Why did the best battlefield fighter of the American Revolution betray George Washington and the Continental Army and turn traitor? Benedict Arnold is the most famous turncoat in American history. He was a skilled officer in George Washington’s Continental Army, a general who led patriot forces to several important victories over the British, including the capture of Fort Ticonderoga. But while in command at West Point in 1780, Arnold began secretly communicating with British intelligence agents, giving them insider information, not just about the fort and its defenses, but about American strategy for the war.
When a patriot militia captured a British spy named John André, they discovered Arnold’s treachery—Alexander Hamilton said it was “the blackest treason” he could imagine. A manhunt ensued, but Arnold made it to the safety of a British ship (the aptly named Vulture). In the aftermath, George Washington had John André, the British spy tried. A board of Continental soldiers found him guilty and sentenced him to death by hanging. In the meantime, Arnold returned to the field of battle. Now wearing a British uniform, he led brutal attacks on patriot civilian communities in Virginia and Connecticut throughout 1781.
Join Dr. Richard Bell as we reconstruct the life and times of Benedict Arnold, the reasons for this treason, and the larger problems of betrayal and desertion that dogged the Continental Army throughout the war.
Dr. Richard Bell is Professor of History at the University of Maryland. He holds a PhD from Harvard University and has won more than a dozen teaching awards, including the University System of Maryland Board of Regents Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching. He has held major research fellowships at Yale, Cambridge, the Library of Congress and is the recipient of the Andrew Carnegie Fellowship and the National Endowment of the Humanities Public Scholar Award. Professor Bell is author of the new book "Stolen: Five Free Boys Kidnapped into Slavery and their Astonishing Odyssey Home," which was shortlisted for the George Washington Prize and the Harriet Tubman Prize.
This conversation is suitable for all ages.
90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.