If there’s one name in United States history that’s synonymous with treachery, it’s Benedict Arnold. He's widely regarded as one of the great historical turncoats. One of the most famous American Revolution stories centers around Arnold, who was a spy for Great Britain during the American Revolution, a formerly courageous general who attempted to undermine the conflict in the Colonies.
Among the colorful cast of characters that populate the American Revolution, Arnold is treated like the Joker to George Washington’s Batman. Beneath that black-and-white comparison, however, lies a complex historical figure. He was a man who was betrayed by his family, fought tenaciously for recognition, and ultimately found himself allied with the wrong side of history.
Arnold’s Family Life Was Messy By The Time He Was 20
Benedict Arnold was born to a prominent businessman in Norwich, Connecticut, on January 14, 1741. Arnold’s early life consisted of study at some of the Continent’s best private schools. An epidemic of yellow fever ravaged Arnold’s family in the 1750s, however, claiming three of his siblings. The deaths proved difficult for Arnold’s father, and he began to drink heavily. His business suffered as a result, and Arnold was forced to leave school at the age of 16.
Two years later, Arnold’s mother also perished because of yellow fever. The loss destroyed Arnold’s father, and he spent the rest of his life in and out of jail for public drunkenness until his passing in 1761. By the time he was 20, Benedict Arnold had lost both parents and three siblings. The young man was forced to assume financial responsibility of his remaining family members.
Benedict Arnold Was Once A Passionate Member Of The Sons Of Liberty
By the time he was 23, Benedict Arnold had become one of New Haven, Connecticut’s, most successful businessmen. His position as a pharmacist and bookseller earned him enough money to partner with a merchant named Adam Babcock. Together, the pair established profitable trading routes to the West Indies.
Of course, like most of the Founding Fathers, Arnold’s position as a wealthy merchant made him particularly susceptible to taxes and tariffs. Thanks to the Sugar Act in 1764 and the Stamp Act in 1765, Arnold began feeling the pinch from a foreign power to whom he’d never felt any particular allegiance. As a result, Benedict Arnold joined the Sons of Liberty, a clandestine organization opposed to Parliament’s rule.
He Was The Hero Of Fort Ticonderoga
Before his name was attached to a high-end furniture brand, Ethan Allen was the leader of a scrappy militia unit from Vermont, colloquially known as the Green Mountain Boys. Allen is most remembered for rallying less than a hundred of his men to win the first rebel victory of the American Revolution.
In the early morning hours of May 10, 1775, Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys stormed into the fort to catch the sleeping British soldiers unaware. The rebel victory was a huge morale boost for the fledgling Continental Army. Benedict Arnold also played a pivotal role in the attack.
Arnold not only first recommended the idea of attacking the base, he provided the initial intelligence required to take down Fort Ticonderoga.
Capturing the fort was crucial for an early American advantage in the Revolution.
Benedict Arnold Lost The Love Of His Life Suddenly
At the age of 25, Benedict Arnold met Margaret Mansfield, the woman who would become the love of his life. They married quickly and had three children over the course of five years. Though Arnold was reportedly smitten, historical documents indicate Mansfield didn’t reciprocate that love as passionately.
Then, in 1775, Margaret passed suddenly. She was only 30 years old. The loss destroyed Arnold, and he threw himself into the Revolution.