Saturday, April 8, 2017

OUR RHODE ISLAND ROOTS #4: From Patriot to Pariah


Christ Church, Philadelphia 2015
On this day in 1779,
a man and woman celebrated the rite of holy matrimony in Christ Church, Philadelphia.  At thirty-eight, the groom was a distinguished Revolutionary war hero, promoted to Major General by his friend George Washington just two years before.  The bride was the beautiful, 18-year-old socialite daughter of a Philadelphia judge who would later serve as chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. 
Wounded in battle twice, at Quebec and later at the Battle of Saratoga, the man’s shattered leg prevented him from further commanding forces in battle so he was assigned by Washington as military governor of Philadelphia, where he met and courted his betrothed.  In addition to his successful military career, he was a trained druggist and merchant trader whose private ships sailed to Canada and the Caribbean.  On his wedding day, he was also a widower with three sons, ages 9-11.  Of those sons, one would later serve as captain in the Royal Artillery and be mortally wounded in the West Indies. 
This marriage would produce additional children who served their country as:
·        - A lieutenant of the Sixth Bengal Cavalry and later paymaster at Muttra, India.
·         -A lieutenant-general for corps of Royal Engineers in the Napoleonic wars in Egypt and West Indies; an aide-de-camp to William IV; later created a knight of the Hanoverian Guelphic order and a knight of the Crescent.
·         -A lieutenant-colonel in the 2nd Bengal Cavalry
·         -A captain in the Royal Lancers; his son a captain of the 4th Regiment of Foot, killed during the siege of Sevastopol, Crimean War
The one thing they all had in common: they all served in the English military. 

So how did a celebrated American Revolutionary War Patriot end up raising a family who ultimately dedicated their lives and military service to “The British Enemy?”  And how did that same American hero fall from grace as Patriot to Pariah …with his name forever linked to the word “traitor?” 
The answer to these questions is a story in itself.  And this marriage undoubtedly played a part.

As my third cousin-eight generations back, the groom and I share the same 1635 immigrant ancestor:  William Arnold.  William’s daughter Joanna was my 9th great grandmother.  William’s eldest son succeeded Roger Williams as Governor of Rhode Island and became the wealthiest pioneer of the new colony.  William’s eldest son’s name was passed down father-to-son for generations, including the subject of this wedding story:  the groom who shared the name of his father, grandfather, and great grandfather: Benedict Arnold.

Read more about Benedict Arnold at: George Washington's Mount Vernon


  1. Hi. Love your blog and the stories. William Arnold is my 11th great grandfather. His daughter Elizabeth who married William Carpenter of Providence Plantation is my ancestor. I, too, have been working on a family genealogy, in book form, for the past 40 years, which I hope to have finished by the Fall. Just wanted to say hello and thank you for all the work that you have done. I believe it is important to honor and memorialize the ancestors who helped forge this great country of ours. Regards, Nancy Carpenter of Long Island and Connecticut.

    1. Thank you, Nancy! And congrats on all the work you have dedicated to your family genealogy -your upcoming book will be a legacy for your family's future! I'm guessing that your work is, like mine, a labor of love!