Benedict Arnold The World Traitor From America History Essay
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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016
The name Benedict Arnold is synonymous with the word traitor in America, but it is justified that he should be considered a hero also. Arnold contributed in numerous important battles such as at Fort Ticonderoga, Valcour Island, and Saratoga. One of the greatest American generals to fight in the American Revolution, his heroism, smarts, and bravery were all disrespected by the American government and by other generals who fought in the war. Arnold lived his life through this saying of his own, “I would rather die doing something than die doing nothing”1. Congress refused to acknowledge his heroism by rejecting him of promotions and financial aid when he needed it most for his family and himself. In reality, the great American country itself has committed treason against Arnold by overshadowing his achievements in the war, and this is evident in a lone monument that is dedicated to him. The “Boot Monument” was erected at Freeman’s Farm, the place where Arnold fought so valiantly during the Battle of Saratoga. Due to the manipulation of Arnold’s character by the American government, the monument fails to state his name and recognizes only his wounded left leg, which is considered by many to be the only part of Arnold that was sacrificed for America, hence the name “Boot Monument”. Although Arnold was indeed a traitor to the American Revolution, his motives for treason came about as a result of a relentless disregard from Congress. Due to the sheer magnitude of his brilliant contributions to the cause for independence, his name should be admired by Americans today rather than be taken in vain.
To better understand how Arnold was disrespected by America, it is important to emphasize his life as a military leader. His first major action as a military leader was the capture of Fort Ticonderoga. By 1775, Arnold had been voted captain of the militia in his hometown of New Haven, Connecticut. He was now a fully devoted revolutionary and supportive of the cause for independence. Arnold started to raise troops in Stockbridge, Connecticut when he learned that a man named Ethan Allen was raising a militia, the Green Mountain Boys, to accomplish the task of taking over Fort Ticonderoga also. Arnold met up with Allen and his troops to determine who would be in charge of the mission, and they argued until it was resolved for both of them to command the army. Arnold’s men and Allen’s Green Mountain Boys then marched to Lake Champlain to capture the fort. At dawn of May 10, 1775, they entered the dormant fort and requested its surrender. Captain William Delaplace surrendered Ticonderoga as well as 44 surprised soldiers within ten minutes of the request. There was no bloodshed, which helped avoid more deaths of American troops. This “battle” was an excellent beginning for Arnold’s military career in the war, but he was given no credit for the capture of Ticonderoga. This was because Allen wrote two deceitful reports to Congress concerning his account of what happened at the battle. In these reports, Allen stated, “I took the fortress of Ticonderoga.”2 He barely mentioned Arnold, who should have been given equal recognition, if not more due to his civilized manner of treating the fort after the battle, while Allen and his men took advantage of the situation by looting and partying. Allen also praised unworthy men like Lieutenant-Colonel John Brown and Colonel James Easton, who were second in command of the army and did not deserve credit over Arnold. Unfortunately, Congress believed Allen after Arnold dispatched a letter to it stating the true nature of what happened at the battle. In Arnold’s letter, he attempted to explain that he was stripped of command of the fort because he tried to stop the “plundering and destroying of private property”3 by Allen and his Green Mountain Boys. Congress felt Allen’s account was more credible because he was more popular than the “political amateur” Arnold, so they refused to give him any credit for the victory. For the first time of many to come, Arnold was ignored and mistreated by Congress. As a result of this misunderstanding, he was put second in command of Lake Champlain to Colonel Benjamin Hinman, a demotion which he did not deserve.
At Valcour Island in Lake Champlain, Arnold and his troops were hopelessly outnumbered, but he was still able to outsmart his enemies and save many lives while delaying the British campaign, and saving the American cause. During this time in history, the American’s chances of beating the British were very bleak and on the brink of surrender. New York harbor was already occupied by 32,000 battle-trained troops of the British, and a second fleet was sent to plow through Lake Champlain. The plan was to surround Albany and sever communication between the northern and southern colonies. Guy Carlton, the naval leader for the British second fleet, commanded 7,000 troops, 400 war-painted Indian levies, and 670 naval sailors and gunners. On the other hand, Arnold only had 15 gun boats, schooners, and row galleys that included a meager 700 poor trained militia men. As the crack of dawn approached and the immense British naval fleet could be seen over the horizon, Arnold knew that his forces would have no chance. He used a newly developed tactic of his own as the “crash shipbuilding program.” The plan was to purposely crash and burn ships into the lake, so they could act as obstacles for the big British fleet to avoid. Arnold wanted to delay the British for as long as he could, so he could get his forces back to New York for preparation of a crucial defense with George Washington. After one day of being thrashed by British gunners, he wanted to salvage what was left of his forces and go help Washington set up a defense. This time, he pretended to set up a huge campfire in the night to pretend that his army was still encamped at the same location, but he and his remaining sailors sailed within a mile of the entire fleet, and escaped to New York. The British had no idea, and spent two days searching for the fleet, which was adequate time to set up a combined defense of New York. Out of the 700 militia men that fought for Arnold, around 200 survived which was a moral victory. Even though Valcour was an American defeat, it proved to be one of the truly decisive battles in the Revolution.
The last major battles in which Arnold fought valiantly for America were the Battles of Saratoga in 1777, which were the key turning points of the war. Arnold was given command of the army with Horatio Gates, whom he disagreed with on almost everything. For example, Arnold envisioned an aggressive, offensive assault that utilized the force of the Northern Army on General John Burgoyne’s British army while Gates preferred a defensive holding strategy that he hoped would provoke an attack on the American entrenchments. Gates realized Arnold would propose his idea of a forceful assault at every military staff meeting, so in order to silence him, he refused to invite him to any military strategy meetings. Gates’ refusal to allow him to attend these meetings outraged Arnold, for he again felt that his fellow soldiers were insulting his command. Also at this time, James Wilkinson, a friend of Gates who had previously betrayed Arnold, again publicly denounced Arnold and questioned his loyalty, when truthfully “Wilkinson was one of the true scoundrels of the Revolution, turning on just about everyone he worked with to advance his own career.”4 The first battle, known as Freeman’s Farm, took place on September 19, 1777. Arnold and Gates together fought the opposing forces led by General Burgoyne; however, the true heat of the battle was taking place in the American camp where Arnold and Gates continually quarreled with each other. During the battle, Gates refused to utilize Arnold’s offensive military tactics. Arnold still reluctantly performed his duties by following Gates’ order. Later on, Arnold caught a glimpse of victory at a certain point in the battle, realizing that he could finish the battle only if Gates supplied him with new reinforcements. Arnold’s request for troops was denied, leading him to gallop off on his horse. Wilkinson subdued him and forced a furious Arnold back to camp. The consequence of this was large, for Burgoyne was able to gain possession of the battlefield. If Arnold was able to make use of his aggressive strategy, the second battle, Bemis Heights, might not have been necessary. The Battle at Bemis Heights occurred on October 7, 1777. Arnold, who was not allowed any authority to fight or command troops in this battle, viewed the fight as a spectator, anxiously paced back and forth without a word. At a certain point when the British forces had become extremely weak, Arnold could no longer contain himself. Arnold charged onto the field like a madman, believed by many to be either drunk or opium induced. However, stunned by Arnold’s charge, the retreating British fired in his direction for the last time, injuring his leg again after being pierced with a musket ball. After the victorious battle, Gates refused to show any sympathy for Arnold’s wound. Instead of thanking him for his courage, he once again denounced Arnold by saying that he “neither rendered service, nor deserved credit that day.”5 These words have eerily similarities between Gates and Ethan Allen in terms of neglecting Arnold’s leadership in battle. This caused him to be completely disillusioned with the American cause because he felt no trust, leading to his attempt to turn over West Point to the British for money and promotions.
Overall, Benedict Arnold should not be only remembered for being a traitor since he was basically forced out in believing in the American cause. Arnold led and fought in the three most important battles of the Revolution, and his impact on the war should not be forgotten. His battle tactics were brilliant and ruthless, and he was able to change the outcome of the Revolution all by himself.
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