1741 to a family with a long political history. Arnold's early life was plagued by tragedy. Four of his siblings died of yellow fever, leaving him the only boy, along with a younger sister.

With the family fortune lost due to a series of bad business decisions, Benedict Arnold was forced to abandon school at the age of 14. His father had turned to alcoholism as his way of dealing with the family problems, so Benedict Arnold was forced to learn a trade from two older cousins. Less than a year later, and against his mother's wishes, Benedict Arnold enlisted in the army to fight the French at Fort William Henry. He was quickly dismissed because of his youth, but the seed had already been planted.

Benedict Arnold is remembered as a traitor.
Benedict Arnold is remembered as a traitor.

After the death of his parents in 1761, Benedict Arnold began a successful business as a pharmacist in Connecticut. Bent on restoring the good family name, he focused on making money and buying property, eventually establishing a merchant trade with the West Indies. Benedict Arnold married and had three sons, but his wife died just a few years later, leaving him in charge of a growing family. Arnold's sister, who was living with him and taking care of the family business while he was away, became a substitute mother.

On 21 April 1775, Benedict Arnold joined the growing revolution and was appointed captain of the Governor’s Second Company of Connecticut Guards. He captured Fort Ticonderoga, and then joined Major General Philip Schuyler in a quest to invade the Canada coastline. The mission proved more difficult than expected, and Benedict Arnold was seriously wounded while trying to take over Quebec. For the next four years, Arnold fought in New Jersey, Connecticut, Philadelphia, and Saratoga, until a serious wound took him out of the battlefield permanently. Embittered towards Congress for not agreeing to his war tactics and budget, Benedict Arnold immersed himself in the Philadelphia elite, eventually meeting and marrying 18-year-old Peggy Shippen.

Peggy's previous suitor had been British Major John André. With his help, Arnold got in touch with the British army and offered to hand West Point over in exchange for a brigadier's commission and £25,000. His plan was botched, and he fled to London with his wife and children. When it became obvious that the British would be defeated, Benedict Arnold tried to reestablish his merchant business with no success. He died in poverty on 14 June 1801.

Benedict Arnold is considered a traitor and has no official monuments to his memory, despite his early contribution to the Revolution.

Discussion Comments


Yes, he does have a monument to him: his leg.


I don't understand the relevance of this article.

What great thing did this Arnold do to deserve an article written about him?


yes, there is a monument to arnold's leg...it's called the Boot Monument. And it's actually located in the Saratoga National Historic Park in New York, not Philadelphia.


he does have a monument! it's not exactly to him but of his leg for being shot in battle twice. it's found in Philadelphia.

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    • Benedict Arnold is remembered as a traitor.
      By: Mark J. Grenier
      Benedict Arnold is remembered as a traitor.