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Ghosts of New Haven Blog 15 Benedict Arnold, Conflicted Ghost

Ghosts of New Haven Blog 15 Benedict Arnold, Conflict Ghost © 2018 by Dr. Philip Ernest Schoenberg, Ghost with a Blog # Ghost

Benedict Arnold is a tortured soul. That is perhaps why he haunts the New Haven Green. He is not sure whether he wants to defend or to attack New Haven. When the shots were heard around the world at Lexington and Concord, Benedict Arnold was a very successful New Haven merchant. He quickly became head of the local militia who became part of the successful force that defended Breed’s Hill, the actual site of the Battle of Bunker Hill.

Self-taught Benedict Arnold became George Washington’s best general. He was responsible for taking of Fort Ticonderoga and making sure the guns went to George Washington in Boston instead of the hands of Ethan Allan and his Vermont militia. Against great odds, he led an unsuccessful attempt to take Quebec; if he had succeeded, perhaps Canada might have joined the American Revolution. Arnold was severely wounded leading the charge that decided the Battle of Saratoga in favor of the American forces under General Horatio Gates.

George Washington put Benedict Arnold in charge of Philadelphia as he recovered from his wounds. There he met his second wife Peggy Shipton from a Tory family. Disappointment in not being recognized by Congress and living beyond his means to please his second wife tempted him into treason. George Washington put him in charge of West Point, the most strategic defense outpost in the American military. Arnold negotiated with the British to hand it over, but his contact John Andre was captured, and the evidence of his treason was uncovered.

Benedict Arnold was able to flee to the British side. Robert Ruark’s novel “Oliver Wistwell” portrays the traitor as a very able military genius for the British whose talents were not fully exploited and recognized by the British. Benedict Arnold help lead a British raiding party in New Haven on July 8 and 9, 1779 which burned a considerable portion of his former hometown. He and his second wife died in England where he was despised by the British.

Occasionally, the ghost of Benedict Arnold appears on the green. The ghost appears to be conflicted as he doesn’t know which side to fight on! Sometimes he is an American military uniform; sometimes he is in a British military uniform. Never at peace, Arnold is stuck on planet earth, rejected by both heaven and hell as his final home. He haunts himself with his guilt.