Entrusted with the control of the newly acquired territory of Louisiana, this Revolutionary War hero was a double agent on the Spanish payroll and a co-conspirator with the traitor Aaron Burr.
Wilkinson served honorably in the Revolution under General Horatio Gates. Following the war, he decamped to Kentucky, where he founded the community of Frankfort and worked to gain statehood for Kentucky.
In 1787 Wilkinson turned traitor and began a long-lasting relationship as a secret agent of Spain. He was known to his Spanish contacts as Agent 13. After Thomas Jefferson purchased Louisiana from Napoleon Bonaparte, Wilkinson was named territorial governor of northern Louisiana. He also served as the commander in chief of the U.S. Army.
By this time, Wilkinson had already begun to engage in a plot with Aaron Burr. While complete details of the plot are still open to debate, they probably included plans to separate Louisiana from the U.S. and perhaps even to conquer Mexico. Burr gathered and began to train an army, on the assumption that Britain would provide him with warships and monetary support.
When support failed to appear, Wilkinson betrayed Burr to Jefferson and facilitated Burr's capture. In the treason trial that followed, Wilkinson's story aroused suspicion. Nonetheless, he was acquitted of treason and rose to the rank of major general. Following a devastating defeat at Montreal during the War of 1812, Wilkinson retired in disgrace.