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The Enigma of Benedict Arnold

Benedict Arnold is a man who was regarded as a military hero for two sides in the same war, the Americans and the British. Arnold began his career as an American patriot in 1775, when together with Ethan Allen, led the brigade that took over Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Chaplain. His heroics continued on many other military encounters. He served the patriot side with dedication and distinction from one battle to another. It is said that no general was as imaginative as Arnold, no field officer was daring as Arnold, and no soldier was more courageous than him (Henretta 1997).

With all these attributes it goes without saying that he was a hero, yet Arnold went down in history as villain, a military traitor. This is all due to what he did in 1780, when as commander of the American fort at West Point; Arnold schemed to hand over the fort to British. Major John Andre was Arnold's British contact who was caught with some incriminating documents that were in Arnold's handwriting. They included access routes to the fort. But why will a man who fought for a cause turn around and betray the same cause? There must have been a very good reason for this. Well it all began at the battle of Saratoga when Arnold was badly injured, losing a leg in the process. He was therefore rendered helpless, relegated to a desk job in control of military forces in Philadelphia. It was during this time that he met and married his 17 year old wife who was pro-British. As the war continued, Arnold became angry at the Americans for failing to recognize him for all he had done for the country. What made it even worse was the fact that the government refused to give him the money and compensation he had been promised. On the other side Arnold and his wife were having a very expensive lifestyle and therefore getting deeper and deeper into debt. He was getting financially desperate as the days went by and angrier at the Continental Congress for not honoring his claims. He therefore convinced himself that the American people and the government had betrayed him by pushing him aside when they realized that he was of no help any more to them. He therefore sought revenge by using the British army; he agreed that with the exchange of money and a commission as a general in the British army, he would help them capture West Point. He therefore betrayed the trust of many Americans that had trusted in him. Had the plan gone through, he would have sold out his fellow soldiers for his own personal gain (Henretta, 1997).

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Still Arnold was a hero to the American cause. He was in charge of the force that captured fort Ticonderoga at the start of the war. With the victory they were able to take and transport the cannon back to Boston for use in George Washington's actions. Without this the rebellion would not have had the early victory of removing the British from Boston, or they might have lost the war. General Arnold also gained victory at the battle of Saratoga. It is this victory that convinced the French that the Americans were able and they started providing them with aid. Without the aid the Americans would have found it had to proceed with the war. All these were possible because of Arnold's fearless, daring leadership, his patriotism to the country. He was probably the second respected leader in the American army, only second to George Washington. He risked his life for his country, losing a leg in war. This makes him a hero to the American cause, although in the end he was driven by anger and hatred to betray his people (Henretta 1997).

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