Benedict Arnold's history lives on in Norwich
Norwich — It is something of an oddball ritual that amused even those people who were only casually familiar with the story of the nation’s most infamous traitor.
Benedict Arnold’s “heroic leg” was delivered in a small casket to Norwich Mayor Deberey Hinchey on Saturday during a celebration at the Leffingwell House Museum. The leg — a black-booted replica — was a gift from New London and its Flock Theatre, who five years ago revived the tradition of burning Benedict Arnold in effigy.
Arnold’s leg was saved and pardoned during the New London event in honor of the serious leg wound he sustained during the Battle of Saratoga. Arnold was leading troops of the Continental Army against the British at the time.
Historians say there is no doubt Arnold would be considered a war hero by the nation had he not changed sides and led the burning of New London during the Battle of Groton Heights in 1781.
“He’s an important figure in history. We would not have won the Revolutionary War had it not been for him. He was one of the most brilliant military commanders in the Continental Army, second only to George Washington,” said Dayne Rugh, an historian and director of education for the Slater Memorial Museum.
To anyone that would listen, Rugh could tell tales of Benedict Arnold’s major victories that helped turn the tide of the war. While he said it is not easy to exonerate Arnold for his traitorous deeds, it was important to understand that Arnold’s accomplishments deserve recognition and that the man was a more complex person than many realize.
Benedict Arnold himself, played by Kevin Titus on Saturday, explained his own history during a series of discussions in the tavern room at the Leffingwell House. Benedict Arnold, played by a different actor, is expected to return on Sunday for a discussion titled “A Traitor’s Treacherous Tradecraft.”
Jackie Dows of Uncasville, standing outside a tent of re-enactors from Ye Olde Lebanon Towne Militia, was delighted she came to the event.
“I just love history, especially finding out about Benedict Arnold. I just wanted a closer look and a better understanding. I’m thrilled I came.”
Dows, after reading a book about George Washington, said she sought out the gravesite of Benedict Arnold’s mother in Norwich. It turns out Arnold himself is buried somewhere in England.
Leffingwell House volunteer Cam Farlow said Saturday’s ceremony, in her opinion, was not meant to depict Arnold as a hero or even as a traitor.
“We present the history as opposed to one side or the other,” she said.
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