May 23, 2018


Annual Burning of Benedict Arnold (Atlas Obscura, 5/23/18)

The citizenry of New London held a deep grudge, and they never forgave Arnold. His name became synonymous with traitor, and among the people of New London, they even still evoke his name as a form of insult or as a means to convey a purposeful arson.

In 1782, one year after the infamous traitor led the burning of New London, the townspeople paraded an effigy of Arnold through the streets and burned it on the anniversary of the brutal attack. This tradition continued all the way up to the Civil War. Because of the horrors of the Civil War, the tradition faded away... until... a history-loving theater troupe decided to resurrect it.

In 2013 the troupe, with very little organization, marched an effigy of Benedict Arnold down to the pier, dressed in colonial garb, and burned it. As they paraded it through the streets of New London, curious bystanders started following the procession, and the tradition was revived.

The effigy, complete with a papier-mâché head with two faces, is dressed in a British red coat uniform. Once the parade reaches the pier, the traitor, complete with a wooden shame sign around his neck, is displayed in his wooden cart until 8 p.m., when he is rolled to an empty blocked-off area, doused with flammables, and set on fire for the crowds to watch.

Still going strong half a decade later, the event has grown and is now accompanied by live music, a police escort, and the mayor traditionally performing the ceremonial "lighting." The citizens of New London still rally around, with cries of "traitor" and "Burn him!"

Posted by at May 23, 2018 7:15 PM