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Benedict Arnold’s Leg

On 30 Aug 1780 Benedict Arnold, a general in the Continental Army, agreed to surrender his command to the British and join them. As a result, his name is sometimes used in lieu of the word “traitor.”
When the Revolutionary War broke out he joined the army and distinguished himself through acts of bravery. Promoted to general he proved himself at the capture of Fort Ticonderoga in 1775 and in his delaying tactics at the Battle of Valcour Island, and the Battle of Ridgefield, CT, operations in relief of the siege of Fort Stanwix, and, especially, during the pivotal battles of Saratoga in 1777—at Saratoga he suffered leg injuries that ended his combat career for a while.

Despite his successes, he was passed over for promotion by the Continental Congress while other officers claimed credit for some of his accomplishments. Frustrated and bitter, Arnold decided to change sides in 1779, and opened secret negotiations with the British. In July 1780, he sought and obtained command of West Point in order to surrender it to the British. Arnold’s scheme was exposed when British Major John André was captured carrying papers revealing the plot. Upon learning of André’s capture, Arnold fled to a British ship.

Arnold was then commissioned a brigadier general by the British and commanded for them until the war was lost. Then he fled to England and started a business with his two sons. He died 10 years later, a poor man.

When Arnold was leading British forces against his former compatriots, among his prisoners was a certain witty officer, who, in answer to Arnold’s question, “What will the Americans do with me if they catch me?” replied, “They will cut off the leg which was wounded when you were fighting so gloriously for the cause of liberty, and bury it with the honors of war, and hang the rest of your body on a gibbet.” In fact there is a monument at the Saratota Battle Sites that has no name displayed; it is but a boot and is called the “Boot Monument.” It honors Arnold’s bravery there—the leg was considered loyal—so the story goes.

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