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Peggy Shippen - Wife of Benedict Arnold

Peggy Shippen-Wife of Benedict Arnold

Margaret (Peggy) Shippen was nearly nineteen when she married Benedict Arnold.  Some historians suggest that Peggy encouraged her much-older husband in his traitorous scheme.  Others claim that she was an innocent, pulled into a future outside America because of what her husband, on his own, did to betray his country.

From a wealthy Loyalist family, Peggy  met the future spy, Major John André, when the Redcoats occupied her home town of Philadelphia.  Legend says that she and André once dated, but that has never been proved. 

Arnold, brave on the battlefield and unafraid to lead his men into heavy fighting, once told a fellow patriot leader that “his courage was acquired, and that he was a coward till he was fifteen years old.”  (The Traitor and the Spy, by James Thomas Flexner, page 3.)   No one could see a cowardly streak as he led his men to victory in various battles, like that at Saratoga.  But Benedict was also interested in self-promotion, allowing personal feelings to get the best of him when he felt wronged for whatever reason.

Peggy was married to Benedict for twenty-two years.  They had five children together, and their letters suggest they deeply loved each other.  Protective of her husband until the end, Mrs. Arnold outlived the former patriot general. 

According to Flexner’s account, however, there is some evidence of her feelings for  John André.  She apparently kept a lock of his hair until the day she died.


Media Credits

Painting of Peggy Shippen Arnold (and daughter) by Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830). 

Image online, courtesy the U.S. National Archives.

 

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