On a bitter cold day in January 1741, Benedict Arnold was born. Little did anyone know that he would grow up to become the most infamous villain in American history. But first, he would be one of the country's greatest war heroes. Fearless in the line of fire, a genius at strategy and motivating his men, General Arnold was America's first action hero. But his thirst for recognition would ultimately be his undoing. Hopeless at political maneuvers, prone to outbursts of ego and temper, Arnold saw his fame slowly slipping away. And so, he came up with a plan that would guarantee his place in history....
Packed with gripping first-person accounts, astonishing battle scenes, and shocking betrayals, this accessible biography proves that there's more than one side to every good story.
©2010 Steve Sheinkin (P)2012 Listening Library
Fast moving biography of a guy that was one of the greatest US commanders fighting the British, before he made a really stupid decision. Lot's of interesting detail about Arnold's family, early years, path to glory, path to ruin and final years.
Sheinkin provided a lot of insight into Arnold and while we may never truly know what caused Arnold to turn traitor, he provides a plausible explanation.
The historical detail and the insight into the back-stabbing and gamesmanship that our early founding fathers engaged in with each other.
It would be easy to listen to this story again for a second.
We all know about Benedict Arnold but most books about the Revolution only give passing reference to his main sin (i.e. trying to turn over West Point to the British). This book gives us a far deeper and interesting story about the man and what drove him to change sides. No big surprise to learn it came down to "money" and "sex" (i.e. his young pretty wife). But that is okay - because the story gets you to the conclusion in a very interesting way. What was really good was the way the author structured the story - the juxaposition between the British Officer who would meet his fate at the gallows and Benedict Arnold. From the opening chaper of the narrative I was revited by the story
Benedict Arnold was a fascinating individual, a gutsy and brilliant military leader, who most likely saved the cause of the American revolution long before he sought to destroy it. If you are unfamiliar with the details of his treason the last part of this book reads like a thriller in which you can't wait to see what happens next as the intrigue unfolds. This is history which not only shines a light upon the characters and their actions, but also gives you a feel for this historical time: the mores and customs, the technology and the means of warfare, so that you get a sense of what it was actually like to live during the era of the American Revolution.
I came into this book with high hopes to understand Benedict Arnold, a character rarely dealt with in other books beyond the "High School History:" He was a great general, betrayed the American Revolution, and escaped into the British Army. Most books do not spend more than a paragraph or two discussing him so I was hopeful this would give me a fuller fleshing out of the story.
I was very disappointed at the beginning. The author covered his childhood through first marriage (and first widowhood) in about 20 minutes. It was not very in depth at all, almost none of the fun details and anecdotes I have come to expect. His description of the beginning of Arnold's involvement in the Revolution like his attempted invasion of Canada were covered in "connect-a-quote" style with him stringing together long strings of journal entries. At this point I was prepared to give the book 1-2 stars.
Then came the battles at Lake Champlain (particularly Valcour Island). This is where the author really found his stride and it was a FANTASTIC reading after that point. He began paralleling the life of John Andre and Benedict Arnold, even a serendipitous meeting between Andre and Henry Knox. He began to shed light on Arnold's character that, while not justifying what he did, at least attempted to make it understandable.
The rest of the book was full of the anecdotes, insights and stories that I had been expecting and hoping for. Its story of his time at Saratoga and his run-ins with General Gates were well told and interesting. This book shot from being a big disappointment to one of the books I will likely listen to again and again, although probably skipping the first hour or two as I did not find them to be very good.
The only negative I found in the rest of the book was a habit the author sometimes slipped into: editorializing. He would insert sentences like "What was Arnold thinking?" and one can imagine him slapping himself in the forehead. These comments kind of broke up the flow he had established and was, in my opinion, self-indulgent on the part of the author.
Even with this, it could not overshadow the writing and the unbelievable true story of what happened and what nearly happened during Arnold's betrayal. It could have worked at so many points, and had it all come together the Revolution likely would have ended there.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Revolutionary War history. It should be a must read.
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