General Benedict Arnold led the Continental Army to pivotal victories at Fort Ticonderoga and Saratoga, New York. He is best remembered, however, for switching sides near the end of the war.

Illustration courtesy Library of Congress

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  • On September 24, 1780, American General Benedict Arnold defected to the British Army during the Revolutionary War
    Prior to his decision to switch sides, Arnold had a splendid career in the Continental Army of the young United States. His leadership was crucial in American victories at the Battle of Fort Ticonderoga and the Battles of Saratoga. Due to his success, Arnold was given command of West Point, New York, a fort that became the site of the future United States Military Academy
    Unhappy with American leadership, Arnold began coded communication with British leaders to hand over West Point. When this plot was uncovered, Arnold fled to safety behind enemy lines, narrowly escaping American troops led by General George Washington.
    Today, the name “Benedict Arnold” is often used as a synonym for “traitor” or “treason.” During the Civil War, leaders of the Confederate States of America were compared to Benedict Arnold. In 2010, after native Ohioan and basketball superstar LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers for another team, the team put his posters on sale for $17.41—the year of Benedict Arnold’s birth. (Unlike Arnold, who lived the rest of his life in London, James returned to Cleveland.)
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    Civil War Noun

    (1860-1865) American conflict between the Union (north) and Confederacy (south).

    code Verb

    to arrange information into a system for communication.

    communication Noun

    sharing of information and ideas.

    Confederate Adjective

    having to do with the Confederate States of America (south) during the Civil War.

    crucial Adjective

    very important.

    defect Verb

    to abandon one idea or country for another.

    fort Noun

    military outpost, area, or set of buildings.

    plot Noun

    secret plan or scheme.

    prior Adjective

    before or ahead of.

    Revolutionary War Noun

    (1775-1783) conflict between Great Britain and the colonies that became the United States. Also called the American War of Independence.

    site Noun

    specific place where something is located.

    splendid Adjective


    synonym Noun

    word that means the same thing as another.

    traitor Noun

    someone who betrays a person or idea.

    treason Noun

    crime of planning to overthrow the government.

    troop Noun

    a soldier.

    United States Military Academy Noun

    (West Point, New York) federal academy for the education and training of U.S. Army officers. Also called West Point, USMA, or Army.