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Benedict Arnold

Posted by Bob on March 30th, 2006 under History

By far the greatest general on either side in the Revolution, and he was on both, was Benedict Arnold.

When he betrayed America, people said that if he got caught, his left leg should be cut off his body and buried with honors, while the rest of him should be hanged and buried like a dog.

That is because Arnold took two major wounds in his left leg in combat, and only kept the leg because he woldn’t let them cut it off, though he was risking his life.

He won the pivotal Battle of Saratoga himself, while the American commanding General Clinton just sat there and refused to do anything. Clinton was later disgraced for cowardice at the Battle of Camden.

But not before he had gotten Arnold court-martialed for doing the fighting and disobeying orders.

Arnold had the idea that won Boston early in the war. He went into the war wealthy and was ruined during it.

And every time he did something heroic, he was dragged into a court-martial. He spent large sums from his own pocket when it was a key to victory and nobody wanted to pay him back.

He finally decided that such petty, horrible people could not run a country.

It is hard to say whether his personal resentment or his finally reevaluating the whole situation came first. Human motivations are always hard to untangle.

But a basic point here is critical. No matter how PHYSICALLY brqave you are or how brilliant you are,
no matter how many sacrifices you make, one think that can break your devotion to a cause is the unfairness, the pettiness, of it all.

Washington could not quite believe that every morning his troops came up for morning inspection at Valley Forge. They were paid in worthless currency. Many of them couldn’t even show up at inspection because they were freezing to death.

And the men knew the contractors were cheating them. The men knew they were making ALL the sacrifices, And took the unfairest of orders from many incompetents.

And the easiest thing in the world is to say, “I have all the physical courage in the world. I have sacrificed and he hasn’t. But my HONOR is offended, so I quit.”

The motto of the World War II Generation was, “I showed my courage and sacrifice when I was 19. From now on I don’t have to show a scrap of MORAL courage.”

The way the World War II Generation served was by universal national enthusiasm, once he signed up you couldn’t back out, and by brute force, the draft. If we had depended on ose two things to win the Revolution, we would still be colonials.

The group that calls itself The Greatest Generation couldn’t run. If they ha faced a fraction of the pointless suffering the Revolutionists — or the Tories — faced they would have slinked on home.

Thus The Greateest Generation Saved the World. They tell us they are so Great they make those who left their bare-footed blood in the snow in the Revolution look piddling.

And they gave us what we are living with today.

  1. #1 by kanefromsf on 03/31/2006 - 7:23 pm

    ” The motto of the World War II Generation was, “I showed my courage and sacrifice when I was 19. From now on I don’t have to show a scrap of MORAL courage.” ”
    I hate people who live in the past like that. I hate when certain but not all of course veterens ware there military service on their sleeves. For god’s sake, the only way to encrich and protect and advance your nation is not to join the military. There are plenty of other ways. That being said, I realize the military is of course necessary for our defense, I just advocate intelligent foreign policy, not Bush/Cheney/Kerry/Edwards policy.

  2. #2 by Anonymous on 04/01/2006 - 2:39 pm


    This is a classic. You darn well better keep this one at the top of your website and run it again periodically.

  3. #3 by Mark on 04/01/2006 - 10:57 pm

    “He spent large sums from his own pocket when it was a key to victory and nobody wanted to pay him back.”

    Bob, the accounts I’ve read of Mr. Arnold seem to indicate that he had the bad habit of grossly over-estimating his expenses when he prepared them for the Cont. Congress, and that he was a tad too fond of himself — and his exploites — to the point of forever irritating those around him. And he was offered what would be roughly $1 million in today’s money for the capture of Westpoint by the British. Oh, and his high society wife, who spent him out of house and home, was a British loyalist as well.

  4. #4 by Peter on 04/02/2006 - 6:51 pm

    Well, Bob, this may be a classic for the bit about loyalty continuing beyond heroism. But if you want this to remain a classic, you better address what Mark says. He is saying what others say, too. As usual he strikes to the pith.

  5. #5 by deutsch14 on 04/04/2006 - 11:14 am

    Bob you hit that one right on the head.

    I never thought of that before, but yes, the Revolutionary Fighters were the Greatest Generation!

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