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Old April 9th, 2013, 06:42 PM   #1

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Secondary Sources and Arnold's Role at Freeman's Farm


We have the Primary source thread maturing nicely and its time to start posting my thoughts from review of the various secondary sources. One item to note right away is that the primary sources identified are all coming from these secondary sources in the form of footnotes, index, fully quoted letters, etc. In other words, these are the guys who did all the original research. Not as heavily weighted on an evidentiary scale but still a major part of the research.

Click the image to open in full size.
map of battle on the 19th

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battles_of_Saratoga

Also the wiki article if anyone wants some general info on the battle.
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Old April 9th, 2013, 06:44 PM   #2

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Benedict Arnold, Revolutionary Hero, An American Warrior Reconsidered, James Kirby Martin


While admitting that "Arnold's activities during the afternoon engagement have been a subject of debate", author James Kirby Martin then states that the evidence has Arnold "everywhere coordinating patriot movements." He admits that even though General Poor was in the thick of the battle, he "did not see him once". But then follows that Brig General Scammell claimed that Arnold frequently showed "his usual recklessness, and, at times acted like a madman" rushing into the fight. However, this author noticed that Scammell's quote actually goes on to describe Arnold's actions as periodically borrowing rifles from one of the men in an attempt to fire at British officers as he directed the regiments to the front line.

Author Martin then moved on to the account of Captain Ebenezer Wakefield. Unlike more conservative historians, Martin concluded that Arnold "led at least one" charge against the British because Wakefield described him as "riding in front of the line, his eyes flashing, pointing with his sword to the advancing foe, with a voice that rung far as a trumpet". This reading of Wakefield conflicts directly with other eyewitnesses who never mention having seen Arnold in the battle and describe his activities as directing troop movements from behind.[ii] Furthermore, that description seems a very aggressive interpretation of what Wakefield actually said.

After having stated the aggressive theory, Martin then backs away from Wakefield's claims by concluding that "Arnold likely spent the bulk of his time only on the edge of harm's way, moving up yet more troops and aligning them for combat." A close reading of Wakefield's account does not actually conflict with the more conservative approach and since the more aggressive behavior by Arnold would be "imprudent for a field officer whose primary duty was to provide overall direction", Martin adopted the slightly more conservative stance on how much Arnold did at the 1st Battle of Freeman's Farm.

As a biographer of Arnold whose stated title considers Arnold a hero, Martin's work seems appropriate. Biographers rarely take it on themselves to cast their subjects in a poor light and Martin does admit the existence of debate. Because it is both secondary and biography, on a scale of 1 to 3, Martin's work should be granted an evidentiary weight of 1.


[ame="http://www.amazon.com/Benedict-Arnold-Revolutionary-Hero-Reconsidered/dp/0814756468/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1365558226&sr=8-2&keywords=james+kirby+martin"]Amazon.com: Benedict Arnold, Revolutionary Hero: An American Warrior Reconsidered (9780814756461): James K. Martin: Books@@AMEPARAM@@http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51RD0HK7VBL.@@AMEPARAM@@51RD0HK7VBL[/ame]


[i][i] Benedict Arnold, Revolutionary Hero, James Kirby Martin, 379; quotes taken from the Diary of the American Revolution Vol 1 by Frank Moore who doesn't reprint the actual documents but indicates the quotes from a letter written by General Enoch Poor who reported a conversation with Scammell.

[ii] Ibid at 380
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Old April 10th, 2013, 08:54 AM   #3

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Benedict Arnold, Patriot and Traitor, Willard Sterne Randall


[ame="http://www.amazon.com/Benedict-Arnold-Willard-Sterne-Randall/dp/0760712727/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1365609230&sr=8-2&keywords=Benedict+Arnold"]Benedict Arnold: Patriot and Traitor: Willard Sterne Randall: 9780760712726: Amazon.com: Books@@AMEPARAM@@http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51J83OVOOML.@@AMEPARAM@@51J83OVOOML[/ame]

Benedict Arnold, Patriot and Traitor, Willard Sterne Randall

Another biographer (Randall) takes Arnold's participation at 1st Freeman's Farm to a new level. He states, "All afternoon, Arnold spurred his men on, personally leading their charges and maneuvers, constantly exposed to enemy fire, preferring to lead by example more than by orders." The paragraph goes on to say that Arnold led five regiments in a direct charge into the British center trying to break through. Evidently failing at this, Arnold regrouped and "led the charge down from a wooded hill, he very nearly overran the British: only heavy reinforcements of Hessians stopped him." Randall then describes Arnold as having returned to headquarters to beg Gates for troops and permission to attack the British which was denied by Gates. Gates only response was to try and get Scammel's brigade returned to headquarters. Randall's only source for all this information seems to be a 19th century biography from I. N. Arnold called The Life of Benedict Arnold. (I will review it in a later post)

Randall indicates a stalemate developed which Burgoyne tried to break by sending Riedesel into a ravine to threaten the American right flank. "At this point, dashing back to Gates, Arnold finally persuaded him to order out Larned's entire brigade from camp" to meet the Hessians but "Gates refused to let Arnold personally lead the counterattack. He made a point of sending Larned himself." Randall then describes Larned's move as astray and blundering into the British light infantry. At that point, Colonel Morgan Lewis (Gates' aid) arrived and reported that the fighting remained indecisive. Arnold replied with, "By God, I will soon put an end to it" and galloped off. At this Lewis remarked to Gates, "You had better order him back. The action is going well. He may, by some rash act, do mischief." At that point, Gates compelled Arnold to return to headquarters. Darkness came and the Americans fell back to their defenses. Author Randall attributes this part of the story to James Wilkinson who was a young man also serving as an aide to General Gates. Wilkinson is then accused of 'perpetuating the myth' that Arnold did not see combat at 1st Freeman's Farm.[ii]

In this biography, Randall never suggests that Arnold was anything short of fully engaged in the 1st Battle of Freeman's Farm. His only admission that doubt even exists is the simple statement that Wilkinson was perpetuating a myth by stating that Arnold didn't see combat that day. Unfortunately, the only source used to confirm any actual combat was a secondary source by Arnold's direct descendant in a book no other historian seems willing to consider. All in all, Randall's book is quite generous in its interpretation of Arnold's participation and dismissal of doubt. Because it is secondary source and biography of Arnold, the book is weighted as a 1 for strength of evidence.

Benedict Arnold, Patriot and Traitor, Willard Sterne Randall, 358 - citing the work of I N Arnold (page 171) at the end of the paragraph.

[I][I][ii] Benedict Arnold, Patriot and Traitor, Willard Sterne Randall, 359 - citing the Memoirs of James Wilkinson as source. Randall points out that Wilkinson is later discredited during the War of 1812.
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Old April 10th, 2013, 04:02 PM   #4

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The Generals of Saratoga, Max M. Mintz


[ame="http://www.amazon.com/The-Generals-Saratoga-Burgoyne-Horatio/dp/0300052618/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1365634849&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Generals+of+Saratoga"]The Generals of Saratoga: John Burgoyne and Horatio Gates: Professor Max M. Mintz: 9780300052619: Amazon.com: Books@@AMEPARAM@@http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51IDbvZQ5KL.@@AMEPARAM@@51IDbvZQ5KL[/ame]



The Generals of Saratoga, Max M. Mintz

According to Mr. Mintz, the 1st Battle of Freeman's Farm started with Gates and Arnold together when word comes of British advance on the left. Arnold urged permission to attack them in force but Gates sent Morgan and Dearborn to harass them and then seven regiments from Poor's brigade to support. Gates turned over direction of the action on the left to Arnold who was described by Wakefield as "riding in front of the lines, his eyes flashing, pointing with his sword to the advancing foe, with a voice that rung clear as a trumpet and electrified the line." Mintz suggests that Wakefield's quote is evidence Arnold "could not keep out of the fray."

From that point, Mintz doesn't indicate any front-line participation by Arnold. He quotes Van Cortlandt as having received a marching order by General Arnold as he was marching past on the way to the battle front. At that point the fighting was concentrated at Freeman's Farm and got heavy. Arnold again went to Gates to request Poor's brigade. Gates again refused to release the additional troops. Arnold rode up to Learned's regiment and requested 300 volunteers. Major William Hull accepted the task and led the volunteers directly into the action where they remained the rest of the day.[ii]

After going into great detail about the front-line combat of 1st Freeman's Farm from the Hull accounts (Arnold makes no further appearance), Mintz includes the story that Colonel Lewis reported indecisive combat still ongoing spurring Arnold to jump at the action only to have Lewis then remark that Gates "had better order him back, the action is going well, he may by some rash act do mischief." Wilkinson then rode out and returned with Arnold.[iii]

All in all, Mr. Mintz doesn't claim any great participation in the battle by Benedict Arnold. While he did include the Wakefield quote, Mintz obviously finds the Hull account of the battle to be reliable and based most of his battle section on it. The Hull account of 1st Freeman's Farm is quite detailed with regard to the front-line action and it never mentions Arnold as having been in the action. As a result, Mintz comes away leaving the impression that Arnold commanded for a time steering regiments to the front but spent the rest of his energy trying to convince Gates to let him take the full brigades into an assault against Burgoyne. Mintz did not appear to have an agenda. I assigned him an evidentiary weight of 2.

The Generals of Saratoga, Max M. Mintz, 193

[i][i][ii] Ibid at 194; quoting sources from Van Cortlandt briefly and then relying very heavily on William Hull's memoirs written by Maria Campbell as his Revolutionary Services and Civil Life of General William Hull

[iii] Ibid at 196
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Old April 11th, 2013, 04:45 AM   #5

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General Horatio Gates, A Biography, Paul David Nelson


[ame="http://www.amazon.com/General-Horatio-Gates-A-Biography/dp/0807101591/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1365680698&sr=8-1&keywords=General+Horatio+Gates"]General Horatio Gates: A Biography: Paul David Nelson: 9780807101599: Amazon.com: Books@@AMEPARAM@@http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/419-MR8zH9L.@@AMEPARAM@@419-MR8zH9L[/ame]



General Horatio Gates, A Biography, Paul David Nelson

In this book, Mr. Nelson took a different approach to his descriptions of the battle. Nelson stayed mostly within the report of Gates but he pointed out that Arnold commanded the troops on the right side. Otherwise, Nelson describes Arnold as having noted a weakness open up in Burgoyne's lines at which time he returned to headquarters and pleaded with Gates to release enough troops to allow him to attack the British center. After acknowledging that "perhaps the British center would have been crushed" had Gates followed Arnold's advice, Nelson simply has Gates wait until the threat to his left disappeared before releasing Learned's brigade to the battle.

As for Arnold's actual participation in the fighting, Nelson refers to the argument amongst historians on the subject. He lists four sources with discussion on the subject and then declines to repeat the "tired arguments pro and con". However, Nelson goes on to suggest the debate would be meaningless except that Arnold fans have attempted to use the issue as proof that Arnold deserves the credit for Burgoyne's surrender. For his part, Nelson says Arnold very likely spent some time on the field of battle and deserves mention with Gates and Morgan. Morgan's biographer, Don Higginbotham, stated, "None of the three [Gates, Arnold, Morgan] should be excluded from a fair share of the credit."[ii]

Considering this book was actually a biography of Arnold's nemesis at Saratoga, the evidentiary weight should be low. Even so, it might be noted that Nelson refrained from making an attempt at excluding Arnold from the battle. Still a secondary source and a biography, the Nelson book is also rated a 1 on the evidentiary weighting.

[i][i] General Horatio Gates, Paul David Nelson, 117

[ii] Ibid at 119
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Old April 11th, 2013, 05:08 PM   #6

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The War of the Revolution, Christopher Ward


[ame="http://www.amazon.com/The-War-Revolution-Christopher-Ward/dp/1616080809/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1365725251&sr=8-1&keywords=The+war+of+the+revolution"]The War of the Revolution: Christopher Ward: 9781616080808: Amazon.com: Books@@AMEPARAM@@http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51CmEMwcIeL.@@AMEPARAM@@51CmEMwcIeL[/ame]


The War of the Revolution, Christopher Ward

In his very famous book covering the entire revolution, Christopher Ward says very little about Arnold in his section on the 1st Battle of Freeman's Farm. Ward points out that Arnold was in command of the left flank. He also has Arnold 'urging, begging, and entreating' Gates for permission to take his entire division into an attack on Burgoyne. Gates refused and sent Morgan and Dearborn to the left flank to meet the British. Arnold's division to be called on for support when needed. The only time Ward mentions Arnold as part of the action is to state that General Arnold "seems to have assumed command on the American left". Later in the narrative, Arnold asks for reinforcement which request is not granted until Riedesel moved away from his positions along the river.

The most interesting part of Arnold's participation as narrated by Ward was that he was turned down for permission to lead an assault on Burgoyne. In fact, it is pretty much the only thing Ward indicates Arnold having done. In spite of this, Appendix F of the book is a discussion of whether Arnold participated in the battle itself. At the end, Ward concludes that Arnold deserves the "honor of active participation in the battle as the directing head of the American troops." Apparently Ward completely ignored the fact that no eyewitness accounts actually have Arnold doing anything specific except directing troops to the battle and arguing with Gates. In his own rather lengthy description of the battle, Ward does not mention Arnold doing any fighting or coming under fire in any way.[ii]

In reaching his conclusion that Arnold actively participated, Ward starts by allowing that James Wilkinson stated in memoirs that "not a single general officer was on the field of battle" and also that William Gordon who wrote his history in 1788 said that Arnold "remained in camp the whole time." After making those admissions, Ward lists the evidence that Arnold did participate in the actual battle. He quotes the Varick and Livingston letters to Schuyler but fails to mention that both were young men close to Arnold who shared his enthusiasm for assaulting Burgoyne's army. He also mentions that Major Cochran later wrote that "General Arnold, with his division, attacked a division of Burgoyne in which General Arnold gained the ground." This statement certainly does imply active participation but is problematic in that Arnold gained no ground at Freeman's Farm. Along with the three eyewitness accounts, Ward cites Charles Stedman's history and a number of other historians who concluded that Arnold was an active participant at the head of the American troops. In his analysis of the question, Ward also relies on two bits of logic. First, someone had to have directed the patriot regiments during the battle and "there has never been a suggestion of anyone in that capacity other than Arnold." The second thing is simply that remaining out of the action would be so unlike Arnold who was always eager to gain the glory of battle.[iii]

Christopher Ward makes some excellent points in his analysis and is a very well respected historian whose opinion should be taken seriously. Having said that, it is somewhat disappointing to see Ward fail to address some key items. For instance, the eyewitness account of Major William Hull indicates no mention of Arnold or any other officer of general rank. Ditto for a couple of key British accounts. Lt. Digby of the Shropshire Regiment identified Morgan as the commander on the field making no mention of Arnold. A man well known to them. Also Roger Lamb's book fails to mention Arnold although, to be fair, he doesn't mention any of the Patriots by name. On the other side of the scale, Ward fails to mention the words of Ebenezer Wakefield in total support of Arnold having enthusiastically led the troops. Considering the reputation Christopher Ward brings to the table as a Revolutionary War historian, the essay on Arnold seemed overly reliant on secondary sources and light on any source that could actually point to a specific act by Arnold on the battlefield. In contrast, there are plenty of accounts mentioning Arnold at headquarters or otherwise behind the action directing regiments to the fray.

[i][i] The War of the Revolution, Christopher Ward, 506 - 511

[ii] Ibid at 941 - 942

[iii] Ibid at 942
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Old April 11th, 2013, 06:10 PM   #7

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I have weakness for books. . Yes, I own them all. Most of the one's listed in the primary source thread also. Pretty sure my AR library total is about 300 titles. Some are multi volume sets.
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Old April 11th, 2013, 09:38 PM   #8
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I'm working my way through 'Patriot and Traitor'. Very well written, but I defiantly picked up on Randall's pro Arnold stance from the get-go. Have you read 'Saratoga' by John Luzader yet? A bit of a dry read, but technically solid . He devotes several pages in the appendix to this very topic.
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Old April 12th, 2013, 03:40 AM   #9

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Actually Patton I have read it but not yet written up a summary. Yes, I was very impressed with his attention to detail. Mr. Luzader wrote some of the most complete and well reasoned thoughts on Arnold's participation. He comes down a little more negative than I do but his piece might possibly be the most complete of all the essays on this subject. I will get to him with some time but first I have a few more already written and ready to go. Besides, the best for last.
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Old April 12th, 2013, 03:43 AM   #10

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Saratoga, Turning Point of America's Revolutionary War - Richard Ketchum


Here is a book we have certainly discussed before.

[ame="http://www.amazon.com/Saratoga-Turning-Point-Americas-Revolutionary/dp/0805061231/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1365763411&sr=8-1&keywords=Saratoga+the+turning+point"]Amazon.com: Saratoga: Turning Point of America's Revolutionary War (9780805061239): Richard M. Ketchum: Books@@AMEPARAM@@http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51wk8cP3LcL.@@AMEPARAM@@51wk8cP3LcL[/ame]


Saratoga, Turning Point of America's Revolutionary War - Richard M. Ketchum

The first mention of Arnold on the 19th of September sets an uneasy tone. Ketchum states that "According to the agreement extracted from the reluctant Gates, Arnold dispatched Morgan and Dearborn * * *". Ketchum does not provide a footnote reference for this 'agreement' between Gates and Arnold. Shortly after that Ketchum surmises that, "by all logic Burgoyne's attack should have caught the rebels off guard" except that Arnold insisted on going out to meet the enemy. Naturally there is no footnote for this statement either as it is simply an conclusion written into the text and not a historical fact to be evidenced.

Ketchum moves forward in his book with a description of the battle. At one point he inserts the Wakefield quote that Arnold was "riding in front of the lines, his eyes flashing, pointing with his sword to the advancing foe, with a voice that rang clear as a trumpet and electrified the line." At the end of this, Ketchum adds the story from William Hull that Arnold rode up looking for volunteers to join the fighting. Unfortunately, Ketchum indicates that, while Arnold was demonstrating in front of Wakefield, "he cantered up to a picket guard" looking for volunteers (Hull). Joining these otherwise unrelated eyewitness accounts fails to account for the fact that Major Hull was with the guards at Gates headquarters at least 1/2 mile away from the battle. Arnold could not have simply 'cantered' over. He would have been required to leave the battlefield and return to Gates headquarters in order to speak with Hull.[ii]

After giving what amounts to Hull's description of the battle itself, Ketchum makes another 'drop-in' of Arnold's name. He says that "somewhere in the melee" Arnold rushed "into the thickest of the fight with his usual recklessness, and at times acted like a madman." Again author Ketchum adds a quote from somewhere else in the middle of the Hull information. Unfortunately, in this instance there are no footnotes separating the account and this quote, which is not from Hull, is set up to appear from the same source. Luckily enough, Ketchum does go on to make a minor admission that he doesn't actually know what Arnold did that day. He starts the next sentence with, "whatever Arnold's role * * *"[iii] All of these references put together with insufficient explanation make it seem as if Arnold played a major role in the battle. Which indeed is possible. However, the book fails provide any proof or evidence beyond that which is present elsewhere. More importantly, from a history point of view, the book fails to explain the controversy concerning Arnold's participation instead leaving the reader without the realization that historical evidence might not back up the story of Arnold having participated in the front line action at 1st Freeman's Farm.

Richard Ketchum's book is an excellent overall work on the campaigns of Saratoga of which 1st Freeman's Farm is only one event. While clear Ketchum works a little bit to stretch Arnold quotes into the story, there seems little reason to accuse him of anything less than sincere belief of Arnold's participation. As a quality secondary source on the campaign instead of a biography from the point of view of the individual participant, Ketchum's work gets an evidentiary weighting of 2.

[i][i] Saratoga, Turning Point of America's Revolutionary War, Richard Ketchum, 360

[ii] Ibid at 363

[iii] Ibid at 364
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