The fall of heroes who turn out to be flawed gods is always especially painful. So it is in the case of Benedict Arnold. Probably everyone who reads this blog knows who Arnold was. But because the depth of his eventual betrayal was so great, many of you may not realize how major a role he played on the American side and how greatly he contributed to the Revolution’s success.
Arnold was a natural leader, though, as too often happens, he became a victim of his own hubris. Utterly fearless in battle, he was also completely insensitive to others’ feelings. An easily wounded pride coupled with self-doubt and a hunger for the fame, social acceptance, money, and rank that kept eluding him made it impossible for him to accept opposition or criticism. Yet despite these faults, the privotal battle of Saratoga would not have been won had it not been for his heroism and that of the soldiers who responded to his leadership on that crucial day.
In his brilliant work, Saratoga, Richard Ketchum says it very well.
“Benedict Arnold had many faults, as the future was to make even more clear, yet it is not too much to say that this climactic battle was won in part because of his extraordinary bravery, magnetism, and energy. Somehow he managed to be everywhere when needed, flourishing his sword, leading men by example, and while the odds were against Burgoyne’s force from the outset because he was so badly outnumbered, the victory clearly belonged to Arnold, to Morgan and Dearborn, and the New Hampshire Continentals, to those hardy survivors of Ticonderoga, Hubbardton, and the long, humiliating retreat, and to the thousands of militiamen who turned out in the hour of greatest need.”
—Richard M. Ketchum, Saratoga: Turning Point of America’s Revolutionary War, p. 404.