WI: Benedict Arnold Doesn't Betray The Americans?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by theReturner, Jul 30, 2010.

  1. theReturner Well-Known Member

    Oct 17, 2009
    I'm sorry if this has come up before, but I used the search and found nothing, so I thought I'd start a thread.

    Simply put, What if Benedict Arnold decided not to betray the Americans for the British during the American Revolution. What impact would this have in both the long term and the short term of the revolution? What about after the revolution?

    Whar kind of life do you see Arnold living? Could me make a career for himself in American politics?

    President Arnold anyone? :p
  2. Geon Well-Known Member

    Jul 22, 2010
    Benedict Arnold--National Hero?!

    Benedict Arnold is remembered as a traitor because he tried to turn over West Point to the British.

    It's not widely know however that he was a war-hero whom had been wounded in battle earlier in the war (I think at the Battle of Saratoga--correct me if I'm wrong). Arnold had been at the forefront of many battles, but always seemed to be criticized or put-down by his superiors, except for his friend, General Washington.

    Time after time Benedict Arnold was denied a significant promotion or posting because of the jealousy and malice of other officers and this treatment eventually drove him to commit treason.

    If Arnold had been treated more fairly I could easily see him at the end of the American Revolution becoming a major war hero. It is even possible that Washington might have asked him to become a Secretary of War when he became president.

    As far as President Arnold though, I don't see it. What little I know of Benedict Arnold indicates someone who was apolitical, again I could be wrong.

  3. The Kiat I'm going to Nixonland!

    Aug 16, 2009
    The Left side of the State.
    Because of his betrayal, hardly anybody knows about the Battle of Valcour Bay, where Arnold saved the Revolution in 1776. Too many series about the Revolution (except for one that I have on DVD) omit that battle.
  4. Anaxagoras Vox clamantis in deserto

    Sep 25, 2005
    Between a rock and a weird place
    Well, there would be another commander of the British raid into Virginia in 1780, but Virginia's defensive preparations were so pathetic that it would probably still have succeeded anyway.

    His role in a post-war America is difficult to speculate upon. Too many butterflies. He was a very ambitious man, but in terms of social acceptance rather than political power. He certainly was no Alexander Hamilton.
  5. Ariosto --- Kicked

    Apr 21, 2010
    Wakefield, Massachusetts
    Well, if George Washington actually right out refuses to accept the Presidency, that could create an opening for Benedict Arnold, who I think would campaign. Makes me think of him as the Andrew Jackson thirty years prior.
  6. ChaosNDiscord Good for your health

    Jul 22, 2010
    L.A., USA
    It's tough to say for certain, but given how many enemies Arnold had made in the service (I'm assuming in this situation he still stepped on toes and so forth but was never brought up on any charges), I think he would have ended up back in civilian life. He had been a successful pharmacist and merchant before the revolution and I think with his name intact he likely would have become one again after.

    Of course without the accusations and trail there are so many changes that who knows for sure. Does he still become military governor of Philadelphia, live extravagantly while there and marry Peggy Shippen? Does he then take over West Point or receive a different command?

    I think really with the number of options for how it could turn out, one would have to go almost step by step though his revoltionary war service and decide what happens in each situation. Like maybe Hazen does accuse him of stealing supplies, but the court dismisses the charges and instead supports Arnold, really you could probably end up anywhere.
  7. usertron2020 Tolstoyan Donor Monthly Donor

    Dec 20, 2009
    West Haven, Connecticut, USA
    Since Arnold died in 1804, I wonder just how much damage an overly ambitious man could do in such a circumstance. That is, with Washington followed by Adams and Jefferson.
  8. Grimm Reaper Desperate But Not Serious

    Certainly his war record guarantees him a glorious place in the history books and, in a more military direction, leaving his credit for Saratoga might well mean Gates doesn't lead an army to one final disaster in the South.

    Surely a governorship, senate seat or cabinet position would be available to him.
  9. Sergio Van Lukenstein Well-Known Member

  10. Sigma7 Foe of The Fates

    Jul 19, 2009
    Denver, CO
    If Horatio Gates had caught a bullet at some point during the Saratoga Campaign and Arnold was correctly credited for the most important victory of the war to that point, Arnold, not Gates (for the obvious reasons) gets sent south (after recouperating from his injury- he caught a musket ball in his ankle, shattering it.) and, with Daniel Morgan as his second in command.

    Arnold was probably the best field commander the Continental Army had, and Morgan (as he would show at Cowpens OTL) was probably a close second.

    Expect a far different southern theater with Arnold in command, as Arnold probably wouldn't have let Lincoln get trapped in Charleston.

    Perhaps Lincoln would have had to concede the city regardless, but I doubt Arnold would have left him (and his 5,000 troops) to be trapped and captured when the city fell as Gates's inaction did.

    Take Monck's Corner, for example. Morgan would defeat Tarelton OTL at Cowpens. He may very well defeat Tarelton here, allowing an avenue of escape for Lincoln and his men. Same could be said at Lenud's Ferry. If Tarelton's defeated at either or both of these engagements, (and Morgan's cunning at Cowpens says he could very well have done so) Lincoln and most of his men could probably escape to fight another day.

    What then, would a southern theater with Arnold in command and a sizable force with which to fight Cornwalis look like?

    Depends on what Arnold would have done. Ultimately, Nathanael Greene's default strategy of rapid withdrawal, forcing an equally rapid advance by Cornwalis, which, in turn, caused Carnwalis to outstrip his overland supply lines, forcing him to remain by the coast to resupply by sea, which ultimately put Cornwalis on a tiny peninsula between the James and York Rivers...

    Perhaps Arnold takes the same approach despite having a larger force at his disposal, and, rather than inflicting a Pyrrhic victory on Cornwalis at Guilford Courthouse, Arnold (with the ever present Morgan at his side) decisively defeats Cornwalis there.

    Thing about Arnold though, was that he was only a defensive general when he had to be (read: when he was significantly under-manned), and with such a large force directly under his command in the south he'd probably be more inclined to his instincts, that of an offensive general.

    It's not out of the question that he may have taken some very important insight about fighting a defensive campaign away from Saratoga. Thus, at Guilford Courthouse as a "Saratoga of The South" isn't entirely out of the question.

    One thing's for sure, it'd make an oft forgotten theater of the American Revolution unforgettable.
  11. titulus regius Old enough to know better

    Jul 14, 2010
    One man's traitor is another man's loyalist and history is oft written by the victors.

    Maybe Arnold wouldn't be suitable for politics. How about a chef?
  12. usertron2020 Tolstoyan Donor Monthly Donor

    Dec 20, 2009
    West Haven, Connecticut, USA
    Your insight about Cowpens and Guilford Courthouse are very brilliant. Charleston was impossible at that time to hold from an enemy with control of the sea. Ditto Savannah. And New York. But I could see your scenario ending (for all intents and purposes) the ACW a year earlier.* As you know, the Opposition in London was preposterously talented compared to the idiots in the North Government (excepting the Earl of Sandwich, of course). A devastating victory at Guilford Courthouse before the French even make their weight felt** could lead to a rapid collapse for North no matter HOW many rotten boroughs he can call upon.

    *-I'm assuming because of Arnold's strategy and Lincoln's men being present the battle may occur sooner?

    **-ITTL: "If the miserable colonial rabble can do this, what will the FRENCH do to us?:eek:"
  13. Mikestone8 Well-Known Member

    Mar 13, 2010
    Peterborough, UK.
    Incidentally, Kenneth Roberts wrote two excellent novels, Arundel and Rabble In Arms, about Arnold's "American" period. They are available on Amazon.

    One thought. Suppose the Americans had recaptured Savannah in Dec 1779 (iirc they came close), and as a result Britain had given up the war in 1780 - ie before Arnold's defection to her side. In that case, Arnold finishes the war as an American in good standing.

    As for his subsequent career, the line that keeps running through my mind is "New England's answer to Aaron Burr", but that's just a wild thought.
  14. Noravea Well-Known Member

    Aug 23, 2009
    Long Island, New York
    He probably would be remembered as a war hero, maybe Washington's VP, ot would become President after Washington.
  15. hzn5pk Well-Known Member

    May 28, 2008
    What if Arnolddoes not defect but remains with the USA and dies courageously in a future battle leading troops? This might have been his fate if he remained loyal.

    I started a thread earlier in Feb/Mar of 2010 where I had Washigton seek out Arnold while he was recovering in Phil.for an assignment in 1779.

    The assignment was to be part of the offensive in Western NY to capture Ft.Niagara then across Ontario to capture Ft Detroit.

    I had Arnold die in a batte later while storming Ft Michimilliac (wong spelling) with a few good men at the tip of Michigan.

    Since he was a daring and courageous leader, he might of died in battle and be remembered as a great American hero and Patriot. To be a Bendict Arnold would then mean to make the ultimate sacrifice towards yur country.
  16. Sigma7 Foe of The Fates

    Jul 19, 2009
    Denver, CO
    Re: Charleston and Savannah...the hope is, rather than follow the offensive impulse and launch futile assaults to try and re-take them (your assessment is correct, the positions are completely untenable) Arnold keeps the avenue of retreat open and allows Lincoln to escape with most if not all of his men, then go into a defensive campaign through the Carolinas, ultimately drawing Cornwallis to...

    Guilford Courthouse and probably sooner than OTL, perhaps in late summer or early fall of 1780. The trick, for Arnold, would be luring Cornwallis into such an engagement where Arnold will be perhaps as many as twenty five regiments stronger.

    The field would seem to present a beautiful opportunity for a double envelopment, and if Arnold's got the troops and cannon to do it and can conceal enough of them long enough to draw Cornwallis's force into that nice little clearing where Greene positioned his second line OTL...

    If Cornwallis is not only beaten but forced to capitulate at Guilford Court House, the war ends there and a year early, without question.

    I like to think Arnold gets a big bonus from Congress and a lifetime appointment as Army Chief of Staff for such work and Washington still ends up President even if such a scenario were to occur.

    Washington was special in a way that I haven't seen in a man of power anywhere else in history and without him at the helm through those first shaky years after the Constitution, I don't know what would have become of this country, but I fear it wouldn't be very good.
  17. GreatScottMarty Stuck with Laurens-Burr

    Oct 18, 2009
    Ohio Country
    Aaron Burr was from New England and moved in with New York cousins at a young age after his parents' deaths. So not exactly accurate.

    As to the OP, I think the sky is the limit, Arnold's death was related to his destitute state after the war. Arnold was never accepted by his English paymasters and had no grip in "Society" and was on a constant downward slide social standing-wise until the end of his life. This was quite common among other loyalists as well.

    As for a Post ARW career, I think that it depends upon his politics but I would say the presidency is definitly in reach. There is no reason he couldn't be the northern counterweight to GW Virginianess. The first POTUS has to GW for this to work but the rest of the list is IMHO open to debate. I see no reason Arnold can't be #2 if he wants it. He has the backing of Washington, he's New Englander, the question what is his factional Alignment? (High Federalist, Jeffersonian, or Adams Federalist, or independent) That is a question I don't know an answer too.
  18. CalBear Your Ursus arctos californicus Moderator Moderator Donor

    Oct 4, 2005
    If Arnold had remained loyal to the Patriot cause, especially if he's had the good grace to die in battle, perhaps at Yorktown, if not at Saratoga, there would be cities and counties across America named for him, maybe even a state.

    Before he turned he was, next to Washington, the greatest hero in the colonies (which was why his enemies, in their legions, screwed him in the promotion incident).

    Arnold problem was that his ego was as large as his heroism, if not larger. That flaw pushed him into everlasting shame.