This Day In History: Before Treachery, There Was Valor

General Benedict Arnold
On this day in 1776, during the American Revolution, a British fleet engaged and after considerable effort finally defeated fiftteen American gunboats under the command of Brigadier General Benedict Arnold at the Battle of Valcour Island on Lake Champlain, New York. Although nearly all of Arnold's ship were destroyed, it took the British more than two days to subdue Arnold's naval force.  The delay of the British gleet gave the Patriot ground forces adequate time to prepare a crucial defense of New York.  General Arnold was willing to make that sacrifice in order to buy that time the defense forces needed to protect New York.

It was four years later, when Benedict Arnold, as commander of West Point, agreed to surrender West Point to the British for $20,000. The plot was discovered after British spy John AndrĂ© was captured, forcing Arnold to flee to British protection, where he joined in their fight against the country that he once so valiantly served. No one understands all the reasons that lead this once valiant solider and trusted General under George Washingon to such a shameless act of treachery, but his name has since become synonymous with the word "traitor" in America.

He paid for his crime for the rest of his life--never able to return to the United States, the country he had once loved.  And he was never accepted or trusted by the British. He died in London in 1801.


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