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A New Position

On July 4, 1778 it is the second anniversary of the declaration of independence. For the soldiers it is a day of celebration and for General George Washington a new time of confidence after the Battle of Monmouth when the American troops held their ground a battle that led to a draw. After Monmouth British General Henry Clinton took his army back to their base at New York City. The Continental Congress returned into session in Philadelphia and on July 4th a big celebration of Philadelphia's high society happened. Congressman, statesman, military officials, and wealthy merchants are still in attendance including the new military governor of the rebel capital, Benedict Arnold. Arnold was born into a prominent Connecticut family but his drunken father destroyed the family fortune. Arnold captured Fort Ticonderoga from the British in 1775 but the credit was passed over to the frontiersman Ethan Allen. He fought at the Battle of Saratoga in 1777 and won the fight against the British. In the battle Arnold took a bullet to the leg and was nearly crushed by his horse. Adding insult to injury, the credit went to General Horatio Gates. Now Arnold is in charge of restoring order in Philadelphia where the British occupation destroyed the lower class. At the Independence Day celebration, Arnold looks to many like a loyalist than a Continental general. Around town Arnold and his high society friend where the wigs and clothing associated with the British, but it is Arnold's action as military governor that raises question about his loyalty to the cause. Arnold's first action was to close all the stores that he said was to try to know what supplies was accountable for the people of the city as well as the army but the press immediately accused him of hoarding the goods that he would sell for himself although Arnold was doing what many officers did when in charge of cities. As Arnold continues to entertain suspected loyalists he falls in love with an 18-year-old woman, Peggy Shippin. She and her family tried to keep their neutrality but are suspected of being loyalists because they kept company with the British officers like many people of high society. One man Peggy began a friendship with was Major John Andre, Genera Clinton's aide. Shippin's friendship with Andre has not ended with the British evacuation of Boston, through her friends she still hears from the British officer which ties her dangerously close with the enemy. Now they are a couple under criticism as many people think in the press.

The Franco-American Alliance

Meanwhile across the ocean in Paris, another celebrated patriot is waiting for news from the Americas. Benjamin Franklin has been enjoying his time in France as the ambassador of the Americans. He has convinced France, and great superpower and enemy of the British, to join in the war of independence. Now 12 ships of the line from the French navy are under sail to join the American cause. The hope is that the fleet can defeat the British navy and raid their supply routes, but the news is bad. The French fleet was in the middle of a storm and now it is impossible for them to sail up from the Caribbean. As the alliance with France continues the Americans feel that the French are a bunch of cowards who are not helping them at all and it is Franklin's job to keep the French interested on the war. Franklin decides to continue to socialize with France's high society about politics in the salons of Paris. Franklin's diplomatic strategy raises question from some of the Americans in congress, especially John Adams. Adams was one of the original radicals who helped start the revolution and is now an American ambassador to help Franklin, but the two are very opposite from each other. Adams is a man of schedule and immediate information while Franklin is a man of patience but for now the two gentlemen have to work together in the building of the Franco-American alliance.

Charges against Arnold

Back in America Benedict Arnold faces even more charges and criticisms from the press and now the identity of the man pressing these charges has been known. Joseph Reed, the governor of Pennsylvania is the one pressing these charges of Arnold's actions to close down the shops, believing that Arnold is trying to sell the goods. Reed was a veteran of the revolution and had gained the confidence by General Washington after the battles of New York and Brandywine. Now a civilian politician, Reed wants to gain full control of Pennsylvania and keep it out of the control of the army. Stunned by the charges, Arnold launches an attack of his own defending his actions and his honor. The heated exchange lasts for months in the press and catches the eye of the Continental Congress which schedules a hearing. On March 5, 1779, in front of an investigative committee, Arnold answers the charges against him. His statement is about all what he did and all that he lost including getting crippled for life, getting passed over for promotions several times, and he thought he had lost his honor. After Arnold's speech the committee opens a military council, for Arnold it is a victory. But Joseph Reed has more plans for Arnold; he reopens his attacks in the press and sends a message to General George Washington. In it he demands that all the charges should be opened again against Arnold and that if he did not then Reed would cancel all supplies from Pennsylvania. Since Washington is again low on supplies he writes in a polite letter to Arnold that the council was cancelled. Arnold replies saying that if Washington thought that he was guilty then that Washington should have him tried and executed. Washington has more things to worry about as by orders of congress to take his army to the frontier.

War on the Iroquois

1779 was shaping up to be a slow year in the war. So far the British and Americans have not started any major campaigns against other. Finally only one campaign will be the major highlight for 1779 in the war. It was demanded by the Continental Congress and ordered by General George Washington and it is a campaign on the Iroquois. Stretching from east to west in what became upper New York state, the Iroquois nation is made up of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and the Tuscarora tribes. It is the largest confederation of tribes in the northeast and would be a powerful ally to either side. For most of the war until now, the Native Americans involved are mainly limited to only assisting the Americans and British in campaigns. Now the Iroquois nation plans to join one of the sides in the war. The British have an ally in the Iroquois named Joseph Brant. Joseph Brant is part White and part Native American and went to Britain where he met King George III in London and he promises that his people will be allowed to keep their lands after the war if they side with the British. When Joseph Brant proposes this to the Iroquois the nations is divided. Once under British command, Brant and his tribes raid American settlers on the frontier, but although they are fighting for their own land, the Native Americans are slandered in American media but there is barely any news about the cruel acts of revenge on the Native Americans and Brant becomes known as "The Monster Brant". When Washington deploys the mission the Continental Army immediately forces the Iroquois to the British forts in Canada. The Iroquois are quickly forced back and the American campaign succeeds.

The Last Straw

While the Iroquois campaign may have been a success, Washington still needs a commander that could fight the British and he knows one of the best commanders in the army is Benedict Arnold. First Washington needs to deal with a political matter which are the charges placed on Military Governor Arnold by the Governor of Pennsylvania, Joseph Reed. Reed wants Arnold to lose his job as military governor so he can take back the control of Philadelphia and he wants Washington to remove Arnold from his job. Furthermore, Reed has forced Washington to do this because if he does not then Reed will withdraw Pennsylvania's support from the war. Washington has no other choice but to remove Arnold so he can continues to get the supplies from Pennsylvania which he desperately needs. He issues a hard rebuke against Arnold to placate Reed and once the affair is over then Washington can return Arnold to a field command. With no knowledge of Reed's threat Arnold receives the letter from Washington. The words are stinging, unacceptable, and improper and for Arnold it is the last straw. Passed over for promotion, gravely injured at Saratoga, and now reprimanded by Washington, Arnold is pushed over the edge. Benedict Arnold will betray America. Arnold sends a message to his wife's friend Major General John Andrew who is now in charge of British intelligence. Arnold demands 20,000 pounds and command of his own as brigadier general in the British army.  In return Arnold will give the information on a mighty fort to the royals. It is the key to defending the Hudson River and his named after Arnold himself and it is also known as West Point.

The Act of Treason

Fort Arnold or West Point is no doubt a valuable fort. It is just 60 miles north of the British base at New York City and it sits on a peninsula as it guards a sweeping "S" curb in the Hudson River. At West Point sometimes in the day the river flows south and sometimes it flows north making it an ideal place to mount cannons on both sides of the river to attack ships that may try to navigate pass the very tricky curve in the river. West Point is a prize the British had wanted to take since the beginning of the war but could not take with military offensive. In 1777 General John Burgoyne took a British force down south from Canada in a campaign to take the Hudson River but were stopped and captured at the Battle of Saratoga. On August 1, 1780 Washington invites Arnold to West Point to offer him a good deal. Arnold will get to be third in command of the American army and in his own force he will get one half of the best infantry the Americans have. The offer on the table would have been something Arnold would have jumped at months earlier, but the treason has been set in motion. Arnold pleads that he is too weak and wants control of West Point. Washington was confused but Arnold will not back down and the command of West Point is his. Once under his command, Arnold deliberately makes West Point far weaker than ever. He shifts artillery batteries to where they would play no use and send a lot of troops to distant outposts where they could not be reinforced. On September 21st, just south of West Point, Benedict Arnold ad John Andre meet for the first and last time. Arnold gives Andre detailed information on the fort and makes sure no question goes unanswered. Andre then puts the plans into his boot and leaves. The next morning at breakfast Arnold is expecting Washington as a special guest and after that he and Peggy will slip behind enemy lines. But Arnold receives a letter that changes everything, Andre has been captured and the stolen plans were found. Arnold fears the plot may be uncovered so he and his wife burn the evidence that leaks him to the plot. Then Arnold takes two pistols and a sword and escapes to British lines on a horse. When Washington arrives at the headquarters he finds out about the treason and sees the plans. Washington is furious as he knows that only Arnold could give such detailed plans. When Washington goes to Peggy's room she pretends to be upset and Washington buys it. The only question remaining is who else knew of the plot. Ten days after his capture John Andrew is hanged and becomes the youngest and highest ranking officer in the war to be executed. In the British base at New York City there is a new officer in the ranks, a former hero of the American army, Brigadier General Benedict Arnold.
Benedict Arnold betrays the Americans. Benjamin Franklin continues to negotiate with the French. General Washington orders a campaign to the frontier.

Picture: General Benedict Arnold

I do not own ths picture.

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RD-DD1843 Featured By Owner May 23, 2012
My sympathies will always remain with Major John Andre in this incident. He became the pawn between Washington (seeking Arnold back for treason trial) and Clinton (who felt he could not do something that would anger the loyalists. Clinton (who thought of Andre as a son) had no choice, nor did Washington. The person to blame was Arnold - had he allowed Andre to keep on his uniform Andre could not have been considered a spy. Arnold insisted he put on civilian clothing.

Only one decent film about the Arnold Conspiracy was ever made - and it is not Abbott and Costello's THE TIME OF THEIR LIVES. It is a1951 film entitled THE SCARLET COAT, with Cornell Wilde, Robert Douglas (as Arnold), George Sanders, and Michael Wilding as Andre. Andre is the hero of the film, and the last scene, as the scene of his hanging fades off is his grave and marker inside Westminster Abbey, where it still is today.
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