Two hundred forty-two years ago, Benedict Arnold led a group of soldiers that burned New London, Connecticut, to the ground. The city still won’t forgive or forget.
Last month, a group of hundreds took their yearly revenge. They marched a figure through the streets. It was made from paper and glue. It looked like Arnold.
“Burn the traitor!” the group cried. Then the figure was burned.
The American Revolution led to the start of the U.S. American settlers, known as colonists, were fighting to free themselves from British control.
Arnold started out on the American side. He was an important leader in the fight. He helped win some big battles.
But in 1779, Arnold began helping the British. He gave them information. He later offered to turn over an American base if Britain paid him. He failed. Arnold was shown to be a traitor. A traitor is someone who acts against their own country.
Arnold fled and became a leader in the British army. On September 6, 1781, he led soldiers to attack a city in his own home state. Arnold was born in Norwich, Connecticut. That didn’t stop him from burning nearby New London.
One month later, the Americans won the war. Arnold left for London. He died in 1801 at age 60. He’s still seen as one of America’s biggest traitors.
Bringing Back the Burning
For many years after the war, U.S. cities held yearly traitor-burning events. The events stopped during the Civil War.
Ten years ago, Derron Wood brought the Burning of Benedict Arnold event back to New London.
Wood runs the city’s Flock Theatre. The first event was like a play. Actors dressed up to look like American colonists. They marched in the streets.
Now anyone can join the march. Some people dress up. Others don’t. The event ends at Waterfront Park. There, the mayor lights “Arnold” on fire.
Ellen Warfield brought her 9-year-old son, Lucian Bace, to this year’s event. Warfield lives in Connecticut. She has family members who fought in the Revolution. She wanted to bring that history to life for her son.
“It’s wild to show the kids something like this,” Warfield said. “They spend too much time on their screens today.”
Words in This Story
- forgive v. stop feeling anger toward someone who has done something wrong
- revenge n. act of doing something to hurt someone because that person has hurt you
- settlers n. people who come to live in a new place
- base n. place with military operations
- Civil War n. war between the North and South of the U.S. in the 1860s