Whenever the name Benedict Arnold is spoken, it immediately conjures up derision. In the United States, that name has become synonymous with traitor. Before his treachery, Arnold was a general in the Continental Army and a hero who was victorious in early battles. 

Arnold was dismayed because he was passed over for promotion in favor of officers junior to him. He was also thoroughly detested by many of his peers in the officer ranks of the fledgling American Army. So, he began to drift away from the cause and consort with the British long before his treachery came to light. 

Arnold was born in Norwich, Connecticut on January 14, 1741. His family was initially wealthy, but after his father squandered the family fortune they struggled for a while. However, by the start of the Revolutionary War, Arnold was a merchant. He and a partner bought three ships and he developed a lucrative West Indies trade. 

His first wife, Margaret Mansfield, whom he married in 1767, bore him three children. She died in 1775 during the opening acts of the Revolution. When the war began, Arnold was a captain in the Connecticut Militia. He went north and assisted in the siege of Boston following the “shots heard round the world” at the Battles of Lexington and Concord. He submitted a plan to take Fort Ticonderoga, which was lightly defended. He was a colonel’s commission and he set off. 

On the way, he met up with Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys from Vermont and they took Fort Ticonderoga. After a dispute with follow-on troops from the Connecticut Militia commander (something that would happen again and again), he resigned his Massachusetts Commission. 

General Washington gave him a Colonel’s commission in the Continental Army and Arnold led an expedition to besiege Quebec City in Canada. Arnold was severely wounded in the leg and while in the hospital was promoted to Brigadier General. 

He was commended for his delaying actions in the Continental Army’s retreat from Canada, but it was then that he began developing many enemies amongst his own officer corps. One officer, John Brown, went so far as to take their feud public. Brown published a handbill that would prove prophetic and claimed of Arnold, “Money is this man’s God, and to get enough of it he would sacrifice his country.”

Assigned to the defense of Connecticut he was again wounded. He was promoted to Major General when his superior was killed in a battle with the British. He tried resigning from the army when he wasn’t given seniority over those promoted before him. During the battle of Saratoga, he distinguished himself on the battlefield despite his deteriorating reputation with General Horatio Gates. The two had had a shouting match and Gates temporarily removed him from command. In the battle, was wounded again in the same leg, which left it permanently two inches shorter than the other.