Publish date:
Updated on
Year
1776

Benedict Arnold fights valiantly at Valcour Island

On this day in 1776, a British fleet under Sir Guy Carleton defeats 15 American gunboats under the command of Brigadier General Benedict Arnold at the Battle of Valcour Island on Lake Champlain, in what is now Clinton County, New York.

Although nearly all of Arnold’s ships were destroyed, it took more than two days for the British to subdue the Patriot naval force, delaying Carleton’s campaign and giving the Patriot ground forces adequate time to prepare a crucial defense of New York.

One year earlier, during the Patriots’ unsuccessful campaign to take Canada, Carleton, the royal governor general of Canada, had managed to escape Patriot General Richard Montgomery’s early successful attacks during the summer and autumn. He snuck into Quebec City, organized 1,800 men for the city’s defense, and prepared to wait out the Patriot siege. The Patriots, facing a deadline as their troops’ enlistments expired at the end of the year, fired arrows over the city walls on December 7. The arrows carried letters demanding Carleton’s surrender. When Carleton did not acquiesce, the Americans began a bombardment of the city with Montgomery’s cannon on December 8. They then attempted a disastrous failed assault on December 31, in which Montgomery was killed and Arnold seriously wounded. The action around Valcour Island was the final stage of Carleton’s effort to drive Arnold from Canada, once and for all.

Arnold was considered a Patriot hero for his bravery in the siege of Quebec, and earlier during the Patriot capture of Fort Ticonderoga, New York, on May 10, 1775. Arnold, however, did not feel that he had received sufficient accolades for his efforts, and, while serving as commander of West Point in 1780, agreed to surrender the important Hudson River fort to the British for a bribe of £20,000. The plot was discovered after British spy John Andre was captured while carrying incriminating papers, forcing Arnold to flee to British protection. He then joined the British in their fight against the country that he had once so valiantly served.

Arnold died in London in 1801. To Americans, his name is still synonymous with the word “traitor.”

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

Pope opens Vatican II

Pope John XXIII convenes an ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church—the first in 92 years. In summoning the ecumenical council—a general meeting of the bishops of the church—the pope hoped to bring spiritual rebirth to Catholicism and cultivate greater unity with the ...read more

Boer War begins in South Africa

The South African Boer War begins between the British Empire and the Boers of the Transvaal and Orange Free State. The Boers, also known as Afrikaners, were the descendants of the original Dutch settlers of southern Africa. Britain took possession of the Dutch Cape colony in 1806 ...read more

Apollo 7 launched

Apollo 7, the first manned Apollo mission, is launched with astronauts Walter M. Schirra, Jr.; Donn F. Eisele; and Walter Cunningham aboard. Under the command of Schirra, the crew of Apollo 7 conducted an 11-day orbit of Earth, during which the crew transmitted the first live ...read more

Jimmy Carter wins Nobel Prize

On this day in 2002, former President Jimmy Carter wins the Nobel Peace Prize “for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.” Carter, a peanut farmer ...read more

Saturday Night Live debuts

On this day in 1975, Saturday Night Live (SNL), a topical comedy sketch show featuring Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, Garrett Morris, Jane Curtin and Laraine Newman, makes its debut on NBC; it will go on to become the longest-running, highest-rated show on ...read more

Bulgaria enters World War I

On this day in 1915, Prime Minister Vasil Radoslavov of Bulgaria issues a statement announcing his country’s entrance into the First World War on the side of the Central Powers. Secretly courted by both sides in World War I as a potential ally in the tumultuous Balkan region, ...read more