Manuscript/Mixed Material Letter, Benedict Arnold to George Washington pleading for mercy for his wife, 25 September 1780.

About this Item

Title
Letter, Benedict Arnold to George Washington pleading for mercy for his wife, 25 September 1780.
Created / Published
25 September 1780
Subject Headings
-  Presidents
-  Treason
-  Army officers
-  André, John (1751-1780)
-  Arnold, Benedict (1741-1801)
-  Arnold, Margaret Shippen (1760-1804)
-  New York (State)
-  Revolution, 1775-1783 (U.S.)
-  Washington, George (1732-1799)
-  Manuscripts
Genre
Manuscripts
Notes
-  Reproduction number: A80 (color slide; page 1); A81 (color slide; page 2)
-  Brig. Gen. Benedict Arnold (1741-1801) of the Continental army had fought gallantly for the American side since the beginning of the Revolutionary War. With Ethan Allen (1738-1789), he captured Fort Ticonderoga in 1775, led an unsuccessful assault on Quebec that same year, stopped the British movement from Canada down Lake Champlain in 1776, repulsed the British in the Mohawk Valley and aided in forcing Gen. John Burgoyne's surrender at Saratoga in 1777, and a year later assumed command of American troops in Philadelphia. But by spring 1779, Arnold had begun a treasonous correspondence with the British, motivated partly by greed for money, partly by his opposition to the French alliance of 1778, and partly by his resentment towards authorities who had reprimanded him for irregularities during his command in Philadelphia.
-  In 1780, Arnold asked Gen. George Washington (1732-1799) for command of the American fortress at West Point, New York, which he was given. Shortly thereafter, on 23 September 1780, Arnold's attempt to surrender West Point to the British was uncovered with the arrest of Maj. John André (1751-1780), the British spy with whom he had plotted. Two days later, when Arnold heard of Andre's arrest, he fled to the Vulture, a British warship on the Hudson River. That same day, he wrote this letter to Washington, begging help for his wife, the young and beautiful Margaret ("Peggy") Shippen Arnold (1760-1804). Solicitous for a young lady's welfare and unaware of her participation in her husband's duplicitous dealings with the British, Washington provided an escort for Mrs. Arnold back to her family home in Philadelphia. There authorities forced her to flee to her husband in New York. During the remainder of the Revolutionary War, Arnold served as a brigadier general in the British army, leading raids on Virginia and Connecticut. After the war, he and his family moved to England, where he died in 1801, his name having become synonymous with traitor in the United States.
Source Collection
George Washington Papers
Repository
Manuscript Division
Language
English
Online Format
image
IIIF Presentation Manifest
Manifest (JSON/LD)

Rights & Access

The George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress provides access to manuscripts at the Library of Congress for educational and research purposes and makes no warranty with regard to their use for other purposes. Responsibility for making an independent legal assessment of an item and securing any necessary permissions ultimately rests with persons desiring to use the item. The written permission of the copyright owners and/or holders of other rights (such as publicity and/or privacy rights) is required for distribution, reproduction, or other use of protected items beyond that allowed by fair use or other statutory exemptions. There may be content that is protected under the copyright or neighboring-rights laws of other nations.

The Diaries of George Washington

The following statement is made by the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia, the copyright owners of The Diaries of George Washington.

Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1976-79; a series of The Papers of George Washington. Copyright 1976-79 by the Rector and Visitors of University of Virginia. Used by permission of the publisher. The publisher is not responsible for the correctness and completeness of the images and texts as they appear in this online collection.

University Press of Virginia External

Cite This Item

Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

Letter, Benedict Arnold to George Washington pleading for mercy for his wife, 25 September. 25 September, 1780. Manuscript/Mixed Material. https://www.loc.gov/item/mcc.054/.

APA citation style:

(1780) Letter, Benedict Arnold to George Washington pleading for mercy for his wife, 25 September. 25 September. [Manuscript/Mixed Material] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/mcc.054/.

MLA citation style:

Letter, Benedict Arnold to George Washington pleading for mercy for his wife, 25 September. 25 September, 1780. Manuscript/Mixed Material. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/mcc.054/>.