NEW LONDON — Members of the Flock Theatre will be accompanied by the Colchester Continentals Fife & Drum Corp. along with the Not For Joes to once once again march down Bank Street to burn an effigy of Benedict Arnold at New London’s pier. Last year hundreds of spectators emerged from homes and restaurants to witness and join in on Flock’s one-of-a-kind festival. This year, the Burning will be preceded by a play written by Charles Traeger recounting the history of Benedict Arnold’s raid, to be performed in two parts; the first half begins at 4 p.m. at the Hempsted Houses and the second half at the Shaw Mansion at 5 p.m. Beginning at 6 p.m., the traitor will be marched down Bank Street to the Waterfront Park where the community can enjoy food, drink, and music performances by The Rivergods, The Root Farmers, and Marvelous Liars. The famous burning will occur at approximately 8:45 p.m. conducted with Mayor Passero who will have the honor of lighting the effigy.
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 Sept. 6, 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. The Burning of Benedict Arnold is being presented as part of the Maritime Heritage Festival running from Sept. 12-15, and made possible by the Connecticut Maritime Heritage Festival, New London Music Festivals, Inc., Neff Productions, the City of New London.