Was Benedict Arnold a real “Benedict Arnold?”
His distant realtive, Isaac N. Arnold, has a different take on the famous traitor in the book Benedict Arnold: His Patriotism and His Treason. Now republished by HVA Press, the defense of Arnold had not been available in bookstores for over a hundred years.
Isaac Arnold describes the man behind the myth. Until his attempted betrayal — which ended in failure — Arnold was recognized as “The bravest of the brave,” by George Washington, and many others.
Author Isaac Arnold was a two-term Congressman who introduced the first resolution in Congress proposing a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery in the United States. He wrote a general history of Lincoln’s abolition of slavery in 1867, and the biography of Benedict Arnold in 1880.
While many dismissed Benedict Arnold’s treason as the act of a disgruntled military man passed over for promotion Isaac Arnold ascribes his actions, in part, to the influence of his wife Peggy Shippen. In his account, she had sympathies with the British and led him to feel the Americans had no chance of winning the war. Isaac Arnold says Benedict Arnold also believed his betrayal would help end the ongoing bloodshed of his fellow Americans. Benedict Arnold: His Patriotism and His Treason includes the original footnotes and features excerpts from memorandum and letters of George Washington, Peggy Shippen, Benedict Arnold, and dozens of others, both Americans and British.
After Benedict Arnold’s failed attempt to turn over the plans of West Point to the British he served with the British Army until then end of the Revolutionary War. In December 1780, he led a force of 1,600 troops into Virginia and captured Richmond by surprise. He then moved through Virginia, destroying supply houses, foundries, and mills until forced to retreat.
The pursuing American army included the Marquis de Lafayette, who was under orders from Washington to hang Arnold summarily if he was captured. British reinforcements arrived in late March led by William Phillips who had served under Burgoyne at Saratoga.
On his return to New York in June, Arnold made a variety of proposals for attacks on economic targets to force the Americans to end the war. He raided the port of New London, Connecticut with more than 1,700 men which burned most of New London to the ground on September 4, 1781.
They also attacked captured Fort Griswold across the river in Groton, Connecticut, slaughtering the Americans after they surrendered following the Battle of Groton Heights — and all these things were done just a few miles down the Thames River from Norwich, Connecticut, where Benedict Arnold grew up.
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