Benedict Arnold is the most famous Revolutionary War spy, though to Americans he is more commonly called a traitor.
His very name has become associated with being a traitor.
How did this happen?
Battle Field at Ticonderoga, where Benedict Arnold was first stationed
Benedict was born January 14, 1741, in Norwich, Connecticut to Benedict and Hannah Arnold. As a young boy his family his father was a successful businessman. When the yellow fever came through their household it left only him and his sister Hannah alive out of the five children, his father drowned his sorrows in alcohol and their finances dwindled rapidly.
Benedict Jr. was pulled from school, and was apprenticed to some cousins on his mother’s side who ran an apothecary. He tried to join the militia once, but wasn’t allowed, though he eventually did join the militia to fight against the French in the French and Indian War. When his mother died, he took on the responsibility of taking care of his father and sister.
In 1767 Benedict Arnold took Margaret Mansfield to be his wife. He worked for his cousin for a few more years, during which time he fathered three boys.
Then war came.
Benedict Arnold, the Soldier
He joined the Army and became Captain of the Governor’s guard.
He was very successful in the beginning of his career in war, but he was soon sent on a mission and illegally joined by a group that was very disagreeable in his eyes. The whole mission he grew angrier and angrier with them. When he returned congress did nothing with the men. This infuriated him but was just to be the beginning of his troubles.
Through the years his social status went down, his wife died, and his rank as an officer was demoted several times. He was constantly in disagreement with the congress, and they were constantly infuriating him.
He was assigned a task to serve at Ticonderoga. There he was second in command, and after three days he discovered that he and the general had very different ideas on how to fight. They argued over it for a while, then they both just gave it up.
The next day Arnold ordered his horse and charged into battle. Upon seeing this, the soldiers received inspiration and charged in to fight alongside him. Just when victory was at hand, Arnold’s horse was shot in the breast. It fell and landed on Arnold’s leg, crippling it permanently. He was then deported to Philadelphia.
Benedict Arnold’s signature (public domain)
British Spy and American Traitor
In Philly Benedict met his second wife, Peggy Shippen. She was 18 years old and he was 38 when they were married. His marriage to Peggy raised his social status immensely. Soon after, though, the congress did one more thing to make him angry, and by that winter he had decided to secretly trade with the British.
He was very useful to them due to his closeness with Washington from all those years of fighting. After a while, though, his courier was found with a letter in his sock to the British general.
The courier was brought before congress and beheaded.
When Arnold heard of this he escaped on the ship his courier was supposed to use, and he went to London.
He was rewarded very well for his services and received land for himself and his family to live on in Canada. He tried to become a ship merchant, but they had no use for a cripple. He never found an actual job, but he did not live much longer so his reward money sufficed until he died.
All in all I think the worst thing that was hurt about Benedict Arnold was his pride.