To the editor:
On May 20, Tom Dalton wrote an article headlined, "A traitor remembered." Having a past historical interest in Benedict Arnold, I take strong exception to the slanted manner of his reporting and also to his ignorance of facts.
History books and news writers seem to have one thing in common: Whenever the name of Benedict Arnold is mentioned, the immediate headline of "traitor" is applied.
By law, yes, he was; but is our history so poorly authored that we forget to recognize the fact that he was mainly responsible for this country being called "The United States of America" instead of "The United Kingdom's Colony of America"? In justification of the above, let's briefly review his commanded campaigns.
The first was in early 1775 when Col. Arnold teamed up with Ethan Allen to capture Fort Ticonderoga and secure powder and ball for the defense of Boston. Successful! Not a soul lost on either side!
The second campaign for now Gen. Arnold, under the command of Gen. George Washington, was to take a piddling 900 men through the wilderness and invade Canada at the city of Quebec. These "Rabble in Arms" came so close to doing just that!
If Arnold had not been badly wounded while leading his troops, very possibly Quebec would have fallen. And if the invasion had succeeded, Canada might well have been part of the United States of America. That trek has been easily compared with Hannibal's march over the Alps in 218 BC.
The third campaign, in the fall of 1776, would have failed under anybody but Arnold. He was ordered by Washington to "stop Carlton," the British commander, from sailing his fleet down Lake Champlain and thus splitting the colonies in two. Arnold recruited the local farmers to assist his own small army to not only build 15 or more ships, but also to man them.
Hence arose the Battle of Valcour Island. On Oct. 11, 1776, Arnold's ship by itself took on seven British ships for two and a half hours. The whole British fleet then withdrew to Canadian waters for the winter.
Of this engagement, naval strategist Admiral Mahan says, "The Americans had an invaluable year of delay secured to them by their little navy on Lake Champlain and created by the indomitable energy and handled by the indomitable courage of Benedict Arnold."
Arnold's fourth and last campaign was the Battle of Freeman's Farm. He was co-commander with timid Gates. Early in October 1777, Arnold led his small force against Gen. Burgoyne's 6,000 and won! Historians today consider Burgoyne's surrender to be one of the few decisive battles of world history and the turning point of the Revolution.
Dalton leads his article by stating, "This (Danvers) may be the only town in America with a monument bearing the name of Benedict Arnold."
Let's set the record straight on that. In addition to the one in Danvers, which was placed there by the Massachusetts Society, Sons of the American Revolution, there are four others that I know of, all bearing the name of Benedict Arnold.
The second plaque is in Moscow, Maine, and marks the place where in October of 1775, Arnold and his men left the Kennebec River to continue north on the Dead River. The marker was placed by the Kennebec chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1916.
The third marker is at Skowhegan Island in Maine where "eleven hundred men" under Arnold camped on their way to Quebec. It was placed there by the Eunice Farnsworth Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1912.
The fourth marker is also at Skowhegan Island, in memory of "Col. Benedict Arnold and the American Patriots." It was also placed by the Eunice Farnsworth Chapter of the DAR on May 8, 2000.
The fifth and most memorable stone and plaque is at Valcour, New York. It reads: "Commemorating the valor of American forces led by Benedict Arnold at the battle of Valcour October 11, 1776." The marker is readily seen on the western bank of Lake Champlain.
As you look at this votive stone, you also look across the waters of the lake. Immediately to the north, and maybe a mile from the shore is Valcour Island. This bright water is a place where many Americans died so that we may now be free of British intervention.
And who led this victorious rabble? Arnold!
I'm convinced the despicable lack of statesmanship, understanding and forgiveness exhibited by the Continental Congress and other small jealous men, has caused the memory of this great leader to be besmirched ever since. Shame on them. And shame on us if we allow this black flag to continue to fly over a valiant hero's grave.
S. Hardy Prince