Experience the American dream with today’s Patriots of the Past interview. I’m your host, John Gillespie.
It’s September 25, 1780. I’m on the British vessel, Vulture, in the Hudson River with American General Benedict Arnold.
JG: “General Arnold, what are you doing in a British uniform?”
BA: “Mr. Gillespie, as an American commander of West Point, I was giving British General Clinton secret military information to hurt General Washington and the Yankees. I have been appointed brigadier general in His Majesty’s Army.”
While hailed as a hero by King George III, many English scorn his cowardly actions. To this day in America, his name is synonymous with treachery.
In Norwich, Connecticut, the Benedict Arnold historical marker reads, “Benedict Arnold was born here in January, 1741. He and a younger sister, Hannah, were the only survivors of eleven children. The original family home no longer exists.
“As a young man of 14, he served an apprenticeship as a druggist with the Dr.’s Lathrop on nearby Washington Street. He twice ran away to fight with the colonial militia during the French and Indian War, essentially a contest between Great Britain and France (1754–1763), and did eventually serve. He is described as impetuous, aggressive, and a leader in his years here. Arnold left Norwich in his early twenties and flourished as a merchant, druggist, and smuggler in New Haven, CT.
“The Revolution fostered his remarkable abilities as a daring battlefield commander and he had no peers. He fought brilliantly and courageously at Ticonderoga, Quebec, Lake Champlain, and at the pivotal Battle of Saratoga. He repelled the British at Danbury, CT., for which he was made a Maj. General.
“His conviction that lesser men were promoted over him, affronts to his honor from various government quarters, marriage to a woman of Loyalist sympathies, indebtedness, and perhaps his belief that the Revolution would collapse, led to his defection to the British in 1780. He received the rank of Brig. General and was indemnified for his property losses, though more had been requested.
“The tragedy that ensued culminated with attacks that Arnold led on Richmond, VA., and, in Sept., 1781, on New London and Groton, CT., but a few miles from Norwich at the mouth of the Thames River. Once a hero, he now earned the enmity of his former neighbors, particularly for the massacre that occurred at Ft. Griswald in Groton by the British under his command.
A worn Benedict Arnold died at 60 years of age in England, in 1801, hated by the Americans, and ostracized by the British for leaving the much respected Major Andre, his British confederate, to the ignoble fate of hanging by the Americans.
John and Jan Gillespie are the founders of the Rawhide Boys’ Ranch; they have fostered 351 teenagers and wrote the book Our 351 Sons; they have also assisted numerous churches in developing youth programs and expanding their total church ministries. After running for U.S. Senate, John founded 1776 American Dream, which exists to demonstrate the vision of our founding fathers and help our generation of youth passionately embrace those values.