240 Years Ago Today, Benedict Arnold Committed Treason and Inspired a Delicious Breakfast—Maybe

Do you remember the 21st night of September? Surely it was a memorable night for the band Earth, Wind & Fire, but the date is a notable one in American history, too, because it marks the day that the once-renowned Benedict Arnold became the country's number-one traitor.

It was 240 years ago today, during the height of the American Revolution, when Arnold, a well-respected general in the American army from a high-society Connecticut family, met with British Major John Andre to concoct the ultimate scheme that would have placed West Point—perhaps the most important post in U.S. during the Revolutionary War that later became the famous home of the U.S. military academy—into the hands of the British army. At the time, Arnold, who joined the Continental Army in 1775, was the commander of the militia stationed at West Point.

The conspiracy, which promised Arnold a handsome fortune and a high-ranking position in the British army, failed miserably. American patriots learned of Arnold's plot and deemed him a traitor. Andre was captured and sent to his death while Arnold escaped, joined forces with the opposing side and eventually moved to England, where he remained until his death in 1801.

On #ThisDayInHistory in 1780, American General Benedict Arnold met with British Major John Andre to discuss handing over West Point to the British, in return for a large sum of money. The plan failed, and Arnold became synonymous with the word “traitor.” https://t.co/1LHfXgOUxC

— HISTORY (@HISTORY) September 21, 2020

It's Arnold's involvement in the traitorous scheme that he's best known for, although there are some folks who often confuse the former general's history with the popular breakfast dish, eggs Benedict. However, there are no records of Arnold scarfing down English muffins topped with Canadian bacon and poached eggs drenched in Hollandaise sauce before fleeing the American regime.

240 Years Ago Benedict Arnold Committed Treason
American turncoat Benedict Arnold (1741 - 1801) persuades Major Andre (1751 - 1780) to conceal papers, to be sent to the British to enable them to capture West Point, in his boot. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Eggs Benedict has nothing to do with Pope Benedict XIII, either, although he had a penchant for eating eggs and toast dressed in a lemon-based sauce during his reign over the Vatican from 1724 to 1730.

The story of eggs Benedict's origin allegedly involves the Wall Street broker Lemuel Benedict, who, after a night of drunken revelry in 1894, ordered toast, bacon and two poached eggs drizzled with Hollandaise sauce while dining at the Waldorf Hotel, according to a 1942 New Yorker article.

The hotel's head chef Oscar Tschirky was "so impressed," the article said, that he added the dish to the lunch menu with a few upgrades: crisp bacon strips instead of Canadian bacon and English muffins for toast.

Another theory is that the eggs Benedict breakfast was inspired by the wife of another Wall Street broker, LeGrand Benedict. According to the New Yorker's rundown of that legend, Benedict's wife met with Chef Charles Ranhofer of the Manhattan restaurant Delmonico's to discuss the establishment's lackluster brunch menu, and during their meeting, they concocted the recipe.

However, a New York Times article in 1967 contested both of those claims about the creation of eggs Benedict. According to the Times' writeup by food critic Craig Claiborne, the delicious breakfast dish came to the states by way of banker and yachtsman Commodore E.C. Benedict.