On September 25, 1780, Benedict Arnold was in a bad state. But truthfully, being on the wrong side of right was nothing new to the General.
Arnold had enjoyed a pretty lavish lifestyle among Philadelphians, a choice which saddled the General with a sizeable debt. He began looking for ways to supplement his income, and found them after the British left Philly in the spring of 1778 and General Washington put him in charge of the city. Arnold used his position to sell “protection” and to profit from the sales of supplies in the city.
This angered the local politicians (possibly as much from Arnold horning in on their little racket as it was an issue of questionable integrity), who brought charges against the General. Benedict Arnold demanded a court-martial to clear his name…and got one in 1779. And while he was exonerated of nearly every charge, he earned a stern rebuke from General Washington.
In the midst of this, he had married Peggy Shippen in April of 1779, a girl half his 38 years of age who had been largely spoiled rotten by her parents (who were also British Loyalists). Her rather expensive tastes did little to improve his financial situation.
Shippen also maintained communications with British merchant-spies, and it was those contacts that eventually began the process of Arnold’s defection. Washington’s stinging rebuke led to Arnold resigning his command, but in August of the following year, Arnold had been given command of the fort at West Point.
He began negotiating turning over the Fort to the British, finally agreeing to do so in exchange for money. Having already weakened the Fort by shuttling off supplies and soldiers, he met with Major John André on September 21st and gave him the plans.
But on the morning of the 25th, word of André’s capture reached Arnold as he prepared for breakfast, and he knew eventually the full plot would come to light. He packed his bags, left home, and boarded the HMS Vulture.
Benedict Arnold had officially defected to the British.