About ‘The Burning of Benedict Arnold Festival’

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The Burning of Benedict Arnold festival is an epic resurrection of a tradition once celebrated yearly in the newly-minted United States. General Benedict Arnold had fought for the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, and arguably helped them secure a path to victory with his leadership. However, on September 6th, 1781, Arnold, who had defected to the British due to mistreatment by his peers, led a raid of over 1,600 soldiers, burning most of the city of New London, Connecticut to the ground. For nearly one hundred years, the anniversary of that day was celebrated by the citizens of New London essentially as an American rendition of Guy Fawkes Day; a two-faced effigy of Benedict Arnold was marched through town and subsequently burned. This tradition spread throughout the newly formed colonies and was celebrated in cities such as Boston, Philadelphia, and New York, but it died out during the American Civil War.

In 2013, Flock Theatre revived this little-known celebration, and every year we march an effigy down Bank Street in New London on a weekend close to the anniversary; have a celebration with food, music and entertainment; and finally, burn the effigy on the waterfront. Hundreds of spectators flood the streets and end up marching alongside our actors dressed in Revolutionary Era attire and a fife and drum corps. Occasionally, a play written by Charles Traeger that recounts the history of Benedict Arnold’s raid is performed as part of the festivities.

The Burning of Benedict Arnold has drawn the attention of such news sources as NPR, the Boston Globe, Ink Magazine, CT Magazine, The Day, and the London Times.


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