There are times when it is not uncommon for high ranking military persons to do wrong. To dishonor themselves and their country. Money the motivating factor. The most recent example being General Michael Flynn.

During the American Revolution, it was General James Wilkinson. A man at the time considered by many even worse than Aaron Burr.

Historian Samuel Eliot Morrison described Wilkerson as “a traitor to every cause he embraced.”

Wilkinson was a soldier and statesman. Scandal and controversy followed his every step. Corrupt and treacherous, history has described him as a scoundrel, sneak, and spy. And most importantly for Wilkinson himself, a survivor.

During the Revolution, he plotted to overthrow General George Washington. He was twice tried for wrongdoing only to win at military hearings. He was returned each time to duty and rank.

He teamed with Aaron Burr at one time to have several states slip from the Union and form an independent country. Burr failed only because Wilkinson “flipped” on him to use a term commonly heard these days. Wilkinson informed on Burr to save his own ass.

While a General, he spied for Spain. For monetary gain. He was well paid in silver. So much that Wilkinson had difficulty in getting it transported to the United States. The barrels full of silver were too heavy.

In order to work his arrangement with Spain, he was required to take an oath of allegiance to the King of Spain. Which he did.

The American Army had the position of “clothier general.” The title speaks for itself. Wilkerson became “clothier general.” He was forced to resign after an audit showed he was siphoning money off for himself.

He was lacking in military genius. A military bumbler. During an invasion of Canada during the War of 1812, his army consisted of 4,000 men. They were defeated by 180 Canadians.

Wilkinson had certain traits that inured to his benefit. He was a charmer. One who knew how to flatter those in high places. He was a master of intrigue and an expert at covering his misdeeds.

All of which resulted in his becoming Commander in Chief of the American Army in 1796.

Theodore Roosevelt commented re Wilkinson: “In all our history, there is no more despicable character.”

Worse than Aaron Burr and we never heard of him!


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