Wednesday, May 4, 2016

St. Mary's Battersea & Benedict Arnold

St. Mary's Battersea, London

On the South side of the Thames near Battersea Park one can find an historic church called St. Mary's (  The foundation of this church was laid in 1775 and it opened in 1777.  It now serves as a neighborhood church for the Battersea area.  But perhaps its greatest claim to fame is being the final resting place of Benedict Arnold (1741- 1801).  He was given a pauper's funeral when he died in London in 1801.

Stained Glass window, St. Mary's Battersea 

Benedict Arnold, born in Norwich Connecticut, was one of the most fascinating and complicated characters of the American Revolution.  Today in America he is largely reviled as the most notorious traitor in American history (  His only rival for that honor would be Aaron Burr.  In 1780 he did attempt to betray West Point to the British but was foiled when Major John Andre was captured.

But prior to this he had distinguished himself as one of the most brilliant field commanders in the American Patriot ranks.  Early on the morning of May 10, 1775 he set out with Ethan Allen across Lake Champlain with only 83 men.  They managed that day to capture the British Fort Ticonderoga along with 78 cannon.  He would later lead a thousand men of the Continental Army on a march through Maine to Quebec where he besieged the British bastion.  He was wounded at the Battle of Quebec on New Year's Eve, 1775.

He was also wounded at the tremendously important American victory at the Battle of Saratoga on October 7, 1777.  The surrender of Gentleman Johnny Burgoyne in the New York woods led directly to French intervention in the American Revolution.

In America Invades I wrote about my own personal connection to Benedict Arnold...

"I have in my possession a letter dated March 17, 1776, and written on behalf of another ancestor of mine, James Van Rensselaer. The letter was a gift from my grandmother, Georgina Van Rensselaer, of Bedford, New York. James Van Rensselaer was, at the time, a Captain in the American army invading Canada. He was a leader of the New York colonial militia who fought in the American Revolution and evidently longed to go home. The letter is signed simply “B. Arnold.” Here is the full text:

Sir [General Wooster],

Captain Van Rensselaer being anxious to go home I have permitted him to go to Montreal, until your pleasure is known. The troops who have lately arrived here are not mustered. Neither have I any person here fit for that office, that can be spared from their office.

I am your obedient servant, B. Arnold
Camp before Quebec March 17, 1776

How many members of invading armies from the dawn of time from all nations have been “anxious to go home”? How many young Americans in our military now stationed around the world have similar feelings?" (Source: America

Plaque St Mary's Battersea
Arnold was a proud and vain man.  When the Continental Congress failed to promote him his loyalty to the Patriot cause weakened and he was tempted by British gold.  In 1779 he fell in love and married Peggy Shippen who was from a prominent Loyalist (Tory) family from Philadelphia.  They would both move to exile in London after the war.

After his failed attempt to betray West Point to the British Arnold met a captured Captain in the Continental Army.  A bemused Arnold Asked the captain what the Americans would do with him if he were to be captured by the Patriot forces. The American Captain answered, "They would cut off the leg that was wounded at Saratoga and bury it with the honors of war, and the rest of you they would hang on a gibbet."

You can find signed copies of America Invades
or regular copies on

Coming in the Fall of 2016...

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