It is definitely no compliment to be labeled a ‘Benedict Arnold’. That name carries with it the stinging impact of the accusation Traitor! History shows us that, for this man, it was a well-deserved accusation, but history also shows us that there was a time when it was not deserved at all.
Though Benedict Arnold will forever be impressed in American memory as a traitor, before that event, he wore the revered titles of Colonel, General, Brigadier General and Major General while fighting for the American cause. Do you, like me, wonder, How did this happen? Why? Arnold fought alongside the famous patriot Ethan Allen in the capture of Fort Ticonderoga less than a month after the first shots of the war were fired at Lexington and Concord. Five months later, he led 1,100 troops along the Kennebec River wilderness route towards Quebec, intending to take that city for the revolutionary cause. During those times that “tried men’s souls”, he commanded a flotilla of ships on Lake Champlain that withstood a British offensive and caused its retreat. And yet, even so, Arnold ultimately became the man who clandestinely negotiated with the enemy to surrender West Point for money and status. He became the man who burned and raided colonial towns, and captured their forts.
In The Blackwell Encyclopedia of the American Revolution, it is suggested that Arnold’s growing debt after his second marriage, and his feelings of being unfairly criticized and unappreciated by his countrymen, were the factors that led to his turncoat behavior. In September of 1780, his true colors being exposed, Benedict Arnold fled to England and was, in fact, rewarded with “substantial financial remuneration” and a brigadier generalship.
Most astonishing of all, to me, is the fact that Benedict Arnold, the patriot, had been a particular favorite of George Washington’s. I quote our first Commander-in-Chief, in lauding Arnold for his military endeavors: “It is not in the power of any man to command success, but you have done more – you have deserved it.”
Things most definitely change.
“Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the hearts…” (1 Corinthians 4:5)