Updated:
Original:
Year
1781

Arnold orders burning of New London

On this day in 1781, British Brigadier General Benedict Arnold, a former Patriot officer already infamous and much maligned for betraying the United States the previous year, adds to his notoriety by ordering his British command to burn New London, Connecticut.

The Continental Army had been using New London to store a large stash of military supplies, but only stationed Captain Adam Sharpley and a contingent of 24 Continental soldiers there to protect it. General Arnold’s British soldiers, with help from the area’s Loyalists, quickly overwhelmed Captain Sharpley and the Continentals, who had no other option but to retreat and leave New London and the military supplies unguarded.

After looting the town, Arnold ordered his British soldiers to set fire to every building, causing the equivalent of more than $500,000 in damages. Benedict Arnold was already despised throughout the colonies for his attempt to sell the Patriot fort at West Point, New York, to the British in 1780 for a bribe of £20,000. The burning of New London sealed his reputation as a public enemy and his name became a synonym in common American parlance for “traitor.” The bravery and military prowess Arnold had previously demonstrated on behalf of the Patriots at Ticonderoga and Quebec in 1775 have been completely overshadowed by his later actions against the country he had once so valiantly served.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

More Israeli hostages killed in Munich

At Furstenfeldbruck air base near Munich, an attempt by West German police to rescue nine Israeli Olympic team members held hostage by Palestinian terrorists ends in disaster. In an extended firefight that began at 11 p.m. and lasted until 1:30 a.m., all nine Israeli hostages ...read more

Architect of apartheid assassinated

South African Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd is stabbed to death by a deranged messenger during a parliamentary meeting in Cape Town. The assailant, Demetrio Tsafendas, was a Mozambique immigrant of mixed racial descent–part Greek and part Swazi. As minister of native affairs ...read more

First tank produced

On this day in 1915, a prototype tank nicknamed Little Willie rolls off the assembly line in England. Little Willie was far from an overnight success. It weighed 14 tons, got stuck in trenches and crawled over rough terrain at only two miles per hour. However, improvements were ...read more

First Battle of the Marne begins

On September 6, 1914, some 30 miles northeast of Paris, the French 6th Army under the command of General Michel-Joseph Manoury attacks the right flank of the German 1st Army, beginning the decisive First Battle of the Marne at the end of the first month of World War I. After ...read more

Ripken breaks record for consecutive games played

On this day in 1995, Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. plays in his 2,131st consecutive game, breaking “Iron Horse” Lou Gehrig’s record for most consecutive games played. “The Iron Man” was credited with reviving interest in baseball after a 1994 work stoppage forced the ...read more

President William McKinley is shot

On this day in 1901, President William McKinley is shaking hands at the Pan-American Exhibition in Buffalo, New York, when a 28-year-old anarchist named Leon Czolgosz approaches him and fires two shots into his chest. The president rose slightly on his toes before collapsing ...read more