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Blood of Tyrants: George Washington & the Forging of the Presidency
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PRESIDENTIAL SERIES > 7. BLOOD OF TYRANTS ~ September 23rd ~ September 29th ~~ CHAPTERS 21 - 23 ~ (180 - 208) No-Spoilers

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Bryan Craig Chapter Overviews and Summaries

Chapter Twenty One: Gentleman Johnny vs. Granny Gates


General William Howe was looking to secure the Hudson River and Lake Champlain, giving the British access to Canada. General Henry Clinton took Fort Montgomery in October 1777.

The British moved up the Hudson and General Horatio Gates met the British force under John Burgoyne in the Battle of Freeman's Farm. Howe never sent support armies for Clinton and the Americans beat Burgoyne and later beat the British at the Battle of Saratoga the next month. These victories helped France enter the war on the American side.

Chapter Twenty Two: A Traitor Lurks

After Saratoga, Clinton took over command from Howe. Clinton wanted to crush the revolt, but was ordered to pull out of Philadelphia and face a longer and expanded war with the French.

The Continental Army was training under Baron von Steuben, and in June 1778, the Americans fought Clinton at the Battle of Monmouth. General Lee did not attack as Washington wanted in this battle, so Washington took over. Lee was convicted for disobeying orders and suspended. In return, Lee slandered Washington, but his career was over after fighting a duel with John Laurens.

General Benedict Arnold was an ambitious and vain officer who wanted more money in his pockets. He also had a hard time fitting into the patriot cause. He was having an affair with a Loyalist named Margaret Shippen while in Philadelphia. Arnold also entered a profiteering scheme, and he was arrested, but acquitted. Washington remained silent during Arnold's ordeal and Arnold felt betrayed.

Chapter Twenty Three: Treason of the Blackest Dye

In 1778, the Continental Army built West Point as a barricade stop the British from going up the Hudson. Arnold wanted to command this fort and began to send intelligence to General Clinton through a man named John Andre. Washington gave Arnold the West Point command and Arnold began to find weaknesses in the fort, clear the nearby forest, and take down the Hudson river barricade.

Arnold and Andre arranged a meeting to review a British attack on West Point. Andre's ship was fired upon and Arnold and Andre ended up at Joshua Smith's house to hide.


Bryan Craig Ok, what were your first impressions of Benedict Arnold?


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Jim wrote: "First impressions: a talented military leader; someone interested in acquiring wealth; an individual who did receive the accolades that his accomplishments - both in the invasion of Canada and in ..."

Narcissist. Self-absorbed. Egotistical. Great potential but misguided. Self serving. Seems his entire life a shadow loomed. Sad.


David (nusandman) | 111 comments I've always found Arnold a very complex character in history. Today his very name is equated with being a traitor. Yet by some accounts, the events such as the profiteering scheme, were orchestrated by his enemies. But ultimately, he made a bad decision and he paid dearly for it in the annals of history.


message 5: by Bryan (last edited Sep 24, 2013 07:56AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bryan Craig Great answers everyone. Yeah, you definitely get the impression where he comes first, not the revolution. And he was in a pretty powerful place with GW's trust, too. Bitter.

I agree, David, he is a complex and fascinating person. It seems he felt for the cause at first, but over time, he changes (or his financial needs change).

I think he is an illustration of how difficult a revolution can be sustained, where you have self-interested individuals vs. a greater cause.

Do you think Arnold wanted the British to win, or did he just want the money?


Mark Mortensen Bryan wrote: "Do you think Arnold wanted the British to win, or did he just want the money?"

A general seeking fortune while having an intimate affair with rival Loyalist Margaret Shippen sounds like material for a fictional novel, but it’s all history. The passion within Arnold was clearly not the same as with General Washington or the common farmer seeking revolutionary independence. It may be possible that over time Arnold simply wanted money and women and did not care who won the war. He is complex.


Tomi | 161 comments I think he just wanted the money. I don't think Arnold had thought things through enough to realize what a predicament he would be in once the war was over, no matter who won. Surely he didn't think that the British would trust him or welcome him and of course he had ruined his chances with the Americans.


Bryan Craig I suspect you are right Mark and Tomi. Arnold seems to be out for himself.


Teri (teriboop) I think Arnold was driven by the money but I think he was also driven by anger. He was "Angered by the Crown's rising taxes..."(pg 190), "...a hatred for the French."(pg 189), and after his his scandal of embezzlement charges "Arnold snapped."(pg 198) He seemed to want some kind of revenge and went with the side that was against whomever was his current irritant. I think he was brash and only concerned about himself and his well being. After being born into some prominence and then watching his dad drink it all away, he worked to regain what was loss and was really left angry.


Phillip (philbertk) | 55 comments Chapter 4 on Benedict Arnold and American Military Justice. I had never read a description of the details of Arnold's treason. People do strange things for strange reasons. It seems he got away with it even if he did not get his 20000 payment.


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G Hodges (glh1) | 901 comments Yes to all his personality faults, but what would have happened to the colonies if he hadn't orchestrated the victory at Saratoga? Other generals in other wars have had egos that have been inconsistent with the US's rather hypocritical view that our war leaders have to keep their hands clean while destroying the enemy.

In my opinion, he was personally flawed but he was a brilliant tactician under the hard hand of a commander with real ego problems (Gates). I wonder if there is a military equivalent to intellectual property? If there is, his was violated. My sympathy for Arnold might be tainted by an experience with a boss not unlike Gates. I don't condone his treason. But I do see how he could be pushed to the brink. A stronger person would have found other ways, but he wasn't and is condemned to the black list of history because of it.


Bryan Craig Teri wrote: "I think Arnold was driven by the money but I think he was also driven by anger. He was "Angered by the Crown's rising taxes..."(pg 190), "...a hatred for the French."(pg 189), and after his his sc..."

Good, Teri, anger, a good motivator. I have not thought about this angle.


Bryan Craig Phillip wrote: "Chapter 4 on Benedict Arnold and American Military Justice. I had never read a description of the details of Arnold's treason. People do strange things for strange reasons. It seems he got away ..."

I agree, Phillip, people do strange things and a war is so complex, it is easy to try to enrich yourself or sell secrets, etc.


Bryan Craig G wrote: "Yes to all his personality faults, but what would have happened to the colonies if he hadn't orchestrated the victory at Saratoga? Other generals in other wars have had egos that have been inconsis..."

Some great points, G. Things don't happen in a vacuum. I wonder what would have happened if Arnold was directly under GW and GW was there watching, maybe given him some praise.

This leads me to General Lee at the Battle of Monmouth. What was going on there that Gates didn't attack?


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Todd (todsisson) | 18 comments Phillip wrote: "Chapter 4 on Benedict Arnold and American Military Justice. I had never read a description of the details of Arnold's treason. People do strange things for strange reasons. It seems he got away ..."

I guess I have a sort of strange sympathy for Arnold. Maybe it's because his name has become synonymous with being a traitor, but I agree with you Phillip when you say "people do strange things for strange reasons."

There aren't any doubts to me of the wrongness of what he intended to do; but I look at him as a victim of the system.

Bryan, that's a great question. It's easy to see that Washington put a lot of trust in Arnold. If he'd been working directly with Washington he probably wouldn't have felt like he was banging his head against a wall trying to get noticed for his contributions.

That being said, I think there are some people that just rub others the wrong way. It's interesting to see the relational element play out on such a big stage. But I think seeing how the local government in Philadelphia treated Arnold, and the way they hamstrung Washington in his ability to defend him, just shows that Arnold was just one of those people who burned so many bridges he trapped himself on his own little island.


Bryan Craig Indeed, Todd, there is a large element of politics in generalship and Arnold did not seem to have these skills.


Logan Beirne | 140 comments Todd wrote: "Phillip wrote: "Chapter 4 on Benedict Arnold and American Military Justice. I had never read a description of the details of Arnold's treason. People do strange things for strange reasons. It se..."

I agree Todd - I think Arnold is a great reminder that the "bad guys" often rationalize that they are doing the right thing.

When I look at Arnold, I see a complicated man with many faults. But he also had some great virtues, particularly his smarts! It is such a waste that he was able to convince himself (with some help from Peggy) that he should give up on his new nation. He seemed to believe that the Republic was unsalvageable and our only choice was to return to the British.

What a shame - he could have been one of our great founders.


Bryan Craig Interesting, Logan, I haven't thought of "what if" for Arnold, but if he stayed loyal to the revolution, he would have been a great asset to the U.S., no doubt.


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Bryan Craig We can turn out attention for a moment on General Howe. Why do you think he didn't support Clinton and was pretty indecisive?

What role do you think fighting a war overseas in the 18th century played?


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Todd (todsisson) | 18 comments Howe's indecisiveness to me seems to speak to overconfidence. Almost like the urgency wasn't there because he had a "We can whip them in the spring just the same as we could whip them now" kind of mentality.

I can also see how occupying major American cities could cause Howe to have a little less urgency. They were covered with food and shelter, didn't have to worry about the cold, and to top it off all these officers seemed to have their girls on the side. If life is that cushy, why shake it up?


Bryan Craig Overconfidence, well said. Howe believed in the standard way of war: capture cities and the capital and win.

I agree, I think the officers had it pretty good and Clinton brought something different.


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Jerome | 4310 comments Mod
Plus Howe was sympathetic to the American cause, that might have caused him to exercise some restraint. It must have dampened his enthusiasm to some degree.


Bryan Craig Good point, Jerome; I think you are right. And if you have a officer that you can't communicate with on a quickly, regular basis, it takes time to replace him. But London quickly lost patience.


Bryan Craig Putting yourself in Andre’s boots, would you (or could you) have done anything differently?


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Bryan wrote: "Great answers everyone. Yeah, you definitely get the impression where he comes first, not the revolution. And he was in a pretty powerful place with GW's trust, too. Bitter.

I agree, David, he i..."


Arnold is a slippery little devil. My opinion he wanted money, women - He certainly seemed all about himself.


Robyn (rplouse) | 73 comments The Benedict Arnold story is interesting. I'm not sure what I'd have done in Andre's position. It must have been really awkward for him to help the guy who married a woman he cared for to commit treason. I wonder if it lowered his opinion of Peggy to know that she married a man who would betray everything he had worked for in exchange for the possibility of financial gain. If I remember the story correctly, I think Benedict takes off and basically abandons Peggy to handle things herself. What a great guy, huh?


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Mark (mwl1) Logan wrote: "Todd wrote: "Phillip wrote: "Chapter 4 on Benedict Arnold and American Military Justice. I had never read a description of the details of Arnold's treason. People do strange things for strange re..."

I agree Logan, as I read these chapters the thought that kept coming to me was that it is really too bad he let issues get to him like he did. It is sad to see talent and potential like his wasted. I would imagine that with the trust he had from Washington he would have been able to have a significant impact had he decided to commit to the american cause.


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Bryan wrote: "We can turn out attention for a moment on General Howe. Why do you think he didn't support Clinton and was pretty indecisive?

What role do you think fighting a war overseas in the 18th century pl..."


Clinton - Howe pure power struggle. Out besting each other

The rivalry between Clinton - Howe, Clinton trying to outdo Howe was a waste in the big picture. Team work might have been the key


Logan Beirne | 140 comments Mal wrote: "Bryan wrote: "We can turn out attention for a moment on General Howe. Why do you think he didn't support Clinton and was pretty indecisive?

What role do you think fighting a war overseas in the 1..."


I love how Mal boils things down so astutely. Want to help with the next book? haha


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Jason Smith | 8 comments Sorry I'm a little late to the Arnold discussion, but I always wonder what it would have been like to be in his shoes. Obviously, he ended up on the wrong side of history and this type of treason is hardly justifiable, but I think it is interesting to get inside of his mind a little bit. He must have felt that he was making a tactile move that would have landed him handsome rewards if the British won the war. After weighing the odds it might have seemed like being a traitor to the colonies was worth being on the winning side and not being labelled a traitor to his mother country. I do not condone his actions and I find it despicable that he would have done that to those men he had labored with, but I like to try to understand the characters as best I can to see why they do what they do. Thank you for this account Logan! I learned a ton about this event that I didn't know before.


Bryan Craig Thanks everyone for your great comments.

Jason, I think you have it right, Arnold gambled and felt it was worth it. Mal, you probably got it right, money and women and himself.


Bryan Craig Yeah, Clinton wanted to run the team, not be a underling. If they had their heads on straight, they could have accomplished a lot more victories and changed history.


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Katy (kathy_h) Interesting chapters. I really don't think I got much of the story of Arnold's treachery before, so it was nice to have the story fleshed out. It seems that these young men had a lot of pressure on them to do well without actually working at a trade.


Bryan Craig Pressure, indeed, Kathy. I guess Arnold's trade was to make money.


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Katy (kathy_h) Bryan wrote: "Pressure, indeed, Kathy. I guess Arnold's trade was to make money."

Yes and I think that may have been upsetting to him. I think he just wanted to have money and not have to work for it.


Bryan Craig Well said. I remember that great Dire Straits rock song "Money for Nothing." It could be Arnold's anthem, lol.


Logan Beirne | 140 comments Jason wrote: "Sorry I'm a little late to the Arnold discussion, but I always wonder what it would have been like to be in his shoes. Obviously, he ended up on the wrong side of history and this type of treason i..."

Great Jason! It is amazing how much they gloss over in the history books.

When I started digging into these issues, I quickly understood that saying "fact is stranger than fiction".


Mary Ellen | 184 comments Both Arnold and Clinton had issues with being subordinate to someone who was less talented, or anyway, was making mistakes. It must be very frustrating....but I think in the military, in business, in many contexts, people have the experience of having a superior take credit for their successes...


Bryan Craig Indeed, Mary Ellen. War can propel glory and a career, so it is tempting to take as much credit as you can.


Sarah | 28 comments I don't think Arnold cared either way, he certainly wasn't a patriot and not a true loyalist, but would likely jump to which ever side he could benefit from at the time. Despite his earlier accomplishments the end result is what I think truly matters. I enjoyed this section and am looking forward to learning more about what happens to Arnold and his co-conspirators.


Bryan Craig Good points. Financial comfort seemed most important


Logan Beirne | 140 comments Bryan wrote: "Indeed, Mary Ellen. War can propel glory and a career, so it is tempting to take as much credit as you can."

Speaking of credit, Arnold fought alongside Ethan Allen at Ticonderoga. I did not get into it as much as I had wanted since it would have thrown off the chronology of the book (and confuse the overarching narrative) but it is a great little saga.

The two men were so different, you can imagine how that went - they hated each other! It was comical how Arnold tried to assert his authority as presiding officer but Allen basically ignored him and attacked when he pleased.

After the victory, the two men sparred over who should take credit. In a war of words, they each chronicled their version of events, deriding the other along the way.


Bryan Craig Good points, Jodi, there is some sympathy, or maybe understanding on where he is coming from. However, you are right, it is another to step on your colleagues, friends, and betray the cause.


David Thomas (phillydave82) | 18 comments The New York campaign was certainly important for both the Americans and British. If the British had managed to cut off New England from the rest of the colonies then the American cause would have been in serious jeopardy. However, the Americans were able to achieve victory at Saratoga which ultimately brought France and also Spain into the war on their side which would prove disasterous to the British. Also the Americans were able to achieve a draw of sorts with the British at Monmouth Courthouse and this saw Charles Lee's true colors be exposed to Washington. However, this period also saw many actions be taken against Benedict Arnold (the true hero of Saratoga and not Gates). While most of the action that was taken against Arnold during this time prior to his treason was warranted, Arnold was certainly in the right to feel slighted though one might say he might have responded differently (and not felt as hurt by Washington's inaction) had he known of the blackmail against Washington courtesy of the governor of Pennsylvania.


Bryan Craig Good summary, David. You forget that Arnold was a great field commander, and he got the U.S. victories. But, I agree, his response was "nuclear."


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Tomi | 161 comments One of the bits of trivia that I threw into my lectures when I taught American History is that there is a statue of Arnold's boot at Saratoga National Park - because he was wounded in the leg fighting for the Patriot cause, that's the only part of him that wasn't a traitor!


Bryan Craig Tomi wrote: "One of the bits of trivia that I threw into my lectures when I taught American History is that there is a statue of Arnold's boot at Saratoga National Park - because he was wounded in the leg fight..."

Love it, Tomi.


Bryan Craig Thanks Libby, I guess being in debt was considered a bad thing in society.


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