July 13, 2024
Benedict Arnold: How The Traitor Was Unmasked
“Whom can we trust now?” cried out General Washington when he discovered his friend’s “villainous perfidy.”
“Whom can we trust now?” cried out General Washington when he discovered his friend’s “villainous perfidy.”

The most famous, or infamous, traitor in American history was Major General Benedict Arnold—a brilliant officer, a whirlwind hero, a trusted military comrade of George Washington’s. The culmination of his treachery was a plot to deliver up West Point, America’s strongest and most important fortification, to the British. AMERICAN HERITAGE presents in this issue two segments of Benedict Arnold’s complex story. “How the Traitor Was Unmasked,” by James Thomas Flexner, is the exciting and moving account of General Washington’s discovery of his friend’s “villainous perfidy”—an excerpt from Mr. Flexner’s book, George Washington in the American Revolution, to be published early in 1968 by Little, Brown and Company. In “The Aftermath of Treason,” Milton Lomask tells the story of the Arnolds’ subsequent life in England and Canada. —The Editors

As he rode back toward his army after a frustrating conference with his French allies at Hartford, Connecticut, on September 24, 1780, George Washington felt the need of some gaiety to raise his melancholy spirits. He looked forward eagerly to a relaxed evening at the home of old friends—his military comrade Benedict Arnold and Arnold’s pretty wife, Peggy, whom Washington had known since she was a girl. The Commander in Chief intended to enjoy his dinner and a good night’s rest, and then to spend the next clay inspecting the great patriot fortification at West Point, which Arnold now commanded.

Business, however, intervened. On the road he met the French ambassador, Chevalier Anne Cesar de la Luzerne, and had to pause for further involved negotiations. He spent the night at Fishkill, New York.

Early the next morning, as soon as the autumnal sky began to lighten, Washington set out again on his interrupted journey. It was only a short ride to Arnold’s headquarters, but there were redoubts along the river that Washington felt he ought to visit. As he repeatedly turned off the highroad down lanes rutted by the wheels of cannon, his companions—the Marquis de Lafayette, the artillery general Henry Knox, and a flock of aides—became impatient. Eventually, Lafayette (so it is reported) reminded Washington that Mrs. Arnold was waiting breakfast for them.