Unusual Tourist Sites: Monument to a Left Left Saratoga Battlefield New York

About the unusual tourist site the Monument to a Left Leg at Saratoga Battlefield in New York, site of a historic battle in the Revolutionary War led by Benedict Arnold.

Saratoga Battlefield, New York

Monument to a Left Leg ... Go visit the Revolutionary War battlefield at Saratoga and ask a guide or caretaker to give you directions to the most bizarre monument built to a hero in the U.S. In a secluded spot of the park you will find the marble memorial. Sculptured in bas-relief upon the slab are a cannon, an epaulet, a wreath--and a military boot for a man's left leg. Just that. No name. On the rear of the marble slab is inscribed the following:

Erected by

John Watts de Peyster

Brev: Maj: Gen: S.N.Y.

2nd V. Pres't Saratoga Mon't Ass't'n:

In memory of

the "most brilliant soldier" of the

Continental Army

who was desperately wounded

on this spot, the sally port of


7th October 1777

winning for his countrymen

the Decisive Battle of the

American Revolution

and for himself the rank of

Major General

Again, no name. Only the "most brilliant soldier" of General Washington's army.

The nameless hero who inspired the erection of this odd monument was--Benedict Arnold, one of the most infamous traitors in American history.

Yet, before attempting to deliver West Point into British hands during the American Revolution, Benedict Arnold had been a military hero. In December, 1775, the then Col. Benedict Arnold led the unsuccessful charge against Quebec, and was wounded in the left leg. At Bemis Heights, on the Saratoga battlefield, Arnold led a victorious charge against the British Redcoats, until a musket ball knocked his horse out from under him and another musket ball fractured his left thigh.

In 1779, because of his misuse of army property, Benedict Arnold was court-martialed, but he escaped with a mere reprimand from General Washington. Embittered, Arnold decided to betray his country. He requested and received command of West Point, the fort that guarded the Hudson valley. Then he made an arrangement with a former boyfriend of his wife's, British Maj. John Andre, to sell out the fort. Arnold demanded pound 20,000 if the plot worked. He is believed to have actually been paid pound 6,350 and been given a gift of 13,400 acres of Canadian land. But the plot failed. In September, 1780, Andre was captured with incriminating papers in his possession. Benedict Arnold was seated at breakfast with General Washington when a courier arrived with the news of Andre's capture. Arnold excused himself to speak to the courier, and never returned to the breakfast table. He escaped, crossing over to the British lines, and later he became a brigadier general in the British Army.

In 1781, Arnold took up residence in England. He became a West Indian trader. In 1790, President Washington noted in his diary that "the Traitor Arnold" was back in America visiting Detroit. Arnold was married twice, had 8 children, including 2 sons named George, one named after Washington, it was said, and the other after King George III. Arnold died in London in 1801, aged 60.

It was while Benedict Arnold was living in exile in England that Maj. Gen. John Watts de Peyster ordered the marble monument erected on the Saratoga battlefield at the spot where Arnold had been wounded in the leg. Not daring to mention a traitor's name on the monument, De Peyster built the memorial to Arnold's leg--the left leg.

While visiting the Saratoga battlefield, you might also have a look at the official 150'-high monument placed there in 1877 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Saratoga victory. This memorial features 4 niches, 3 of which hold statues of heroes of the battle. Horatio Gates, Philip Schuyler, and Daniel Morgan are there-but the 4th niche stands empty. It was meant for Benedict Arnold. But still, there is always the leg.

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