If George Washington was the ultimate hero, then Benedict Arnold was the ultimate traitor. Even today, his name is synonymous with the worst kind of treachery. What made Arnold’s treason so dastardly and horrible was the fact that it was so unexpected.
Early in the war, Benedict Arnold was an up-and-coming military leader with seemingly endless potential. He participated in the invasion of Canada and helped lead the attack on Quebec. Although the attack ultimately failed, Arnold came home a hero and was promoted to brigadier general. His fame continued to increase as the war progressed. The June 20, 1780, Maryland Journal described Arnold as “the celebrated Major General Arnold, (styled in Great Britain the American Hannibal),” indicating how much of a public hero he had become.
But, somewhere, somehow, something went wrong. It is still not clear why Benedict Arnold sought to betray the American cause. George Washington placed him in command of Philadelphia in June 1778. While in Philadelphia, Arnold was accused of violating state laws and military regulations to his own personal benefit. He also married Margaret (Peggy) Shippen, the daughter of a Loyalist, on April 8, 1779.
Sometime in May 1779, Arnold first made overtures to the British (apparently after being encouraged to do so by Peggy and her family). Nothing came of these contacts until Arnold was court-martialed for violating regulations. Although only receiving an official reprimand for his conviction, Arnold was highly offended. He once more contacted the British and offered to surrender control of the fort at West Point, New York. His treachery was discovered only when his British contact, Major John André, was stopped while trying to return to the British lines in New York. Because he was in civilian clothes, André was hanged as a spy. Arnold managed to escape to New York, but the taint of his treason followed him for the rest of his