Benedict Arnold’s Unrequited Love – New York Almanack


Benedict Arnold gift of a ring to 16-year-old Elizabeth DeBlois, 1776In 1776, General Benedict Arnold was at a great point in his life, despite being recently widowed. He was a favorite of George Washington and a respected military leader.

Washington sent Arnold to Providence, Rhode Island in late 1776 to take control of the poorly defended state following the British takeover of Newport. Arnold found the Rhode Island militia were ill-equipped for an attack on British forces and went north to Boston in hopes of raising more troops.

It was in Boston that the middle-aged, widowed, and weathered Arnold found himself embraced by Boston’s high society. Here, he encountered the loquacious, flirtatious, and charming 16-year-old Elizabeth “Betsy” DeBlois and fell passionately in love.

Though her mother had already chosen another suitor, it did not stop Arnold from pursuing her. He secretly sent gifts and love letters. DeBlois refused his gifts, including the ring pictured above, and his proposal.

On April 8, 1778, Arnold wrote “…neither time, absence, misfortunes, nor your cruel Indifference have been able to efface the deep impressions your Charms have made, and will you doom a heart so true, so faithfull to languish in despair, shall I expect no returns to the most sincere, ardent, and disinterested passion.”

In 1779, Arnold married Peggy Shippen. DeBlois never married, refusing several more proposals.

You can read more about this story in the Massachusetts Historical Society’s Beehive blog post. The society holds the ring in their collection.

You can read more stories about Benedict Arnold in New York State here

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