Benedict Arnold: Black Sheep -= or =- Loyalist?

Long time followers remember when I first wrote about General Benedict ARNOLD.  I described him as my Black Sheep ancestor and mentioned the re-location of his family to New Brunswick, after his disserting the American Continental Army (under command of General George Washington) to side with the Royal Army belonging to King George III.

Arnold’s military career and actions during the American Revolution are documented, misquoted, and in some cases questionable on both sides of the 49th Parallel – but as to what actions are questionable depends upon which side of the border you reside.

Let’s consider three things:

[1] Is he a traitor?

[2] Is he a “black sheep”?

[3] Is he a Loyalist?

This first question can be answered with reasoning that can be applied for a liberated answer that my Americans friends and fellow Canadians cannot dispute.

General Arnold was a member of the Continental Army when the war began.  While a commissioned general officer, he sent privileged information to the general of the Royal (British) Army.  This act, by simple definition from any military body, is “treason.”

[It matters not that it was a benevolent man who wanted the war to end quickly because his troops were ill-equipped, poorly trained and poorly fed.].

So, is General Benedict Arnold a traitor?

Yes, he is, unfortunately.  He was a member of the American military and failed as an Officer to uphold the duties that were entrusted to him.

The next question as to whether he was a black sheep can be very easily answered from the many definitions listed on the website of the International Black Sheep Society of Genealogists (IBSSG)

“Automatic qualification are: Murder, Kidnapping, Armed Robbery, Treason, Theft of any item of fame, Membership in a famous gang (well documented), Political Assassin, Member of the FBI’s Most Wanted List, Political Expatriate, Extreme Public Embarrassment, Involvement in Witchcraft Trials, Bigamy (outside the Mormon faith, which condoned it at one time), Persons expelled from normal society, and Convicted felons (documented)”

So, is General Benedict Arnold a black sheep?  Yes, 

But it is this last question that troubles, and bothers me the most: Is Arnold a Loyalist?

To aid in defining a Loyalist, “one had to have been:

[1] Either male or female, as of 19 April 1775, a resident of the American colonies, and joined the Royal Standard prior to the Treaty of Separation of 1783, or otherwise demonstrated loyalty to the Crown, and settled in territory remaining under the rule of the Crown; or

[2] a soldier who served in an American Loyalist Regiment and was disbanded in Canada; or

[3] a member of the Six Nations of either the Grand River or the Bay of Quinte Reserve who is descended from one whose migration was similar to that of other Loyalists.”

Definitions above were taken from the United Empire Loyalist Association of Canada website 

In this written argument, Point Three is not applicable; and under Point One, Arnold and his family settled in New Brunswick, as per Canadian Census records.

Furthermore, under both Points One and Two, Arnold joined the British Army in September 1870 as a Brigadier General, preserving the Crown of King George III against the uprising of Colonial Americans with whom he had formerly served with!

And it was during his military service, fifteen families met the General – six of them while he was still an Officer of the American Continental Army.1 Strangely enough, their meeting Arnold assisted these families in their losses and service claims at the hearings of the Royal Commission.  The General even made an appearance in 1784 to give witness testimony!  These families were given compensation and designated as Loyalists.

I strongly believe Brigadier General Benedict ARNOLD is a United Empire Loyalist, although the UELAC state that he is not.  Their record (dated 08 January 1799) has him listed as “expunged2” – which sounds like a ceremonial discarding an old dishrag – and makes no sense really if you consider everything else that he has done.  The most upsetting thing about this record: no other detail is listed except “struck off by Order in Council.”

But, if you want to think about it, this is interesting:  Fifteen (15) Loyalist families and their hundreds of descendants owe their status to this black sheep … this pariah.  A man not welcome anywhere in the American Colonies, or in the Crown lands of Canada, where his family lived and he fought … only to be rewarded, remembered and disgraced by what would seem to be an ungrateful people.

After these many years, I hope one day that will change.


1      Davidson, Stephen, “15 Loyalists and Benedict Arnold,”  LOYALIST TRAILS, Part One (2012-06), Part Two (2012-07), and Part Three (2012-08)

2      UEL website


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