Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Battle of Saratoga and its hero; Benedict Arnold

The Boot Monument to Benedict Arnold WIKIMEDIA COMMONS (CREATIVE COMMONS)

For us Americans, the name Benedict Arnold is synonymous with being a traitor; his name in history is as vile as Judas, Cassius, or Brutus.  There was a time this was not the case, and it was Arnold, whose victories on the battlefield helped the American’s gain their independence; before he betrayed them by planning on handing over West Point to the British.
To understand Arnold’s previous valiant past, and his betrayal, we must understand the overview of the American Revolution which led to the Battle of Saratoga.
During the Revolution, the initial British plan was to separate the colonies. They believed the New England states were more responsible for the revolution than many of the southern ones.  They also believed the southern states would be easier to negotiate a truce or surrender than their northern counterparts.
To accomplish the divide and conquer strategy, British General John Burgoyne marched down from Canada as Barry St. Ledger moved across Western NY to meet with him near Albany, NY. A southern British army was moving from New York also to arrive simultaneously in Albany.
The major obstacle in Barry St. Ledger’s march was Fort Stanwix.  This fort is situated near the Mohawk River in what is today Rome, NY.  Here St. Ledger faced troops from New York and Massachusetts under the command of Colonel Peter Ganesvoort.  During the attack, a relief for came to the aid of Fort Stanwix led by General Nicholas Herkimer. A battle ensued outside of the Fort (approximately 10 miles) at the Battle of Oriskany; where Herkimer was shot.  He had his wound bandaged, then lit his pipe and leaned against a tree. He coordinated his men from this location, keeping them from retreating from the battle field at least on two occasions. General Herkimer would later die from his wounds.
The Siege of Fort Stanwix ended when Benedict Arnold arrived, and with a ruse deceived St. Ledger in thinking a larger force was approaching.  At this time, the American's raided the Native Americans who were supporting the British. Seeing their possessions gone, they left the battlefield.

These numerous factors convinced General St. Ledger to abandoning his attack at Fort Stanwix and so he retreated back the St. Lawrence River. He tried to connect with Burgoyne’s army via Lake Champlain.
General Burgoyne seemed to have an easy march from Canada; his forces easily captured Fort Ticonderoga.  With confidence, his army now moved at a snail’s pace southward.  This slow pace gave the American Army time to regroup their forces.
General Horatio Gates was preparing a stand at Saratoga, NY.  Benedict Arnold, fresh from relieving Fort Stanwix was sent by General Washing to assist Gates, along with Colonel Daniel Morgan with his rifleman from Virginia. Another, Colonel Thaddeus Kosiusko, who was an engineer, built impressive fortifications overlooking the Hudson River.
On September 19, General Burgoyne attacked.  Arnold, who was an aggressive field commander, had to convince Gates out of his defensive position to attack key points on the battlefield. Arnold with Morgan’s men and light infantry began to block a British column trying a flanking maneuver. Morgan had placed his expert marksman in numerous strategic positions, their expertise with the riffle allowed them to take out almost every advancing British officer on the field. The battle raged around a clearing called Freeman’s Farm. Gates was unsure of this battle and commanded the engagement be ended. Although the British won the ground, they had suffered heavy casualties.
General Burgoyne reinforced his position, and waited for the arrival of reinforcements from New York; none came. The British army was hoping for loyalists and Native Americans to come to their aid, but little or none arrived.  At this time, the opposing American Army was being supplied with ammunition and fresh troops.
The battle of Saratoga is actually, two battles and on October 7, the secound one began. Burgoyne now realizing there would be no reinforcements in time from New York or from St. Ledger began his assault on the Revolutionary Army.
The attack by the British was a failure.  Morgan’s marksman took out numerous high-ranking officers, and the British army in disarray retreated to their reinforcements.
Benedict Arnold had been ordered by General Gates to remain at camp; he sulked like Achilles in his tent. After seeing the battle unfold, he left the American lines to join the battle.
The right side of the British encampment was protected by two redoubts (stronghold). These were vital positions. which would provide support to the British encampment.  Benedict Arnold leading his troops through both, while at the same time Morgan’s men circled around them from the rear. It was in this furious battle that Arnold was hit in the leg, which was also broken as his horse fell. The American Army took the positions. Without these stronghold defenses keeping the advancing American army at bay, the British retreated to what is now called Schuylerville. On October 17, 1777 General Burgoyne surrendered his forces.  What remained of his forces at Fort Ticonderoga abandoned their positions and headed back to Quebec, Canada.
The Battle of Saratoga was one of the most significant battles during the American Revolution. This battle meant the British had to abandon their divide and conquer strategy. Also, hearing about the news of this battle, France granted assistance to the Americans. Spain then joined Frances War against the British, which meant more British armies and resources would need to be diverted away from the colonies.
Congress declared December 18, 1777, as a national day "Thanksgiving and Praise" for the victory at the Battle of Saratoga.
General Gates was given much credit for victory at the Battle of Saratoga, even though he delegated much of the decisions to subordinates to make.  In 1780 at the Battle of Camden (South Carolina), he was at the forefront of a panicked retreat. Gates never commanded troops on the battlefield again.
Daniel Morgan is now regarded as one of the most talented tacticians of the American Revolution. Morgan served as one of the sources for the fictional Mel Gibson character in the 2000 movie “The Patriot.”
General Burgoyne returned to England but was never again given a command over troops on the battlefield.
Benedict Arnold would not receive much recognition or praise for his actions at the Battle of Saratoga. Arnold had married a loyalist, seeing his disenchantment with the revolution, she introduced him to a British Major. This Major was aware that Arnold might betray the Americans for financial gain.
A plot was conceived where Arnold would hand over the vital fortifications at West Point to the English. After the conspiracy was discovered he fled to New York City and joined the British Army. Benedict Arnold was named brigadier general by the British government and sent on raids in Virginia. At the end of the war in 1781, Arnold sailed to Britain with his family.
Arnold, as a British officer, asked a captured American solider what they would do to him (Arnold) if he was captured.  The reply was "They will cut off the leg which was wounded when you were fighting so gloriously for the cause of liberty, and bury it with the honors of war, and hang the rest of your body on a gibbet (a hanging post or gallows).”
Now comes the interesting part.  In 1887, a monument was erected in the SaratogaNational Historic Park (site of the battle); it is a simple statue of a boot dedicated to the “brilliant soldier” of the Battle of Saratoga; it does not state Benedict Arnold by name.
W.A. Rusho is a professional wrestler, historian, and author of the novel “Legend of the Mystic Knights”. The previous publisher of this novel is no longer in business, and so he is actively seeking a literary agent or publisher. If you wish to contact him, email him, or visit his website.


  1. This was really a good read, William. It's been decades since I read about Benedict and I'd forgotten what prompted his move from rebel to traitor. Ah, our twisted history!

  2. "A plot was conceived where Arnold would hand over the vital fornications ..."

    I think you mean "fortifications" here. ;-)

  3. There is so much to learn about those who have gone before us - the movers, the shakers and in this case the traitors!

    It does us good to learn about

  4. I definitely knew very little about Benedict Arnold. Your posts have a great way of filling in some of my huge historical gaps.

  5. Have to admit that if I ever heard the name Benedict Arnold I have forgotten it. We don't focus on details of US history in Europe.

  6. I really enjoyed this post, William. I heard of the story of course. But ever visited the area. Interesting point about the boot statue. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Thanks, William. You're such a good story teller. Having had a weekend house in upstate NY, I've visited many of the towns and cities you've mentioned in your posts. A lot of people don't know the important role NY played in the Revolutionary War and that Alexander Hamilton, who traveled back and forth from NYC to Albany where his family lived, was the aide-d-camp to General George Washington.

  8. Quite a complicated story, William! I had never heard the details of Benedict Arnold before. But having visited upstate NY, and hearing the Canadian connection really brought it home for me. Thx for sharing.

  9. Truly a complicated story. I'd heard some of the story about Benedict Arnold before but had forgotten much of it. This certainly filled in details.

  10. Wow, you really had me with this story William! I never knew Arnold's backstory and this was fascinating.

    1. The whole betrayal, and what led up to it, is actually a very complicated story in itself. Arnold was almost court martialed for stealing funds when he was in Philadelphia. George Washington believed in him and backed his career until the truth came out.

  11. I honestly haven't thought much about the American Revolution since studying it in high school. I've of course heard of Benedict Arnold. But I'd forgotten much of his story. Thanks for the reminder.

  12. Very interesting read! I never knew the whole story of Benedict Arnold so thanks for sharing!