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Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution
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August 2018: Espionage > Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution by Nathaniel Philbrick - 4 stars

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Joy D | 3433 comments Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution by Nathaniel Philbrick - 4 stars

Non-fiction about two ambitious men during the American Revolution covering the period 1776 – 1780, highlighting the similarities and differences between George Washington and Benedict Arnold. The book reveals the temperament and character of each man, which ultimately resulted in one being viewed a hero and the other a villain. Each is depicted as passionate and valiant, but only one retains a moral compass. It is told in two parts. In the first half, the author sets the stage, describing military battles, troop movements, and strategy. It furnishes the background and context for the reader. The second half picks up momentum, covering Arnold’s treachery and its immediate aftermath. It goes into depth on what happened, how, and why. The author illuminates factors that may have contributed to Arnold’s traitorous actions. I wanted to learn more about the life of Benedict Arnold, and this book filled the bill.

I thought one of the best aspects of this book was the way in which the inner turmoil of the emerging country was portrayed. At this point in U.S. history, there was no way to raise money to support the army except to obtain funds from the states. The starvation at Valley Forge was due to this lack of funds. The executive and judicial branches did not exist. The legislators engaged in power struggles which tended to take precedence over coming to agreement on a course of action. They were wary of providing too much support for a standing army, wanting to ensure the government remained in civilian hands. In addition, since citizens were not united in their desire for independence, the various factions fought each other in “neutral ground” in several states.

The book delivers accessible narrative, meticulous maps, captioned images of people and places, footnotes on each chapter, an extensive bibliography, and an index. It provided insight into the personalities of these historic figures, what motivated them, and how they handled conflict. My only quibbles were that the first half goes into a bit too much description of the military battles for my taste and the ending was very sudden, apparently leaving room for a follow-up. I had to page back to see if I had missed something. Content includes executions and war-related violence. Recommended to those interested in learning more about the American Revolution, prominent people involved, and what really happened.

This book serves as a cautionary commentary about the dangers of “self-serving opportunism masquerading as patriotism” – a lesson we can still use today.

Link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


message 2: by Jason (new)

Jason Oliver | 2063 comments Good detailed review. Sounds interesting.


message 3: by Booknblues (new)

Booknblues | 5776 comments Good review. I really like Philbrick for nonfiction. On my wishlist this goes.


message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

Wonderful review loaded with great thoughts. Benedict Arnold was an interesting character.


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