Benedict Arnold: Hero and villain
Living history: Gary Petagine (left) as Benedict Arnold; Sean Grady is Major John André
It’s been 230 years since Major General Benedict Arnold tried to surrender West Point to the British, yet Americans have yet to forgive him. If two local educators have their way, however, more people will recognize that Arnold was much more than a villain.
“Arnold was probably our greatest Revolutionary War hero,” declares Gary Petagine, a Carmel High School teacher who joined forces with Ardsley Middle School teacher Sean Grady to create “Rendezvous with Treason: The André/Arnold Conspiracy.” The men spent three years developing the dramatic, interactive program, which features Petagine in the role of Arnold and Grady as Arnold’s British coconspirator, Major John André. The project was a natural outgrowth of their involvement with the 5th New York Regiment, which conducts living history demonstrations.
The men have donned period costumes and acted out the story of Arnold and André at a variety of venues, including historic sites and inns. A script based on primary source materials adds authenticity to the production.
All this attention to detail has paid off. “We got a standing ovation at Fort Ticonderoga,” marvels Petagine.
So was Arnold really a hero as well as a villain? Yes, if you consider his contributions to the early battlefield successes of the American Continental Army. “Arnold was an amazing, complicated figure,” notes Petagine. “For about 100 years after the war, people didn’t know what to think of him; they would hang his picture in their homes, but upside down.”
“Rendezvous” should help audiences make up their own minds about the man who almost changed the course of American history. For more info, go to www.treason1780.com.