BENEDICT ARNOLD’S BOOT: The rise and fall of a New York hero (part 1)
By Susan Ingalls Lewis
Why would I call Benedict Arnold both a New Yorker and a hero? Arguably the most famous traitor in American history—a man whose name is still synonymous with betrayal—Arnold was born and grew up in Connecticut, and died in England. Yet the momentous events of his career took place in New York, and Arnold was one of the most important Revolutionary War heroes before he transformed himself into a villain. In fact, it was his fall from grace that makes his treason so notorious. As one of the most demonized figures in our history, it is not surprising that the memorial to his service is simply a mysterious sculpture of a boot on which his name never appears. This unique tribute, located on the battlefield at Saratoga and erected in 1887, offers a visual reference to the wounds that Arnold sustained there, and is dedicated simply to “‘the most brilliant soldier’ of the Continental Army.”
Arnold was not only the hero of the Battle of Saratoga in 1777—the pivotal battle of the war—but also contributed to the U.S. victory over Great Britain through (1) the capture of Fort Ticonderoga in 1775, (2) the building of the first navy and the Battle of Valcour Island in 1776, and (3) lifting the siege on Fort Stanwix and thus driving one prong of the British invasion back to Niagara in 1777. In addition, Arnold’s military career was noteworthy for numerous acts of ingenuity and courage.