Benedict Arnold's Contribution To American Independence

By Mike Haran
May 13, 2012

Benedict Arnold has a bad name, almost synonymous, at least in the eyes of most Americans, with evil. In 1777 Arnold had been a co commander with Ethan Allen of the Green Mountain Boys. A surprise attack of the British post at Ticonderoga resulted in the capture of the fortress’ and its complement of cannon. These were transported across the Berkshires and the snowy mountains of Massachusetts to be placed upon Dorchester heights overlooking Boston. As a reward for his efforts Arnold was forced out of his command at gun point. When he tried to reclaim the money he had invested in the action he was given the run around by the Massachusetts Provincial Government. This was unjust as the capture of these weapons were crucial to the forced evacuation of the British as without them there would have been little liklihood of taking the fortress as it was just about impregnable.

Arnold’s next project was the invasion of Quebec. After selling the idea to Washington he proceeded on the great march north, nearly succeeding but for the early British reinforcement. At one time, except for the few square miles within the fortress, the province was entirely in American hands. One can only guess at the future complications of a Quebec as the fourteenth state of the Union. Would it eventually want to succeed from a secessionist state? Would it have been part of a Louisiana Swap? The British after ejecting the Americans from Canada built up their Canadian army to 13,000 strong and letting the Americans know that they would soon be moving south.

Since the declaration of independence the rebels had won no major battle but the one for Boston. Benjamin Franklin in order to rectify this proceeded bedazzle the French with his homespun shrewdness. The British had moved south, the plan being to isolate the rebels in New England. Howe was to move south and St Leger to move east, General John Burgoyne coming from the west. Arnold was in command of a force that captured a loyalist Dutchman who was given the choice of working with Arnold or being executed as he had been engaged upon the recruiting of Indians for British General St. St. Ledger. The Dutchman agreed and was released. He made his way to St. Ledgers force and informed him that Benedict Arnold had a mighty force causing St Ledger gave up his siege of Fort Stanwick, his Indian allies deserting him leaving him with no choice but to retreat into Lake Ontario. This now left Burgoyne stuck in the wilderness on his own as Howe, who was supposed to support him, had marched on his own authority to Philadelphia, and while doing great damage to the rebel capital, had indirectly contributed to the British defeat. (Lord George Germaine, the minister for the colonies, had a letter ready to send to Howe ordering him to advance up the Hudson. Unfortunately he had forgotten to order it delivered due to his going away for the weekend to Sussex.)

All of the above eventually led to the Battles of Saratoga. Arnold played a decisive role as co commander with General Gates. Gates and Arnold were in conflict almost constantly with each other as well as with the British commander General Burgoyne. In the wooded battlefield Burgoyne had won the previous days contest but at a great price. Gates was now ready to call it quits, Arnold objected. A screaming match ensued where Gates relieved Arnold of his command. On the following days battle the American left wing was close to collapse. As Gates was doing nothing to prevent this collapse Arnold rode towards the sound of the gunfire pursued by Gates screaming at him that he had no authority to do anything as he was relieved of his command. Arnold however outran him managing not only to rally the troops and hold the line, but also to lead a counter attack though a gap in the British position arriving at the rear of a British redoubt. With aid from another unit to the front of the fortress he was able to clear it and thus using it as a base, defeat St. Ledgers force. This was the first major American victory since the declaration of Indepedence. When news reached Paris two months later France agreed to acknowledge America as an independent state. Through connivance and trickery Arnold had set the field for an eventually American victory.

What made him turn upon his countrymen is open to question. It was not ideological as he shown no sense of loyalty to the crown. It could have been a matter of pride as he had been treated shabbily by the Revolutionary army. Before the war he had brought himself up from nothing to a position where he had ownership of trading vessels and was quite successful. It might have galled him that after so much good work he was cast aside by those who, in his view, were but a rabble and so over the years has acquired a reputation of pure evil. This is wrong as his efforts allowed Benjamin Franlin to pursuade the French to acknowledge the independence of the former colonies.


About the author Mike Haran: Here is the link to my new web site devoid of any connection with the above which I use as a device to publish my war games,link.

Email: manzikertca@yahoo.com

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