January 8, 2009

The Most Brilliant Soldier in the Army: Benedict Arnold

They, our agents… risked their lives... and died because this warped, murdering traitor wanted a bigger house and a Jaguar.”
James Woolsey, former Director of the CIA on American double-agent Aldrich Ames
Despite that scathing beat-down, Aldrich Ames is a mere also-ran in the dirty, rotten traitor sweepstakes. Benedict Arnold bears that crown, thank you. What scum! But despite his reputation, Arnold has a memorial (below) for being what historian James Thomas Flexnerthe greatest combat general of the [Revolutionary] war on either side.”

As a high-ranking officer for the Colonists, Benedict Arnold’s bravery and leadership were instrumental in winning the battle of Saratoga, a victory that helped persuade France to ally itself with the Colonists. This was important— among other things, over 85 percent of the rebels’ gunpowder was French.

Since Benedict Arnold was shot in the leg at this battle, there is a statue of his boot at Saratoga National Park. The boot's inscription reads, “To the most brilliant soldier of the Continental army.” But the memorial’s founders were too chicken to add his name, so it's up to you to know who the "brilliant soldier" was.

Arnold was caught trying to surrender the West Point fort on the Hudson River to the Redcoats. The plan was found out before it came off, and Arnold fled to New York (a Loyalist stronghold). He stayed there from 1781–83, and then fled for England at war’s end. For his treason, Benedict Arnold was paid £6,315, which had the purchasing power of about half-a-million of today’s dollars. Despite this, he died broke.

But his boot will stand forever!
That photo above is by Naseem Khuri.

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