Benedict Arnold: A Loyalist and a Hero of the American Revolution

Second Marking Period Term Paper

Americans today think of the War for independence as a revolution, but in important respects it was also a civil war. American loyalists or “Tories” as their opponents called them, opposed the Revolution, and many took up arms against the rebels. What motivated the Loyalists? Most educated Americans, whether Loyalist or Revolutionary, accepted John Locke’s theory of natural rights and limited government. Thus, the Loyalists, like the rebels, criticized such British actions as the Stamp Act and the Coercive Acts. Loyalists wanted to pursue peaceful forms of protest because they believed that violence would give rise to mob rule or tyranny. They also believed that independence would mean the loss of economic benefits derived from membership in the British mercantile system.

About hundred thousand Loyalists left the country, including William Franklin, the son of Benjamin, and John Singleton Copley, the greatest American painter of the period. Most of them moved to Canada and some eventually returned. Apart from Copley, the Loyalists became non-existed people in American history. However, one loyalist that stands apart from the rest. His name is Benedict Arnold. He is probably one of the most famous men in American history because he betrayed the country. He has become an infamous character and people seem to only remember the worst of him. However, he was a brave soldier and contributed greatly to both America and England. Benedict Arnold was a hero to the British people for having planned to hand over the keys to West Point, a crucial American fort on the Hudson. They also admired him for his military skills and for the services he did for the British side. Yet, people mention his name with disgrace.

Benedict Arnold’s career began when he and Ethan Allen led the brigade that captured Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain. Arnold continued to show his military tactics when he led an expedition of about one thousand men against Quebec. He must have shown great deal of leadership because although he had only six hundred and fifty men still with him after his travel though frightening Maine wilderness, these losses did not deter him. Arnold and his army traveled, as Arnold puts it, “under almost as many difficulties as the Israelites did as old, obliged to make brick without straw.” (Clare Brandt, pg 82) Joined by General Richard Montgomery, who had arrived with three hundred troops after capturing Montreal, Arnold experienced great losses. General Montgomery was killed and Arnold himself had a ball through his leg. General Montgomery admired Arnold. He said with much pain,

“I find Colonel Arnold’s corps and exceedingly fine one. There is a style of discipline

among them much superior to what I have been used to see this campaign, (and Arnold) himself is

an active, intelligent, and enterprising” (Clare Brandt, page 64)

Quebec was only the beginning. For the next five years Arnold served the Patriot side with distinction in one battle after another, including a dangerous assault against the center of the British line at Saratoga.

When the fighting began at Lexington and Concord in April 1775, Arnold was thirty-four, an apothecary and minor merchant in New Haven, but a militia captain and ardent Patriot. Eager to support the rebellion, Arnold coerced the Town’s selectmen into supplying powder and ball to his men and promptly marched them to Boston. On the way Arnold thought up the attack on Fort Ticonderoga and persuaded the Massachusetts Committee of Safety to approve his plan and make him a colonel. This move makes him take control and receive all the glory during the battle instead of it going to Ethan Allen. Arnold saw Ticonderoga as “the key of this extensive country.” (Clare Brandt, page 34)

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