• Today's Daily Devotion
Honor and Honesty
Before Benedict Arnold received General Washington’s most recent letter in March 1777, he had laid aside “all thought of making a general attack on Rhode ...

Honor and Honesty

Before Benedict Arnold received General Washington’s most recent letter in March 1777, he had laid aside “all thought of making a general attack on Rhode Island.”

While Washington and his men took respite in Morristown and General Schuyler worried about Fort Ticonderoga, Arnold embraced another mission. His job was to conduct reconnaissance on Rhode Island and determine whether the patriots could recapture Newport, which the British had seized in December 1776. After recovering from his leg wound and leaving Canada in mid-1776, Arnold had transferred from the army’s northern department into the eastern department.

But Washington’s letter put Arnold in a more difficult position. As much as he wanted to please him, Arnold decided to give Washington his honest opinion; even if it wasn’t what the commander-in-chief wanted to hear.

“When the attack was first proposed, we had reason to think your Excellency had a force superior to the enemy in the Jerseys. I am sorry to say, we now have reason to think the case is altered,” Arnold began his analysis in the letter he wrote Washington on March 11, 1777, from Providence. Arnold was “dubious of the propriety of the attack, as the enemy now rest secure and easy in their quarters.”

Mathematics was also a factor in Arnold’s conclusion. “I am fully of opinion it will be imprudent to force them to action, until our new levies are in a manner complete. From our strength and numbers, which do not exceed four thousand raw militia, we have no reasonable prospect of succeeding against four thousand well-disciplined troops.”

But Washington was not the only one anxious for a victory in Newport. The local Rhode Island militia was so ready to attack the British that they were blind to reality. “Notwithstanding, the Assembly of this State have lately requested General Spencer to make an attack on the enemy on Rhode Island, which he seems inclined to do, and the militia are collecting for the purpose. It is proposed to attack the west end of the Island, with three thousand men. I am much averse to this plan, as I am fearful it will bring on a general action, and end in our disgrace,” Arnold warned Washington.

Disgrace is the opposite of honor. As much as Arnold longed for Washington’s approval, he valued his honor and reputation above all else. His desire for valor motivated him to give Washington his truthful and honest opinion. And Benedict Arnold was right. The army was too weak at the time to fight the British in Rhode Island.


I pray for prudence today and for the insight to make decisions that are honest and honorable.

“The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it”

(Proverbs 27:12).

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