Years before General Benedict Arnold betrayed the American cause, a young officer and attorney named John Brown brought 13 charges of misconduct against him and called for his arrest, Brown was shuttled from one general to another, and finally to George Washington, before powerful politicians decided in Arnold’s favor without hearing from Brown or any other witnesses. Historians have continued to ignore the accusations, finding Brown’s charges to be false, and even absurd. In fact, some are unquestionably true, and all are worthy of investigation.
John Brown was an early hero of the Revolution, a legislator, envoy, spy, and accomplished field officer. His charges and his many proposed witnesses are a starting point for a reevaluation of Arnold’s conduct in the war—on his storied march up Maine’s Kennebec River to Canada, during the winter siege of Québec, and at the battles of Valcour Island and Saratoga. What emerges from Brown’s charges is a story of deceit and misconduct, and of prominent leaders and historians turning a blind eye in order to maintain exciting myths.