Benedict Arnold

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Benedict Arnold

By | November 2012
Page 1 of 4
Born: January 14, 1741
Norwich, Connecticut
Died: June 14, 1801
London, England
American military genaral

Although he fought with skill and courage in many campaigns during the American Revolution (1775–83), General Benedict Arnold is best known as the man who betrayed his country.

Youth and family

Benedict Arnold was born on January 14, 1741, in Norwich, Connecticut. He was one of only two of his mother's eleven children to survive into adulthood. His mother had been a prosperous widow before marrying Arnold's father, a merchant. However, Arnold's father did not manage the family's money well, and they were financially ruined when Arnold was thirteen. He was forced to leave school and go to work learning to be an apothecary, a position similar to that of a modern-day pharmacist.

As a young man, Arnold was a risk-taker who looked for outlets for his energetic and impulsive (taking action before thinking things through) nature. He volunteered for the French and Indian War (1754–63), a war fought between France and England in America for control of the colonial lands, but at eighteen he deserted in order to be with his mother, who was dying. In the 1760s he traded with Canada and the West Indies as a merchant and a sea captain. He took his hot-headed nature to sea with him, fighting at least two duels while on trading voyages. He was a financial success as a trader, but he was also accused of smuggling. In 1767 he married Margaret Mansfield, daughter of a government official in New Haven, Connecticut.

Joining the Revolution

News of the battles of Lexington and Concord (April 17, 1775) in Massachusetts, the first battles of the Revolution, reached Arnold in April 1775. Upon hearing of these events he set out as the head of a company of Connecticut militia for Cambridge, Massachusetts, where George Washington (1732–1799) was gathering an army to fight the British forces. Although he marched to Massachusetts without military orders to do so,...