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Reports & Essays: Biography - Famous People

"AND""OR"

Benedict Arnold
No other American is remembered quite the same as Benedict Arnold. He was a brave soldier, a patriot- and a traitor. Benedict was born in Norwich, Connecticut, on January 14, 1741. When he was 14 years old, Benedict ran away from home to fight in the French and Indian War, but he was brought back by his mother, who apparently was driven insane later in her life. If I had a son like Benedict, I might have gone insane too! After his mother insisted that he return home, he ran away for a second time. After he was finished playing boy hero for awhile, he learned the apothecary (pharmacy) trade and then in 1762, he opened a book and drug store in New Haven. Benedict was also involved with trade in the West Indies. By 1774, he was one of the wealthiest citizens in New Haven. It's a good thing that he had money, because he was one of those people who like to ride around in their Mercedes and wear expensive clothes, even if he couldn't afford them. Benedict then got hooked up with the sheriff's daughter Margaret Mansfield, and they hit it off. They decided to get married in 1774. But this marriage was short lived because the next year Margaret caught a disease and died. When the Revolutionary War began that year Arnold was already an experienced soldier. He had helped Ethan Allen capture Fort Ticonderoga. Then Benedict came up with a great idea to capture Quebec. This idea failed, but Benedict had already proven his bravery. He was then commissioned as a colonel in the patriot forces. He was one of General George Washington's most trusted officers. Benedict led his troops to the siege of Boston and Valcour Island and proved once again to be a bold and skilled officer. At the battle of Valcour Island he was wounded severely in his leg. His bravery won him the respect of many people. He was promoted to the rank of brigadier general. Arnold felt that his services were not properly rewarded. In 1777, Congress promoted five officers, who were junior to Benedict, to major general. Only a personal plea from General George Washington kept him from resigning. He did receive a delayed promotion to major general, but he was still angered that he was not promoted to a rank above the junior officers promoted earlier. Then to top things off, a fellow officer charged Arnold with misconduct, but Congress found the charges groundless and dismissed them. In late 1777, Benedict fought at Saratoga. Before the final battle Arnold quarreled with his superior, General Horatio Gates, and was relieved of his command. Despite his relief of command, Benedict led his troops into battle. He charged from place to place, rallying Americans and was again wounded in the leg. He received much of the credit for this American victory. In 1778 Benedict married Peggy Shippen, the daughter of a wealthy Loyalist when he was assigned to military commander of Philadelphia. Life in Philadelphia was pleasant but very costly. Before he knew it, Arnold was deeply in debt. In 1779 he was charged with using his position for personal profit and charged with using the soldiers in his command as personal servants. A court martial cleared him of most of the charges, but had General Washington reprimand him. Washington issued the reprimand, but softened it with the promise of a high promotion in the future. But Arnold had already sold his services to the British. Since May of 1779 he had been supplying them with valuable military information. He did this because he was still upset with the Continental Congress for not giving him the promotions that he thought he deserved. He was also very desperate for money because of his extravagant lifestyle. In 1780 Benedict was given command of the fort at West Point in New York. He decided that he would give this strategic post to the British. In return he was to be made brigadier general in the British Army. He was also promised money. On September 21, Benedict met with Major John Andre of the British army to discuss and arrange the details. Two days later, Andre was captured when he attempted to return to the British lines. Some American soldiers stopped and searched him and found incriminating papers hidden in his stockings and the plot was revealed. Andre was executed as a spy. Arnold learned this news in time for him to escape. He fled to a British ship that took him down the Hudson River to New York City. The British rewarded him with 6,315 pounds although he had asked for 20,000 pounds. They also gave him the rank of brigadier general. As a British officer he led his troops to Richmond, Virginia and New London Connecticut. In December of 1781, Benedict moved with his wife and children to England where he was received warmly by King George lll But others didn't except him so easily. It's hard to trust a traitor, even if he is betraying the other country. The British government granted him 13,400 acres in Canada, but that land was of little use to him. He spent most of his remaining years as a merchant in the West Indies trade. In his last days Benedict was burdened down with debt and misery. He was distrusted by everyone who met him-Americans and British. He died in England on June 14, 1801 an unhappy and discouraged man. Benedict Arnold is considered to be one of the most famous men in history. Although I'm sure that a lot of people wouldn't want the kind of fame he received. But without him, our country wouldn't have won all the battles that we did. Yes, he was a traitor, but he was also one of the best generals we had. But how do we know that he betrayed our country just our of anger? The history books say that he was deeply in debt, and he did have a wife and children. When we think of Benedict we tend to just look at the worst parts of his life. His first wife died, but he pulled himself out of grief and got on with his life. He married again and had children. If he was in debt, then he couldn't pay for the things that his family needed. Maybe he betrayed our country so that he could use the money that he would get from the British to pay for the things that he wanted to be able to give his family. We saw how Paul Revere twisted things around with the Boston Massacre and now most of us know believe that the firing on an innocent crowd. That's what I believe the case is with Benedict Arnold. There's more to the story than we know. Benedict wasn't pure evil, as we make him out to be sometimes. But unfortunately we can't go back in time and see what really happened, so now we'll just have to rely on what we believe to be the truth.

 



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