Court-Martial of American Soldier Benedict Arnold

About the court-martial of American soldier Benedict Arnold history and information of the act in the Revolutionary War.


In his early 30s, Arnold gave up his successful commercial pursuits to enter the military service of America's Revolutionary Army. He was a brilliant strategist and covered himself with battlefield glory at Ticonderoga, Quebec, and Saratoga. A national hero, Arnold was put in command of the Philadelphia area in 1778 by George Washington. Here Arnold's extravagant living and arrogant acts set in motion a series of events that led to his requesting a court-martial on December 23, 1779.

The Court-Martial. The trial took place in Norris's Tavern in Morristown, N.J. Major General Howe and his court officers were the judges. Gen. Joseph Reed and Timothy Mat-lack, president and secretary, respectively, of the Pennsylvania State Council, were the accusers.

Arnold was charged with issuing a military pass to Robert Shewell, a businessman of alleged Tory sympathies; of closing Philadelphia shops to the public, while buying from them for himself; of imposing menial chores on the sons of free men; and of using State wagons to transport private property.

In conducting his own eloquent defense, Arnold had the 1st 3 charges set aside. On the 4th charge, the court recommended that Arnold receive a reprimand from his commander-in-chief. Washington wrote to Arnold saying that he considered "the affair of the wagons to be imprudent and improper." This gentle wrist slap so wounded Arnold's pride, it sent him into a hell of black despair that culminated in an attempt to betray his country.

Significance. The court-martial of Benedict Arnold, inspired by rivalry and jealousy, pointed up the need for objective reform in the military court-martial system.

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