God Save Benedict Arnold: Lecture on ‘America’s Most Hated Man’ at New Haven Museum
New Haven, Conn. (December 15, 2023) – “The strangest thing in the world has happened,” General Henry Knox told the chief gunner at West Point in 1780. “Arnold has gone to the enemy.” What was Benedict Arnold thinking? From military heroism to infamy, Arnold’s name has become synonymous with treasonous behavior. Author Jack Kelly will offer an exploration of the triumphs, flaws, and motivations of Arnold during a Zoom presentation for the New Haven Museum (NHM) on Thursday, January 25, 2024, at 6:30 p.m., Register here. The free event will also stream on FB Live.
This is the inaugural event of NH250, an ongoing series of programming developed by NHM to complement “America 250.” Culminating with the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, the series will highlight inclusive, local, and lesser-known stories, connecting past and present.
Basing the presentation on his new book, “God Save Benedict Arnold: The True Story of America’s Most Hated Man,” Kelly will offer a reevaluation of Arnold’s career, show his string of heroic achievements, and speculate on what may have prompted Arnold’s betrayal.
Arnold was a pharmacist and successful international trader in New Haven from the early 1760s to the mid-1770s. His house on Water Street was the largest residence in town. When the war came, he had virtually no military experience or training. Yet soon after news of Lexington arrived, he took the militia company he had recruited and marched toward the action. When authorities would not open the town magazine to arm his troops, he threatened to take the weapons by force. They handed over the keys. Powder House Day is still celebrated in New Haven annually in April.
Kelly observes that Arnold’s life was marked by a series of remarkable achievements and bitter disappointments. As a general in the Continental Army, he displayed exceptional leadership and fearlessness in several battles. From his audacious capture of Fort Ticonderoga to his pivotal role in the turning-point battle at the Saratoga, Arnold’s heroic contributions to the early years of the American Revolution cannot be denied. Kelly maintains that Arnold was a courageous leader and officer, yet a traitor to his country. By presenting the hero and the traitor side by side, Kelly will offer a fresh perspective on this pivotal figure in American history, compelling his audience to grapple with the complexities of human nature and the choices that shape destinies.