Hometown Opens Door A Crack To Benedict Arnold

Norwich is edging closer to recognizing the native son whom the city has tried to forget for 230 years: Benedict Arnold.

It's high time. Yes, he was a notorious traitor in the Revolutionary War, and there's no attempt on the part of Norwich to whitewash the man's turncoat sins. He tried to give West Point to the British, captured Richmond, Va., for the Redcoats and burned down New London. It's no wonder that "Benedict Arnold" has been a synonym for betrayal for generations.

Yet it is also true that his military talents helped the Americans win the first Battle of Saratoga, a critical turning point for the war in 1777 that convinced France to formally enter the conflict on the American side.

In Norwich, a few historical markers that alert visitors to the link between the city and Benedict Arnold were put in place by the late city leader and historian William B. Stanley. One is in the Norwichtown cemetery and tells the anguished story of how enraged town residents tore out the tombstones of the traitor's father and brother after the attack on New London. The site of his birthplace is marked, too, but the house is long gone.

Benedict Arnold will be the subject of an original musical at Norwich's Spirit of Broadway Theater in September, but remains so polarizing that some donors to the theater have overreacted by withdrawing support. Norwich is planning a week of events, also in September, to examine his controversial life and place in history.

Smart thinking on the part of a city once reluctant to admit it was the home of anyone once so celebrated, now reviled, yet still deserving of serious attention and debate.

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