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 (???? - 1799 AD) Pre-19th Century Battles
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john hayward
Keene NH USA
Posts: 919
Joined: 2004
Benedict Arnold
1/2/2022 7:43:26 PM
In the summer of 1781 British Gen. Benedict Arnold was leading a force that was rampaging through the Virginia countryside. Washington sent the Marquis de Lafayette to Va with orders to suppress Arnold and to capture him. Washington also ordered Lafayette if he captured Arnold to hang him as a traitor.

Could Lafayette really hang Arnold? Arnold was a general in the British Army and wouldn't hanging him open a huge can of worms?
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"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 12249
Joined: 2009
Benedict Arnold
1/2/2022 9:21:29 PM
That's a tough one John. I would say that Lafayette had no authority to hang an enemy officer captured in battle.

On the other hand, Lafayette was supposed to obey the orders of his commander. Certainly Washington's order put Lafayette in a difficult position.

Lafayette's father had been killed in 1759 fighting against the British. He detested the British but still I cannot imagine that a French army officer would order a summary execution of a British army officer. Would that have set a precedent to follow in subsequent conflicts between Britain and France?

However, Lafayette was very young, 19 or 20 and quite enthralled with Washington so I wonder how he would have reacted to this order. Did it give him any pause or concern?

Isn't it true that Washington had ordered a secret mission to recapture Arnold and to bring the man to him. But those orders specifically forbade physically harming the man. Arnold had escaped to NYC.

The instructions to the man (Champe) charged with kidnapping Arnold included the following statement:

Quote:
“If you find that you cannot seize [Arnold] unhurt, do not seize him at all,” he told his fellow Virginian. “To kill him would give the enemy an excuse for alleging all sorts of falsehoods against us.”
. source: HistoryNet

The kidnapping attempt failed mostly because Arnold had moved from where he was known to be.

And yet Washington's instructions to Lafayette to execute Arnold indicate little concern for how this action would be perceived. Why the change of heart?

Cheers,

George
17thfabn
Ohio OH USA
Posts: 161
Joined: 2008
Benedict Arnold
1/2/2022 9:29:28 PM
In that era hanging Arnold would be understood by any nation to be justified. He was not only a traitor serving with the enemy but a spy.
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Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy.
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 12249
Joined: 2009
Benedict Arnold
1/3/2022 10:08:32 AM
Was there an internationally agreed upon code of military conduct that addressed something like the Arnold affair or would his execution have been approved by current practices?

Let us suppose that the British had put down the rebellion in short order. Would they have been justified in executing Benedict Arnold and others like Horatio Gates or even George Washington, for treason?

Cheers,

George
scoucer
Berlin  Germany
Posts: 3005
Joined: 2010
Benedict Arnold
1/3/2022 6:13:52 PM
Quote:

Lafayette's father had been killed in 1759 fighting against the British. He detested the British but still I cannot imagine that a French army officer would order a summary execution of a British army officer. Would that have set a precedent to follow in subsequent conflicts between Britain and France? George


Lafayette was a revolutionary volunteer and was not there in the capacity of a French army officier.

Trevor
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`Hey don´t the wars come easy and don´t the peace come hard`- Buffy Sainte-Marie Some swim with the stream. Some swim against the stream. Me - I´m stuck somewhere in the woods and can´t even find the stupid stream.
john hayward
Keene NH USA
Posts: 919
Joined: 2004
Benedict Arnold
1/3/2022 7:03:52 PM
Was Arnold a spy? Andre was as he was captured in civilian clothes. Arnold was not a traitor to the British authorities, just returning to the fold. Of course he seen as untrustworthy to many and he may have seen the light for the wrong reason (money?).
I feel that Washington was hoping to trade Andre for Arnold but Clinton refused to deal.
In his orders Washington wrote to Lafayette...If Arnold is captured "you will execute him in the most summary way"
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"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 12249
Joined: 2009
Benedict Arnold
1/3/2022 8:15:56 PM
Quote:
Quote:

Lafayette's father had been killed in 1759 fighting against the British. He detested the British but still I cannot imagine that a French army officer would order a summary execution of a British army officer. Would that have set a precedent to follow in subsequent conflicts between Britain and France? George


Lafayette was a revolutionary volunteer and was not there in the capacity of a French army officier.

Trevor


Good point. I recall that when he returned to Paris to solicit more support for the rebellion that he wore an officer's uniform of the Continental army. But he had been a French officer and had demanded to be included in the French plans to send equipment and officers to France to assist the rebels.

I cannot recall the whole of the story but I believe that Lafayette had been ordered to join a regiment in France but somehow bought a ship and came to North America with other officers. If so, does that mean that he was no longer a French officer on loan to the rebels?

But would the British have recognized a man in a Continental Army uniform as that of a military combatant? Again, had the British won, would they have any reason to respect Lafayette's position as a military officer in this revolutionary force?

George

George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 12249
Joined: 2009
Benedict Arnold
1/3/2022 8:35:15 PM
Quote:
Was Arnold a spy? Andre was as he was captured in civilian clothes. Arnold was not a traitor to the British authorities, just returning to the fold. Of course he seen as untrustworthy to many and he may have seen the light for the wrong reason (money?).
I feel that Washington was hoping to trade Andre for Arnold but Clinton refused to deal.
In his orders Washington wrote to Lafayette...If Arnold is captured "you will execute him in the most summary way"


I hadn't thought of Arnold as a spy either. He was born in Connecticut and was a member of the colonial militia in Connecticut. He fought against the French during the Seven Years War. Would that not make him a British soldier then? If so, he betrayed the British when he joined the revolutionary army.

In an earlier post I described an attempt by Washington to capture Arnold after he had escaped to New York. The attempt failed but Washington's instructions to an officer named Champe were that he must not hurt Arnold and that Washington wanted to make an example of him. He expressed concern that should any harm come to Arnold that the British would use that information to paint the rebels in an unfavourable light.

This contrasts clearly with the instruction given much later to Lafayette. What had ensued from the time of the attempted kidnapping until the order to Lafayette that hardened Washington's position with respect to Arnold?

Cheers,

George
john hayward
Keene NH USA
Posts: 919
Joined: 2004
Benedict Arnold
1/4/2022 6:11:09 AM
George

It is possible that Washington's feelings towards Arnold did not change. In his orders to Champe not to injured Arnold but bring him in may have been Washington's desire to bring Arnold to military justice, not assassinate him. In his orders to Lafayette Washington was giving an order that if captured in combat then Arnold should be executed by the military.

On the question of Lafayette serving as a French officer in the rebel army and what would the British do if they captured him...since the French had officially declared war on GB, it could be assumed that he would be treated as a French officer. There were rules, you know, and they were gentlemen.
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"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 12249
Joined: 2009
Benedict Arnold
1/4/2022 9:27:46 AM
Thanks John. When Arnold rejoined the British and was involved in action against the rebels, was he particularly despised for his behaviour as a soldier or because he had betrayed the cause? Was he particularly violent or cruel as a British officer? I am trying to determine whether their were reasons other than betrayal for Washington to wish to execute him.

I was always dismayed that the British were so generous to the man. He was not well liked at all by British officers. He was not well liked by other Loyalists who had fled to Canada.

For his defection he was given £6,315 and an annual pension of £360 and he was made a brigadier-general in the British forces.

At the end of the war he became a businessman in Saint John, New Brunswick after a short stint in England. And he was the most litigious of individuals while there. He would sue at the drop of a hat and his six year stay in NB was most unpleasant for the inhabitants. Saint John is a Loyalist town but they did not like Benedict. They did find his lovely wife to be delightful however.

He was a successful trader, mostly with the West Indies. He owned a lot of property in Saint John and was having a ship built for him in the harbour. But he nearly bankrupted the shipbuilder by making changes and additions to the ship and then he refused to pay for the material and labour to effect the changes.

Arnold used the courts to assure payments from debtors. Between July 25, 1789 and May, 1791, he filed 19 law suits. He even went after a member of the Provincial Legislature.

One of his buildings burned to the ground and an accusation was made by a former partner of Arnold, suggesting that Arnold torched the place for the 5000 pound insurance policy on the place. Arnold sued for libel. The defendant was not permitted to ask questions of witnesses that would, "besmirch the character" of Arnold. The trial was considered a bit of a sham by the people. Arnold won but the courts only awarded him a pittance in damages. Arnold had demanded thousands in damages. The court gave him 20 shillings. The insurance company also had to pay up though.

A crowd assembled in front of Arnold's home and burnt him in effigy. The Riot Act was read and soldiers from the nearby fort arrived to clear the crowd. By most accounts it seems that the British soldiers were less than enthusiastic about this assignment.

Arnold auctioned off his home a possessions and returned to England.

The man seemed to have the ability to rebound. He continued to trade in the West Indies and he reported on the affairs of enemies of Great Britain in that part of the world. In 1798 the executive council of Upper Canada (Ontario) granted 13,000 acres of land in Upper Canada for, "gallant and meritorious service at Guadaloupe." 5,000 acres were for him and 1200 went to his wife and each of his six children. Arnold had petitioned for the land and had originally asked for 50,000 acres. The Upper Canada council told him that that was too much and besides they expected that the land would be developed by the owners.

I raised my family in a town called Holland Landing in Ontario which was very close to the Arnold tract. Arnold never came to Upper Canada but he did give some of the land to an illegitimate son treating him fairly as he did his own kids. By the 1790's his sons Richard and Henry had moved to Upper Canada. I forget which was the illegitimate son.

It is interesting that the Home Department asked the former Lt. Gov. of Upper Canada for advice on how to manage Arnold's request for land in Upper Canada. Lt. Gov Simcoe warned the Home secretary that Arnold was “a character extremely obnoxious to the original Loyalists of America.”

By the 1880's it seems that all of the Arnold clan had sold their interests in the Ontario properties.

I seem to have rattled on here at length but my point is that Arnold was a man who demanded respect and reward for his efforts. He thought a lot of himself and I understand that his betrayal of the revolutionary cause may have been because he was not receiving sufficient praise or rewards.

When Arnold petitioned for land in Upper Canada he had written to the Home secretary to say that, “there is no other Man in England, who has made so great Sacrifices as I have done of Property, Rank, Prospects &c., in support of Government, and no Man who has received less in Return!

Certainly he was a self promoter no matter where he plied his military or business trade and it seems that he was loathed on both sides of the new international border in North America.

Cheers,

George
john hayward
Keene NH USA
Posts: 919
Joined: 2004
Benedict Arnold
1/4/2022 10:06:15 AM
George

Arnold led British forces into Virginia in December of 1780. There he captured Richmond and proceeded to go on a rampage through Virginia, destroying supply houses, foundries, and mills. The Virginia militia was unable to stop him. In the spring of 1781 Washington sent Lafayette with a small number of Continentals to add to the militia to stop Arnold. British Gen Phillips arrived with reinforcements in late April. Phillips died of fever on May 12 and Cornwallis arrived his army on May 20 to assume command. One British officer wrote of Arnold during this time "There are many officers who must wish some other general in command." Arnold returned to NYC in early June 1781.

On September 4, 1781, Arnold led a force of more than 1,700 men which burned most of New London, Connecticut to the ground, causing damage estimated at $500,000. He also attacked and captured Fort Griswold across the river in Groton, Connecticut, slaughtering the Americans after they surrendered. All this was done just a few miles down the Thames River from Norwich, where Arnold grew up. However, British casualties were high; nearly one quarter of the force was killed or wounded, and Clinton declared that he could ill afford any more such victories.

On December 8 1781, Arnold and his family left New York for England.
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"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
MPReed
Monroe MI USA
Posts: 48
Joined: 2005
Benedict Arnold
1/4/2022 11:11:10 AM
Quote:
In the summer of 1781 British Gen. Benedict Arnold was leading a force that was rampaging through the Virginia countryside. Washington sent the Marquis de Lafayette to Va with orders to suppress Arnold and to capture him. Washington also ordered Lafayette if he captured Arnold to hang him as a traitor.

Could Lafayette really hang Arnold? Arnold was a general in the British Army and wouldn't hanging him open a huge can of worms?


There was a misinterpretation of Washington's orders to La Fayette.

Extract of the "Instructions to the Marquis de La Fayette--HQ New Windsor February 20th, 1781"

[Quote]When you arrive at your destination, you must act as your
own judgment and the circumstances shall direct.
You will open a correspondence with the Baron De Steuben
who now commands in Virginia informing him of your ap-
proach and requesting him to have a sufficient body of Militia
ready to act in conjunction with your detachment. It will be
adviseable for him to procure persons in whom he can confide
well acquainted with the Country at Portsmouth and in the
Vicinity, some who are capable of giving you a Military idea
of it and others to serve as guides.
You should give the earliest attention to acquiring a knowl-
edge of the different rivers but particularly James' River, that
you may know what harbours can best afford shelter and se-
curity to the cooperating Squadron, in case of blockade by a
superior force.
You are to do no act whatever with Arnold that directly or
by implication may skreen him from the punishment due to
his treason and desertion, which if he should fall into your
hands, you will execute in the most summary way."


MPReed
Monroe MI USA
Posts: 48
Joined: 2005
Benedict Arnold
1/4/2022 11:24:57 AM
Quote:

Good point. I recall that when he returned to Paris to solicit more support for the rebellion that he wore an officer's uniform of the Continental army. But he had been a French officer and had demanded to be included in the French plans to send equipment and officers to France to assist the rebels.


I believe he held (the historical) D'Artagnan's job; i.e. the Captain of the King's Musketeers.

Quote:
I cannot recall the whole of the story but I believe that Lafayette had been ordered to join a regiment in France but somehow bought a ship and came to North America with other officers. If so, does that mean that he was no longer a French officer on loan to the rebels?


He took a leave of absence.

Quote:

But would the British have recognized a man in a Continental Army uniform as that of a military combatant? Again, had the British won, would they have any reason to respect Lafayette's position as a military officer in this revolutionary force?


Of course, like the other foreign adventurers...er...volunteers, he held a Continental commission, which the British did honor (just as we honored British Provincial (i.e. Loyalist) commissions. Exchanges were routine at this point (except for the Convention Army, but they were exchanged in 1782 as well).

FWIW here is an extract of Washington's orders.

When you arrive at your destination, you must act as your
own judgment and the circumstances shall direct.
You will open a correspondence with the Baron De Steuben
who now commands in Virginia informing him of your ap-
proach and requesting him to have a sufficient body of Militia
ready to act in conjunction with your detachment. It will be
adviseable for him to procure persons in whom he can confide
well acquainted with the Country at Portsmouth and in the
Vicinity, some who are capable of giving you a Military idea
of it and others to serve as guides.

You should give the earliest attention to acquiring a knowl-
edge of the different rivers but particularly James' River, that
you may know what harbours can best afford shelter and se-
curity to the cooperating Squadron, in case of blockade by a
superior force.

You are to do no act whatever with Arnold that directly or
by implication may skreen him from the punishment due to
his treason and desertion, which if he should fall into your
hands, you will execute in the most summary way.


Summary executions of service members caught in the service and uniform of the enemy in wartime is still (AFAIK) allowed. It certainly was then, and no, the British would have not been upset, and they only did not execute Charles Lee, because Lee had resigned his commission prior to joining the American cause.

George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 12249
Joined: 2009
Benedict Arnold
1/4/2022 11:49:19 AM
Thank you MP Reed and John for the interesting back stories concerning Benedict Arnold.

I had to read these orders a couple of times:

Quote:
You are to do no act whatever with Arnold that directly or
by implication may skreen him from the punishment due to
his treason and desertion, which if he should fall into your
hands, you will execute in the most summary way.


May I presume that these are La Fayette's orders from Washington and not to Champe?

I was not sure how the officers of the Continental Army would be treated by the British. Of course, it would not have been wise to string up the leaders of an army before the battle was won. That would invite retaliation.

I have visited Saint John, NB and he is certainly not celebrated there. There is a plaque on the side of a building which was built on the site of Arnold's home when he lived there. The Historical Society provided the plaque and it is very short and provides little context.






His legacy is not celebrated nor even noted. There are several web sites that describe his life and behaviour while a resident.

George
john hayward
Keene NH USA
Posts: 919
Joined: 2004
Benedict Arnold
1/4/2022 11:55:09 AM
MP

Reading that last paragraph, it may be taken that Lafayette should "execute" Arnold's punishment that would be due him by Arnold's treason and desertion. Lafayette should not do anything that should interfere in any way to keep this from happening.

Were any French "volunteer" officers captured by the British?
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"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
john hayward
Keene NH USA
Posts: 919
Joined: 2004
Benedict Arnold
1/4/2022 11:55:21 AM
MP

Reading that last paragraph, it may be taken that Lafayette should "execute" Arnold's punishment that would be due him by Arnold's treason and desertion. Lafayette should not do anything that should interfere in any way to keep this from happening.

Were any French "volunteer" officers captured by the British?
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"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
scoucer
Berlin  Germany
Posts: 3005
Joined: 2010
Benedict Arnold
1/4/2022 3:27:54 PM
Quote:


Quote:
I cannot recall the whole of the story but I believe that Lafayette had been ordered to join a regiment in France but somehow bought a ship and came to North America with other officers. If so, does that mean that he was no longer a French officer on loan to the rebels?


He took a leave of absence.




No. He was AWOL. When he returned to France he was arrested. He was held for 8 days until they decided what to do with him in the changing diplomatic circumstances.

Trevor
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`Hey don´t the wars come easy and don´t the peace come hard`- Buffy Sainte-Marie Some swim with the stream. Some swim against the stream. Me - I´m stuck somewhere in the woods and can´t even find the stupid stream.
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 12249
Joined: 2009
Benedict Arnold
1/4/2022 8:10:38 PM
Yes Trevor but Lafayette was an aristocrat with enough money to allow him to purchase a ship to sail him away.

Lafayette was set to leave France despite being told by a Duke that his duties were in France. He was waiting in Le Havre with many other soldiers of fortune who had been selected by an American businessman and operative for the rebels. Three ships were ready to sail.

But the British had spies in France and the recruits were openly talking about their upcoming adventures in America and the British filed a formal protest. This was the period prior to France's full commitment to the rebel cause. France was not confident yet that the rebels could win.

And so France told the men that they could not go and that the ships could not sail.

Lafayette went to London and hobnobbed with the elites and even met with King George. Then he went home and lay low.

King Louis XVI forbade any officers and especially Lafayette from heading to North America. The King did not want trouble with Great Britain.

And still Lafayette went and on a ship that he had purchased. His wife and the rest of his family were upset with him. Having second thoughts he actually returned to France while his ship waited in Spain. He was in Bourdeaux and the military commander there ordered him to return to Versailles to face the music.

He pretended to go but eluded his escorts and skipped back to Spain and boarded the ship once again and this time, they all sailed for North America.

You have to wonder how he escaped punishment.

Cheers,

George


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