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Benedict Arnold’s Forgotten Valcour Battle

Before he became the country’s most infamous traitor, Benedict Arnold was a real North Country hero who led a battle that ultimately helped win the American Revolution. Don’t believe us? A visit to the Clinton County Historical Association Museum in Plattsburgh, N.Y., will force you to reconsider this long-hated character. The Battle of Valcour Island, Oct. 11, 1776, was a defeat by American forces, yet, due to Arnold’s strategizing and will, it remains a major turning point in the war. Outnumbered and out-armed, American forces at Valcour were doomed to defeat, but their refusal to surrender early struck the British…

Toy boats re-enact the Battle of Valcour. (DoNorth/Natasha Courter)

Before he became the country’s most infamous traitor, Benedict Arnold was a real North Country hero who led a battle that ultimately helped win the American Revolution. Don’t believe us? A visit to the Clinton County Historical Association Museum in Plattsburgh, N.Y., will force you to reconsider this long-hated character.

The Battle of Valcour Island, Oct. 11, 1776, was a defeat by American forces, yet, due to Arnold’s strategizing and will, it remains a major turning point in the war. Outnumbered and out-armed, American forces at Valcour were doomed to defeat, but their refusal to surrender early struck the British hard.

The enemy’s manpower and supplies were so deteriorated by the end of the two-day battle that they were forced to retreat back to Canada to regroup instead of immediately continuing their voyage south. This retreat gave the American troops time to resupply and prepare for the battle at Saratoga, which they won. This victory is what convinced France to ally with the United States, ultimately leading to America’s independence from Great Britain.

This little-known naval battle commanded by Arnold was a key step toward American independence, and artifacts from the battle can be seen in Clinton County’s Historical Association Museum.  The exhibit, whose centerpieces include portions of a raised warship from Lake Champlain and a large diorama of the area during battle, can be visited Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and by appointment. They’ll give you a hero’s welcome.

Issue 2: Winter/Spring 2014

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