Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution (Large Print / Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

Analyzing the American Revolution is like peering into a kaleidoscope.  Twist the lens and one is confronted with an entirely different view.  Tories vs. Patriots.  George and Martha (as in Flora Fraser's 2015 book).  Red coats battling blue coats.  The mighty British Navy vs. pesky privateers.  Southern agrarians vs. New England merchants.  Nathan Hale... Alexander Hamilton... Lafayette... the list goes on.
In Philbrick's new book, the lens focuses on treachery of a particular kind -- featuring Benedict Arnold and the effect he had on what George Washington was trying to accomplish:  to actualize the Declaration of Independence.  Most know that Arnold "flipped" during the conflict.  But the author digs back into the very essence of who this Connecticut Yankee really was.  And then trails him through the War, throwing dollops of dainty and otherwise discoveries along the way. 
Where Washington was steady as a rock, Arnold was a volcanic, pretentious, petty, self-centered creature -- who, by the bye just happened to be a superb soldier.  From forever, Arnold wore a chip on his shoulder as big as Gibraltar and incessantly craved the gods of money and stature.  He could be credited with extraordinary success "generaling" on the battlefield—but he was fly paper to hatred.  A totally dysfunctional Congress did its best to snub him and deny him rank, and even basic remuneration.  He finally snapped.  Ignominiously.  With his wife reduced to madness as he fled.
But throughout the book, the author slips in slimy tales of important characters who do their best to stab others in the back.  These here United States at this time were hardly united.  Washington's key generals were running around currying Congress with lies so they could rise to the top, as cream in a milk bottle.  Congress was simply unable to support the legions of poor people who signed up to fight¸as they starved, while sleeping on frozen ground with but shredded rags to wear.  British sympathizers were lurking around every corner.  Literally, there were fourteen teams on the field:  King George III's and thirteen separate colonies.  Even the native Americans were trading loyalties as they tried to figure out who the "winner" would be.  As Henry Laurens noted at one point, "there are prompters and actors, accommodators, candle snuffers, shifters of scenes and mutes".  After Arnold "turned", Washington turned to Lafayette and asked, "Whom can we trust now?"
Most people look through the Revolutionary War's kaleidoscope and see a nascent nation struggling to break the chains of tyranny as a singular set of patriotic peoples, enmeshed in a brutal battle of attrition.  Well,  not really.  There ran a serious undertow throughout the conflict that almost dragged the whole idea of America out to sea.  Valiant Ambition is sure to inject new insights into your view of our history.

— Bob Wells

May 2016 Indie Next List

“History buffs will welcome this serious and interesting salvaging of the American Revolution from the mists of legend and folklore. This book is also a reminder that the messy, often disturbing politics of our own time are not unique, that idealism conflicts with power struggles, that both war and building a nation can have destructive consequences, and that both revolutionaries and traitors can galvanize a movement. Complex, controversial, and important.”
— Susan Thurin (W), Bookends on Main, Menomonie, WI


From the New York Times bestselling author of In The Heart of the Sea and Mayflower comes a surprising account of the middle years of the American Revolution, and the tragic relationship between George Washington and Benedict Arnold.
In September 1776, the vulnerable Continental Army under an unsure George Washington (who had never commanded a large force in battle) evacuates New York after a devastating defeat by the British Army. Three weeks later, near the Canadian border, one of his favorite generals, Benedict Arnold, miraculously succeeds in postponing the British naval advance down Lake Champlain that might have ended the war. Four years later, as the book ends, Washington has vanquished his demons and Arnold has fled to the enemy after a foiled attempt to surrender the American fortress at West Point to the British. After four years of war, America is forced to realize that the real threat to its liberties might not come from without but from within.
Valiant Ambition is a complex, controversial, and dramatic portrait of a people in crisis and the war that gave birth to a nation. The focus is on loyalty and personal integrity, evoking a Shakespearean tragedy that unfolds in the key relationship of Washington and Arnold, who is an impulsive but sympathetic hero whose misfortunes at the hands of self-serving politicians fatally destroy his faith in the legitimacy of the rebellion. As a country wary of tyrants suddenly must figure out how it should be led, Washington's unmatched ability to rise above the petty politics of his time enables him to win the war that really matters.
Product Details
ISBN: 9781594139710
ISBN-10: 1594139717
Large Print: Yes
Publisher: Large Print Press
Publication Date: May 9th, 2017
Language: English