The Battle of Saratoga was a major battle in the American Revolution; it helped persuade the French into signing a Treaty with the United States that helped turn the tides on the British. Major General Horatio Gates was the commander of the Army of the North. His English counterpart was General John Burgoyne. The open-field battle style considerable favored the British troops of Burgoyne. The American’s had their backs against the wall; they were almost out of options, until their savior literally rode in on horseback. This man was General Benedict Arnold. He rode in from Freeman’s Farm where Gates, Arnold’s superior, had taken his authority away because of Arnold’s “insubordination”. Arnold thought nothing of Major Gates’orders to stay at Freeman’s Farm and rode off with no sign of slowing. “ No Man will keep me in my tent this day!”
Unlike Gates, Benedict Arnold liked to lead and command his men on the front lines. Arnold personally led the charge on Breymann’s redoubt during the Battle of Saratoga, however Arnold was wounded during the final assault in his left knee. While the American troops surrounded and captured Breymann’s forces, Arnold laid in pain on the battlefield. Gates took the credit for the victory at Saratoga and didn’t mention Arnold in his reenactment to General Washington. This made Arnold question the respectability of the American forces.
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The events of the two years previous to Saratoga were very influential to Benedict Arnold. During that time Benedict Arnold and George Washington were planning a double-pronged attack and invasion of Canada, this would be accomplished by taking out Montreal and Quebec. The idea was that the British commander in Canada, Sir Guy Carleton, could only defend one of the cities during a simultaneous attack, which would leave an unprotected city to fall to the Americans. Montreal would have to be sieged by moving northward through Lake Champlain, then into the waters of the St. Lawrence River opposite Montreal. The route toward Quebec was far more complex. A force would have to be guided along the raging Kennebec River, into the highland mountains of Maine, over three lakes to the Dead River, then onto the Chaudiиre River, and on into the St. Lawrence River opposite Quebec. During Washington’s meetings with Arnold, he was examined Benedict very carefully, and he liked what he saw. In Washington’s mind there wasn’t a better man for the job than Arnold, to lead the charge into Quebec. Arnold was given independent command from Washington to lead troops through Maine and attack Quebec. The other man that would complete the two-punch attack on Canada was General Richard Montgomery, who would lead his troops to capture Montreal and then ultimately to Quebec to assist Arnold. While Montgomery’s advancement toward Montreal was taking place, Arnold was en route to Quebec. Arnold’s men were constantly flirting with disaster. All sorts of problems plagued Arnold’s men; from contaminated food and water, which led to sickness and death, to the winter months that brought snow and cold, which in turn produced frostbite. Hunger and fatigue was another problem that the troops had to overcome, for this, Arnold went ahead of his troops to find food. Arnold sent back a herd of cattle, which the troops greatly appreciated. On Nov. 13, 1775 Montgomery captured Montreal. Montgomery’s successful troops joined Arnold’s on December 2, 1775. He brought 300 men and, most importantly, a large supply of British winter clothing to comfort Arnold’s cold troops.
The troops were united under the two generals and together they would lead the siege on Quebec. The attack was set for December 31, 1775. During the march on Quebec Montgomery, Arnold, and their men were attacked not only with musket fire, but also with cannonshot. Arnold knew that if was to be successful in defeating the British, stationed in Quebec, he would have to destroy the cannon that was set-up on the barricade ahead of them. Almost to the barricade, Arnold got shot with a piece of a bullet in his left leg. Injured, he encouraged his men to finish the attack and take the city. Unfortunately despite all their efforts, Arnold and Montgomery were defeated. However, from January to May of 1776, Arnold led a series of charges on Quebec and eventually besieged the city.
Arnold had many conflicts with Congress in his lifetime. He continually battled with members that did not like him for various reasons. The first instance where Congress snubbed Arnold was when he was the next brigadier in line to be promoted to major general in the military custom of seniority. But Congress decided to change the rules and they didn’t promote Arnold. Instead the promoted five other men who were inferior to Arnold when it came to military intelligence. Congress had made Arnold look like a fool, and he resented it. In one instance, Arnold had put a request into Congress for reimbursement for supplies that he bought with his own money during his march to Quebec. But Congress wasn’t going to pay a large sum of money unless he could prove that he indeed had spent the money. Arnold did not keep records of what he spent because he was too involved with the march itself. He felt that, yet again, his government had let him down.
The money was one thing that bothered Arnold, but what he was really concerned about was his seniority. Congress continually refused to restore it, until finally on July 11, Benedict Arnold submitted his resignation from the military. Arnold, although he did resign, offered up his services to the military if he was needed.
The final event that caused Arnold to turn on America was his court martialing in 1779-1780. He was tried on several misdemeanor charges. On December 25, 1779 hearings opened for the court martial case of Benedict Arnold. Arnold was eventually censured from the American Army.
Even before all this began, in May of 1779, with the encouragement of his wife, Peggy, Arnold began negotiations to join the British army. Peggy was very pro-British, prior to her marriage to Arnold she had a relationship with John Andre. John Andre and Sir Henry Clinton approved Arnold’s request to join the British. John and Benedict continually communicated for over a year and a half using cipher and using pseudonyms. Arnold was now a “Hero for Sale”. Arnold agreed with Andre on a pay of Ј20,000 for the surrender of West Point to the British. Arnold had rejoined the army with the consent of George Washington himself and he stationed Arnold at West Point and gave him control of it as well. The two men finally met in secrecy along the banks of the Hudson River on September 21-22, 1780. After the plan for the surrender of West Point was complete, Andre and Arnold went their separate ways. Arnold went to King’s Ferry, while Andrй was to return to White Plains, New York. Andrй disguised himself as a civilian and took route along the West Bank of the Hudson River moving south. However, he made a wrong decision when he came upon a fork in the road and chose the wrong path of travel. Had he chosen the other path he may not have been captured, instead he came face to face with thugs.
John Paulding, Isaac Van Wart, and David Williams were three bandits who stopped John Andre and stripped searched him in hope of finding money. Instead they found the secret plans of West Point given to him by Benedict Arnold. The three turned
him over to Colonel Jameson. Arnold at that time was home waiting for George Washington to join him for breakfast. Jameson had sent a message stating to Arnold that “John Anderson” (who was John Andre) had been captured and that he held vital information about West Point that was in Arnold’s pen. Jameson thought that someone had forged Arnold’s name. This message, to Arnold, served as a savior because if Washington had read this message before Arnold, he undoubtedly would have realized that Benedict Arnold was a traitor. Arnold armed himself with two pistols and left for the Sir Henry Clinton’s headquarters in New York aboard the boat “The Vulture”.
The Americans hung John Andre on October 2, 1780. He was considered to be the “Eye for the Eye”. The second eye was the fact that they lost Benedict Arnold to the British. Benedict Arnold had caused the British to lose a fine general in John Andre and he proved to be very futile in his military career as a Britain.
Following Cornwallis’s surrender at Yorktown in October of 1781, Arnold and his wife Peggy moved to England. There their lives were rather simple. However in the latter parts of his life Benedict suffered greatly from ill health; Asthma and Gout plagued him. Finally on June 14, 1801, Benedict Arnold’s suffering came to an end. He was buried in the crypt of St. Mary’s in Battersea.
Benedict Arnold was considered a military genius; he was able to bring his troops from near defeat to victory. He was highly regarded not only by his cronies but also was highly respected by his adversaries. Arnold was probably the only man to be respected by both the British and Americans prior to 1779. Benedict Arnold was one of the best Generals that had served in the American Army. But by 1779 and 1780 he was seen as the most controversial figure in the Colonies. Today, some people view Arnold as one of the most diabolical men to ever live; others view him as a generally good man that just took one wrong turn that tainted his whole career. The majority of the people in the U.S view him as a traitor of the American public and of their trust. If the British had won the war he would be looked down upon with even more contempt than he is today. However, if Benedict Arnold had died, in his prime, on the battlefield of Saratoga, he would be viewed much differently all over the world, possibly as the greatest general that even lived.
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