Benedict Arnold is court-martialed - HISTORY
Year
1779

Benedict Arnold is court-martialed

The court-martial of Benedict Arnold convenes in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After a relatively clean record in the early days of the American Revolution, Arnold was charged with 13 counts of misbehavior, including misusing government wagons and illegally buying and selling goods. Although his notorious betrayal was still many months away, Arnold’s resentment over this order and the perceived mistreatment by the American Army would fuel his traitorous decision.

Abruptly interrupted at its outset by a British attack north of New York City, the court-martial did not get underway again until December 23 in Morristown, New Jersey. Although Arnold was cleared of most charges, General George Washington issued a reprimand against him, and Arnold became increasingly angered.

While on a trip to the important West Point base to make sure that it could withstand a British attack, Arnold stewed over his slight by Washington and the Americans. He thought that he had never been properly rewarded or acknowledged for his military success on their behalf. He began corresponding with British spies about the possibility of changing sides. Arnold negotiated his defection to the British and the subversion of West Point over several months. The British already held control of New York City and believed that by taking West Point they could effectively cut off the American’s New England forces from the rest of the fledgling nation.

In August 1780, Sir Henry Clinton offered Arnold £20,000 for delivering West Point and 3,000 troops. Arnold told General Washington that West Point was adequately prepared for an attack even though he was busy making sure that that it really wasn’t. He even tried to set up General Washington’s capture as a bonus. His plan might have been successful but his message was delivered too late and Washington escaped. The West Point surrender was also foiled when an American colonel ignored Arnold’s order not to fire on an approaching British ship.

Arnold’s defection was revealed to the Americans when British officer John André, acting as a messenger, was robbed by AWOL Americans working as pirates in the woods north of New York City. The notes revealing Arnold’s traitorous agreement were stashed in his boots. Arnold and his wife Peggy, who fooled American officers into believing she had no involvement in the betrayal, escaped to New York City.

At the British surrender at Yorktown, Benedict Arnold was burned in effigy and his name has since become synonymous with traitor. The British didn’t treat him very well after the war either. After prevailing in a libel action, he was awarded only a nominal amount because his reputation was already so tarnished. He died in 1801 and was buried in England without military honors.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

De Gaulle reassumes French leadership

During a French political crisis over the military and civilian revolt in Algeria, Charles de Gaulle is called out of retirement to head a new emergency government. Considered the only leader of sufficient strength and stature to deal with the perilous situation, the former war ...read more

Helen Keller dies

On June 1, 1968, Helen Keller dies in Westport, Connecticut, at the age of 87. Blind and deaf from infancy, Keller circumvented her disabilities to become a world-renowned writer and lecturer.Helen Adams Keller was born on June 27, 1880, on a farm near Tuscumbia, Alabama. A ...read more

Crete falls to German forces

During World War II, Crete, the last Allied stronghold in Greece, is captured by German forces at high cost to both sides.In late 1940, the Greek army, reinforced by the British air force, decisively repulsed an Italian invasion of their nation. In April 1941, these triumphs ...read more

Nissan Motor Company founded

On this day in 1934, the Tokyo-based Jidosha-Seizo Kabushiki-Kaisha (Automobile Manufacturing Co., Ltd. in English) takes on a new name: Nissan Motor Company.Jidosha-Seizo Kabushiki-Kaisha had been established in December 1933. The company’s new name, adopted in June 1934, was an ...read more

CNN launches

On this day in 1980, CNN (Cable News Network), the world’s first 24-hour television news network, makes its debut. The network signed on at 6 p.m. EST from its headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, with a lead story about the attempted assassination of civil rights leader Vernon ...read more

Top U.S. officials meet in Honolulu

Top U.S. officials concerned about the Vietnam War gather for two days of meetings in Honolulu. Attendees included Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, Gen. William Westmoreland, Gen. Maxwell Taylor, and CIA Director ...read more

George Mikan dies

On June 1, 2005, Basketball Hall of Famer George Mikan dies at age 80. The first true gate attraction in professional basketball, Mikan drew fans to NBA games at a time when the league’s success was far from assured.George Lawrence Mikan was born June 18, 1924, in Joliet, ...read more

John Wesley Hardin arrives in Abilene

John Wesley Hardin, one of the deadliest men in the history of the Old West, arrives in Abilene, Kansas, where he briefly becomes friends with Marshal Wild Bill Hickok.Hardin revealed a tendency toward violent rages at an early age. When he was 14, he nearly killed another boy in ...read more

Coleridge begins to publish The Friend

On this day, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who helped establish the Romantic school of poetry, begins to publish his own periodical, The Friend. The essays that Coleridge published in The Friend are later collected into a book.Coleridge led a turbulent, tragic life. Born in 1772 in ...read more

Marilyn Monroe born

Norma Jeane Mortenson–who will become better known around the world as the glamorous actress and sex symbol Marilyn Monroe–is born on this day in 1926, in Los Angeles, California. She was later given her mother’s name, and baptized Norma Jeane Baker.After a tumultuous ...read more

Coal mine explosion kills 236 in Japan

A coal mine explosion kills 236 workers at the Yamano mine near Fukuoka, Japan, on this day in 1965. The tragic disaster might have been avoided if the operators of the mine had taken even the most basic safety precautions.Only six years before, seven miners lost their lives and ...read more