Benedict Arnold Was An American Hero?

Benedict Arnold Was An American Hero?

Benedict Arnold is a name synonymous with treason in the American lexicon.  What is often overlooked is this question: why does Arnold's treason stand out?  A lot of people helped the British during the American Revolution.

The answer?  Benedict Arnold was an American Hero.  At the time of his defection, he had won more battles than any other General in the Continental Army.

In this article, we will discusses Arnold's successes on the battlefield.  The goal here is to see his importance to the American Cause and get a bit of insight as to why his treason was so monumental at the time.

Don't worry, tomorrow we will be publishing Part 2---American Villain.

Benedict Arnold

When he was a child, Benedict Arnold’s father squandered the family fortune.  Despite this, Arnold was able to begin a career as a pharmacist. 

In just a decade he built this business into a successful mercantile operation.


Benedict Arnold served in the Connecticut militia and participated in the Siege of Boston.  From there, he was ordered to Vermont where he met with Ethan Allen

Together, they won the Battle of Fort Ticonderoga, America’s first victory in the Revolutionary War.

Soon after Ticonderoga, Arnold brought his men on a dangerous trek through the wilderness of Maine.  Although many of his men died or deserted in the harsh winter conditions, he arrived in time for the Battle of Quebec. 

Arnold joined Richard Montgomery and stormed the city.  Unfortunately, this engagement was lost due to the death of Montgomery as well as Arnold's being shot in the leg.


While he was recuperating, Benedict Arnold was appointed Military Governor of Montreal, which Montgomery had captured earlier that winter. 

When the British Army stormed back through Canada, Arnold was the last American to evacuate the city.

Lake Champlain

The following autumn, the British sailed down Lake Champlain in an effort to take the Hudson River and split the colonies in half. 

The Americans had spent the summer building ships on the lake, with Benedict Arnold overseeing construction.  Major General Horatio Gates, Commander of the Northern Department, then placed Arnold in command of this new makeshift navy.

Arnold sailed to confront the British in the Battle of Valcour Island.  Benedict had chosen this spot purposefully because it put him at an advantage against the superior British forces. 

The Patriots took heavy losses and snuck past the redcoats (under cover of darkness) to retreat.

The Battle of Valcour Island is often viewed as the first action by what we now consider the United States Navy.  Although the Americans lost this fight, Arnold’s efforts were extremely important.  He had bought time for reinforcements to arrive at Fort Ticonderoga, the Brits’ next target.


General Washington decided to place Arnold in charge of the defense of Rhode Island.  The British had just landed a force there but Arnold noticed that his men did not have enough equipment to fight off the invaders. 

Benedict took a trip to Connecticut to see his family when word arrived of an attack on Danbury.  Along with David Wooster, Arnold recruited men and left to drive the redcoats off.  

The Americans successfully chased the enemy to the Long Island Sound, but Arnold was again wounded in the leg.  His horse was killed and landed on the same limb.  He survived but the following day had a second horse shot out from under him.

This became known as the Battle of Ridgefield and because of his heroics, Benedict Arnold was awarded the office of Major General.


Washington then sent Arnold to join Major General Gates in Upstate New York. 

They confronted the might of the British Army in the Battles of Saratoga.  Arnold and Gates had serious disagreements on how to fight the enemy, leading to Arnold being stripped of his command.

For some unknown reason, Arnold decided to stay in camp.  While the Battle raged on, Benedict stormed onto the field and rallied his men.  

Again, he was shot in the leg.  Again, his horse was shot.  Again, the horse landed on his leg.

Somehow, the Americans won.  This was a tremendous turning point in the Revolution.  Because of the Victory at Saratoga, the French decided to openly support the Continental Army.  The troops, supplies and Navy they sent would help achieve victory for the Army four years later in Yorktown.


Arnold spent the better part of eight months recuperating from his shattered leg.  He refused to have it amputated, so it was shorter than his right leg and he would walk with a cane the rest of his life. 

After he healed, Benedict was name Military Governor of Philadelphia which had recently been evacuated by the British.

West Point

Arnold’s final command for the Continental Army was when Washington placed him in charge of West Point.  His mission was to make sure the British did not move north from occupied New York City.

But then, the treason…

Make sure you check back tomorrow for 'Benedict Arnold - Villain' where we will retrace this parts of this article to find out what happened which turned him against his country.

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If you'd like to learn more about Benedict Arnold, I recommend 'The Tragedy of Benedict Arnold.'  It takes a sympathetic look at the Revolutionary's life.  Purchasing through the link below goes to our affiliate Amazon and supports the site at no additional cost to you.  Thanks!

Benedict Arnold - 8 Reasons For His Treason

Benedict Arnold - 8 Reasons For His Treason

The Constitutional Society of Virginia

The Constitutional Society of Virginia