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What caused Major General Benedict Arnold to become a traitor?  It’s a question that only a few have labored over.  Many aren’t aware that he was ever a hero and a great patriot, but he was ... perhaps our greatest.  If he had died at the battle of Saratoga, his exploits on the behalf of this country would have deemed a day of recognition; a national holiday that would have been celebrated to this day.  Now some two hundred and nineteen years after the West Point incident, few other than historians, remember the man, but all know that he was a traitor.  Many do not know the circumstances of his sedition, but nevertheless his name is synonymous with treason.  His heroic exploits have been forgotten and all we remember is the treason.  On the battlefield at Saratoga, a lone monument stands in memorial of this man, but there is no mention of his name on the engraving.  This book by no means condones his treason, but explains the reason why this great man became a traitor to the country he loved.      Fighting for our country’s independence started longer before July 4, 1776  and Benedict Arnold was there at the very beginning where our story also begins.  The seaport of New Haven Connecticut is his home and he is a prosperous young man with a family.  He is loved dearly by the townspeople, adored by his children and sister.  His relationship with his wife is somewhat strained as she is an extremely cold individual who seems to have drawn away from family and friends to live a secluded life within her own mind.      This is the time of Lexington and Concord and Arnold, leader of the New Haven Militia and the Sons of Liberty, calls his militia to arms to aid the patriots in driving the British back to Boston.  This is the beginning for Benedict’s valiant career, followed by his heroics at: Ticonderoga, St. Jean, Crown Point, Kennecbec, Quebec, Montreal, Skennesboro, Valcour Bay, Ridgefield, Oriskany, and Saratoga.  The leaders, both American and British, praised his military genius.  The public worshipped this charismatic man, but he had many enemies.  Others were jealous of his achievements and sought to discredit him at every turn.  During these early years his wife dies of an unknown aliment.      At the battle of Saratoga, he suffered a musket shot to his left hip shattering his bone.  The leg should have been amputated, but Arnold refused, knowing he could never sit a horse again with one leg and therefore would be of no use to his beloved country.  It took almost a year for the leg to heal and even so, he was in constant pain for which he took tincture of laudanum.  His left leg was two inches shorter than the right.        In Philadelphia, which has been taken by the British, the Loyalists are deriving joy from the British occupation.  Lavish parties are enjoyed by all, but especially by Peggy Schippen, daughter of Judge Schippen.  Her dream, which she feels is her destiny in life, is to marry the titled heir to British wealth.  She and her lover Captain John Andre’ attend all the parties, but soon this will soon end as the British leave Philadelphia.      Due to his unyielding leg problem, Benedict is still unable to enter into battle, as leader of Washington’s left flank, a position of honor.  Washington places Benedict Arnold as military governor of Philadelphia, a hot bed of Loyalist intrigue.  The Americans have parties as well, and at the Second Annual Fourth of July celebration, Benedict Arnold meets Peggy Schippen and falls in love with this Loyalist beauty, once called the most beautiful woman on two continents.  While Peggy is seen on the arm of General Arnold, she is secretly seeing John Andre’ who is now a Major and the head of British espionage in New York.      Andre convinces Peggy to marry Benedict Arnold and then to turn him to the British side in the war.  He convinces her that the British will reward Arnold with a title, wealth and estates in England; everything that Peggy wanted out of life.      After their marriage Peggy finds that it is not so easy to turn ‘the hero of Saratoga’ into a traitor, but she is assisted by the unexpected.  The intrigue of espionage continues and Benedict Arnold agrees to turnover West Point to the enemy.  But does he?  Slight changes, caused by Arnold himself, allows the plans to be thwarted and Andre’ is captured.  Benedict escapes to the British and when no longer of value to them he is sent to England.  Peggy, with a fine bit of acting, fakes madness to show her lack of complicity in the treason.  Arnold protects Peggy in his letters, telling Washington that Peggy had no part in the treason.  But Peggy admits to a friend of her knowledge of the plot and her complicity in it and speaks of her intention of not going to her husband.  She soon finds that the Americans don’t want her either and she goes to live with Benedict and the British.      The final scene is twenty years later when Arnold is on his death bed and Peggy learns that Benedict has finally understood what was done to him by the woman he loved.  Truly an American tragedy.

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