If The Boot Fits …

18th-century engraving of Benedict Arnold

18th-century engraving of Benedict Arnold, Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation collection.

The only monument to an American war hero that does not contain the hero’s name was erected near the spot at Saratoga where Benedict Arnold led the Continental Army’s victory over the British on October 7, 1777.

Arnold had been wounded in the foot during the Battle of Quebec and suffered further injuries when his horse was shot out from under him at the Battle of Ridgefield.  Another leg injury at Saratoga effectively ended his career as a fighting soldier. 

A few years after Saratoga, Arnold was the brunt of what he perceived as a series of slights and insults by the Continental Congress.  He then opposed the treaties that brought the French into the Revolution and ultimately began a series of maneuvers that led to his changing sides.

Arnold attempted to hand over his American command, the key fortification of West Point, to the British, an attempt that failed because of the capture of Major John André.  Benedict Arnold escaped to the British lines.  He was given the rank of a British brigadier general and was paid £6,000.

The nameless monument at Saratoga is “In memory of the most brilliant soldier of the Continental Army who was desperately wounded on this spot the sally port of BURGOYNES GREAT WESTERN REDOUBT 7th October, 1777 winning for his countrymen the decisive battle of the American Revolution and the rank of Major General.”

There is an apocryphal story about this monument.  When Arnold was leading British forces against his former compatriots in Virginia, his prisoners included an officer who, in answer to Arnold’s question, “What will the Americans do with me if they catch me?”  The witty officer is said to have replied, “They will cut off the leg which was wounded when you were fighting so gloriously for the cause of liberty, and bury it with the honors of war, and hang the rest of your body on a gibbet.”

If the boot fits…!

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