The Dark Treason of Benedict Arnold

Richard Bell – University of Maryland

Benedict Arnold is the most famous turncoat in American history. He was a skilled officer in George Washington’s Continental Army, a general who led patriot forces to several important victories over the British, including the capture of Fort Ticonderoga. But while in command at West Point in 1780, Arnold began secretly communicating with British intelligence agents, giving them insider information, not just about the fort and its defenses, but about American strategy for the war.
When patriot militia captured a British spy named John André, they discovered Arnold’s treachery—Alexander Hamilton said it was “the blackest treason” he could imagine. A manhunt ensued, but Arnold made it to the safety of a British ship (the aptly named Vulture). In the aftermath, George Washington had John André, the British spy tried. A board of Continental soldiers found him guilty and sentenced him to death by hanging. In the meantime, Arnold returned to the field of battle. Now wearing a British uniform, he led brutal attacks on patriot civilian communities in Virginia and Connecticut throughout 1781.