REVOLUTIONARY WAR MONUMENT
TO A BOOT
One might think it strange, and indeed it is, but on the Battlefield at Saratoga lies a monument. The monument is of a boot! I’m sure you’re wondering why good money purchased and crafted a beautiful monument to footwear, but there’s a little more to this story.
An officer by the name of Benedict Arnold teamed up with Ethan Allen to capture Fort Ticonderoga in 1775. On New Year’s Eve, 1775, Arnold led troops from Maine to meet the British head-on in a blinding snowstorm in a furious effort to reduce or remove Canada as a base of operations for the British. Despite a great effort, the Battle of Quebec City failed. During this battle, Arnold’s leg was mutilated and he was removed from the battlefield.
Benedict was a fine strategist and surmised, correctly, that the British would attempt an autumn attack by way of Lake Champlain, and was right. Though the battle was lost to the British in the end, the operation slowed the British war machine on October 11th, 1776 at Valcour Bay.
Arnold was not a particularly humble man, and when the Continental Congress refused to honor him with the merits of the many operations, he was shaken, and deposited his resignation after five junior officers were appointed above him. George Washington personally met with Arnold, begging him to reconsider leaving the Continental Army. Benedict Arnold stayed. He was a key element in defense of New York state, and when Burgoyne met the Americans, led by Horatio Gates, things heated up between Gates and Arnold. Gates removed Arnold from command, but Arnold, defying a direct order, summoned American soldiers to attack Burgoyne at the Battle of Bemis Heights on October 7, 1777. Arnold’s daring move disrupted Burgoyne’s actions and led to the British defeat but ten days later at the Battle of Saratoga. Arnold received no commendations, and was grievously stricken again in the same leg at Saratoga, effectively ending his battlefield operations completely.
Benedict Arnold was put as military governor of Philadelphia in 1778, and at that time, British agents began working their wiles on Arnold, telling him that the Americans did not value his services as much as the British would. Slowly but surely, the anger Benedict Arnold felt against his treatment led to his falling astray and flipping over to the British side as his living life on the opulent side cause debt that he could not easily shoulder. In early 1779, he began secret negotiations to give the British an opportunity to take fortifications at West Point. All of this would probably have never been found out easily but for the capture of British Major John Andre, who was captured with papers implicating Arnold as a spy and traitor. Before he could be captured, Benedict Arnold took the side of the British, appearing in several small engagements before the conclusion of the war. Arnold went to England and lived there until 1801, when he died at age 60.
While fighting for the British, he spoke with a captured American and asked him what the Americans would do if they ever caught him.
The American said “They will cut off the leg which was wounded when you were fighting so gloriously for the cause of liberty, and bury it with the honors of war, and hang the rest of your body on a gibbet.”
And so it is, that Benedict Arnold’s leg (and boot) are honored as Continental Army heroes, while the rest of him is forever despised as a traitor. One of the most amazing field leaders of the Continental Army, and surely one that the Americans could not have done without, becomes the most vilified, treacherous spy and turncoat ever, all because of Arnold’s need for glory…