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Book Review

‘Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution’



By Nathaniel Philbrick


May 10, 2016

Hardcover $30

Prep Iowa

448 Pages

Nathaniel Philbrick presents a detailed examination of George Washington and Benedict Arnold during the Revolutionary War. While Washington is generally known as the Father of the Country, Philbrick is very clear that Washington was a rather incompetent general at the beginning of the war, losing far more battles than he won. By comparison, book 6.23Benedict Arnold was a successful leader at the beginning of the war. The development of their leadership skills was likewise in opposition: Washington grew into the general we revere today, while Arnold travels the road leading to his treachery.

Philbrick takes time to fully describe Arnold’s growing frustration at the many slights he perceives.  He is especially offended at the repeated refusals for promotion from the Continental Congress, whose members are fixed on making promotions even-handed to each state rather than based on merit. He is angered that he has devoted his wealth and health to the revolution without receiving the recognition he feels is deserved.  His slide to treason starts, in part, with his attempts to replace his wealth.

As the war progresses, the early patriotic fervor is lost as states and Congress fail to develop the funding needed to support the revolution.  As is true of many wars, there are multitudes willing to profit from it but not so many willing to fight.  Arnold started out willing to fight but descended into war profiteering, and in the end, into treason.  CV


Harriet Leitch retired to enjoy her grandchildren, garden, dogs, flute and to return to her love of books.

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