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American General Benedict Arnold met
with British Major John Andre to plot the transfer of West Point, a key
strategic post in New York, to British control. The meeting was a
culmination of months of secret negotiations between General Arnold and
the British, and it marked perhaps the most famous act of treason ever
committed by an American military officer.
Why Did Benedict Arnold Betray the American Cause?
Benedict Arnold was one of George Washington's favorite commanders. Brave,
tenacious, and highly gifted as a military leader, Arnold had
distinguished himself repeatedly in battle.
Yet the brilliant Arnold was also egotistical and self-interested. And had
a tendency to rub many people the wrong way.
Passed over for promotion, denied credit for certain accomplishments, and
faced with major financial challenges, an increasingly bitter Arnold
hardened his heart against the American cause and offered his services --
for a price -- to the British.
Why did Benedict Arnold, one of America's most talented and courageous
generals, conspire to betray the American cause?
Enigma of Benedict Arnold," courtesy of
Early America Review
What if Arnold's Treason Had Succeeded?
At the time of Arnold's meeting with Andre, the American general commanded
the fortress at West Point, a key strategic point that prevented the Royal
Navy from accessing the Hudson River. This effectively limited the British
presence in New York to the coastline, especially New York City.
Had British General Clinton captured West Point, the British would've
gained control of the Hudson and quickly divided the American colonies,
just as they had hoped to accomplish during their previous ill-fated
campaign that ended ingloriously at Saratoga.
Arnold's plan almost worked. He had already weakened West Point's defenses
and Clinton was preparing a major assault. Had it not been for Andre's
capture, the stalemate in the Revolutionary War's theater would've been
broken -- to the distinct advantage of the British.
At the very least, this would've meant that the Revolutionary War would've
dragged on for many more years. At worst (at least from the American
perspective), it would've meant defeat for the American cause.
Fortunately for the Americans, Andre was captured and the plot discovered.
Benedict Arnold escaped arrest (and a sure hanging) and would finish the
war in British uniform! But the consequences of his treachery were nowhere
near what they could have been.