One of the things about growing up in upstate New York is that you get to know a lot of Revolutionary War history, in particular the earliest battles of the war. New York’s nickname, “the Empire State” is because at that time, it held “the keys to the empire.” This makes sense if you realize that in the 18’th century, moving troops and supplies was a laborious task. Roads were poor or non-existent, so progress overland was time-consuming and difficult. To move heavy materials, troops, and other supplies quickly? The quickest way was by water. Look at a map of New York, and you have Lake Champlain and the Hudson River running North-South. From Albany, you have the Mohawk River running East-West. On the northern end of the state, you have the Saint Lawrence river, leading into Lake Ontario. If you were the British, and wanted to split the colonies, those routes were the key to splitting and breaking the Revolution.
Living up here, you see the places, the names. Ticonderoga. Saratoga. Oriskany. Fort Stanwix. Valcour Island. There’s national parks, monuments, and historical markers to them. Famous battles, in many ways the birthplace of the Navy, all of them easily visited. If you study the histories, one name stands out. A man who was considered one of the most brilliant generals the Continental Army possessed. He created a fleet, and fought one of the first naval engagements of the war at Valcour Island. An argument can be made that he created the Navy. He helped capture Fort Ticonderoga. He moved from Saratoga to relieve the siege of Fort Stanwix, rallied the troops retreating from the loss at Oriskany, and stopped a British advance from the west. Back at Saratoga, he led the charge that took critical positions, was badly wounded, but effect, forced the British to retreat and eventually surrender.
There are number of villages, schools, and other places named after the commanders in those battles. Go to those places, and you’ll see statues and monuments to them. Except for one. No place is named for him, the only monument to him at all is a stone boot at Saratoga, with no name on it. There are no statues of him. Who was it? That brilliant general, Benedict Arnold. He decided to go over to the British for money. Most people don’t know that he was once one of the great heroes of the Revolution, they only know him as a traitor, and his name is synonymous with “traitor.” To be called “a Benedict Arnold” is an deadly insult.
So what does that have to do with the title of this post? If you’ve been watching the news, and if you were paying attention before, there’s a real chance we may have someone who makes what Benedict Arnold did look like child’s play. In the future, we may not insult someone who we felt betrayed us by calling them “a Benedict Arnold.” Instead, we’ll call them “a Donald Trump.” Or, we could be calling them “a Republican.” Just something to think about for the future, Republicans.