BENEDICT ARNOLD’S BOOT: The rise and fall of a New York hero (continued, part 2)
By Susan Ingalls Lewis
Last week, we took Arnold through the fall of 1776, and the Battle at Valcour Island. In the winter of 1776/77, despite support from George Washington and General Horatio Gates, Arnold was passed over for promotion to major general and threatened to resign. Enemies—he seems to have made many—had turned Congress against him. However, on his way to Philadelphia to discuss the matter that April, Arnold learned that the British were about to attack Ridgefield, Connecticut, and he joined the defense, led the militia, and was wounded again in the left leg—the very leg represented in the boot monument on the field at Saratoga.
In 1777, Arnold’s military career reached its zenith. He was finally promoted after his action and wounding in Connecticut, although he continued to resent that his seniority was less than others who had been promoted in the interim between when he felt the promotion was deserved and when it actually took place. In addition, he had to defend himself against charges of corruption brought by an enemy officer. Although Arnold threatened to retire, Washington insisted that he was needed for the defense against the British invasion of New York from the north and west. Coming down from Canada, General Burgoyne’s army recaptured Ticonderoga in July, and Barry St. Leger’s smaller band of British soldiers, Hessians, Canadians, loyalists, and Native Americans (including New York’s Mohawk leader Joseph Brant) had set out from Niagara in the west. If these forces could meet with an expected expedition up the Hudson from New York City, it was hoped by the British, and feared by the Americans, that New England would be cut off from the rest of the states.