On September 21, 1780, General Benedict Arnold betrayed his country when he gave the British information that could allow them to capture the American fort at West Point on the Hudson River in New York.
At the time, Americans regarded Arnold as a hero for his bravery in the Revolutionary War. He had fought with daring skill at Fort Ticonderoga, Quebec, Valcour Island, and Saratoga. But he grew resentful at promotions other officers received, and he hungered for money to support the lifestyle he enjoyed with his young wife, the beautiful young Peggy Shippen. Arnold began exchanging secret messages with the enemy, offering betrayal in exchange for money and high rank in the British army.
On the night of September 21, he sealed the traitorous deal when he met with Major John André, aide to the commander of all British forces in North America, and handed him detailed information on West Point, which Arnold commanded. Arnold returned to the fort while André, disguised in civilian’s clothes, made his way toward the British lines.
Two days later, Patriot militiamen stopped André and were shocked to discover who he was – and that he carried details about West Point in his boots, including some papers in Arnold’s handwriting. Arnold was at breakfast when he received word of André’s capture. He quickly excused himself, boarded his barge, and escaped to a British warship anchored in the Hudson – aptly named HMS Vulture.
Arnold fought for the British for the rest of the Revolution, leading troops that burned Richmond, Virginia, and New London, Connecticut. After the war he went to England, where he died in 1801, scorned by many even there. Like almost all traitors, Arnold acted not for any ideals, but for personal gain, and he earned himself the most infamous name in American history.