Tag Archives: Benedict Arnold

Review: Valiant Ambition by Nathaniel Philbrick

4 Stars

The full title of this book is Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold and the Fate of the American Revolution.  This book focuses on the middle years of the American Revolution and the relationship that George Washington had with the now infamous Benedict Arnold.  Most of us know only what we’ve read in our history books.  That Washington was the hero of the revolution and Arnold was a traitor who defected back to the British when he didn’t get his way.  He became America’s best known traitor and Washington became America’s greatest President.  If only it were that simple.

This isn’t a book for everyone.  This is definitely a book for those who have a love of history and just want to learn more.  It doesn’t read like a novel by any means, but there is still an element of suspense as the reader is taken from the early days of the Revolutionary War and follows the paths of both Arnold and Washington as they make their way through history.  The choices that each of them made changed the course of a war and the building of a nation.

Very few people recognize Benedict Arnold as anything other than a traitor to his nation.  There is no doubt that he was a traitor.  But what led this man, who was once a revered leader and passionate believer in the revolutionary cause, to turn coat and go back to the British side?  He was once hailed as the Hero of Saratoga.  He was injured twice in battle but still begged to be able to do his part for the Cause.  Brash, uncouth and self-important, Benedict Arnold ruffled feathers and rubbed people the wrong way everywhere he went.  He was passed over for promotion repeatedly and he felt that he was not being used to his potential.

This book takes you into the events that led up to Arnold’s decision to turn away from the American cause and go back to the side of the British.  He believed he was doing the right thing, or at least that was how he was trying to spin it.  Benedict Arnold had only one cause, himself.  The selfish whims of one man nearly brought about the end of the fight for independence.  Instead of bringing about the downfall of the American fight for their independence, his actions brought about a change in how most citizens felt about this long war and only strengthened their resolve to win this war.

I would recommend this to anyone who has a love of history and a fascination with the Revolutionary War.  My only dislike was that it wasn’t totally linear in fashion, it did jump around quite a bit and lots of back and forth.  But it was still a very good read and gives new insight into who Benedict Arnold was and what his motivations were.  There is an extensive bibliography at the end as well as portraits and drawings of the key figures and events.


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Filed under Historical, Non-Fiction