The Tragic Life of Benedict Arnold

By | November 25, 2018

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Benedict Arnold

Benedict Arnold’s name has become synonymous with traitor, courtesy of his famous betrayal of the Continental Army. That poor decision has made him the object of hatred from Americans for years beyond his death, but a closer look at his life might just make him the object of pity instead.

One thing that is important to note is that Benedict Arnold was not the first Benedict Arnold. It was his father’s name, his grandfather’s name, and his great-grandfather’s name. And, creepily enough, it was also his older brother’s name – that is, his older brother who died as a baby before the Benedict Arnold we’ve come to loathe was even born. Many people have been named after fathers and grandfathers, but he was also named after a deceased sibling, one he had replaced as the eldest son.

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Benedict Arnold Family Homestead, Norwich, CT

Arnold was born in Norwich, Connecticut on January 14, 1741, to Benedict Arnold III and Hannah Waterman King. His parents went on to have four more children after them; however, only his oldest sister Hannah lived to be an adult. His brother, Absolom, died in 1750 at just under three years of age. His other siblings – seven-year-old Mary and three-year-old Elizabeth – died from yellow fever in 1753, just nineteen years apart. The family was initially affluent as Arnold’s father owned a successful mercantile business. At the age of ten, Arnold was enrolled in a private school in Canterbury, Connecticut and was expected to attend Yale University. All of that changed, however, after his father began drinking heavily, most likely the result of the death of his children. The family fortune dwindled and, by age 14, they could no longer afford private school.