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Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution (The American Revolution Series Book 2) Kindle Edition
Winner of the George Washington Prize
A surprising account of the middle years of the American Revolution and the tragic relationship between George Washington and Benedict Arnold, from the New York Times bestselling author of In The Heart of the Sea, Mayflower, and In the Hurricane's Eye.
"May be one of the greatest what-if books of the age—a volume that turns one of America’s best-known narratives on its head.”—Boston Globe
"Clear and insightful, [Valiant Ambition] consolidates Philbrick's reputation as one of America's foremost practitioners of narrative nonfiction."—Wall Street Journal
In the second book of his acclaimed American Revolution series, Nathaniel Philbrick turns to the tragic relationship between George Washington and Benedict Arnold. In September 1776, the vulnerable Continental army under an unsure George Washington evacuated New York after a devastating defeat by the British army. Three weeks later, one of his favorite generals, Benedict Arnold, miraculously succeeded in postponing the British naval advance down Lake Champlain that might have lost the war. As this book ends, four years later Washington has vanquished his demons, and Arnold has fled to the enemy. America was forced at last to realize that the real threat to its liberties might not come from without but from withinComplex, controversial, and dramatic, Valiant Ambition is a portrait of a people in crisis and the war that gave birth to a nation.
“A suspenseful, richly detailed, and deeply researched book about the revolutionary struggle that bound George Washington and Benedict Arnold together and almost disastrous dysfunction of America’s revolutionary government that helped drive them apart.”
—The New York Review of Books
"Clear and insightful, it consolidates his reputation as one of America's foremost practitioners of narrative nonfiction."
—Wall Street Journal
"Philbrick is both a meticulous historian and a captivating storyteller. The book has unforgettable novelistic details [and] also contains much astute historical analysis and argument. Philbrick sees Arnold not as the man who almost lost the war so much as the catalyst that helped to win it."
—Christian Science Monitor
“This is history at its most compelling: political machinations, military jostling and outright treachery. And Philbrick’s vivid writing brings the whistling cannon balls and half-frozen soldiers to life (and death) in vivid detail….He peels back the mythology to reveal a teetering war effort, a bickering Congress, discordant states unwilling to coalesce to support the new national government and — above all — a traitor who sought to sell out his own country for personal gain and achieved instead the one thing that no other revolutionary could: a unification of the Americans and an end to the war. And for that, we have much to thank Benedict Arnold."
"Benedict Arnold takes center stage in Nathaniel Philbrick’s vivid and in some ways cautionary tale of the Revolutionary War. The near-tragic nature of the drama hinges not on any military secrets Arnold gave to the British but on an open secret: the weakness of the patriot cause….Arnold’s betrayal still makes for great drama, proving once again that the supposed villains of a story are usually the most interesting."
—New York Times Book Review
“Philbrick wants his readers to experience the terror, the suffering and the adrenaline rush of battle, and he wants us to grit our teeth at our early politicians who, by their pettiness and shortsightedness, shape military events as profoundly as generals and admirals do. Finally, he reveals the emotional and physical cost of war on colonial society. He succeeds on all fronts.”
“Philbrick has the ability to take seemingly dry facts of history and turn them into exciting prose. The players come alive and their motivations are clear. The people he chronicles are legends, so revealing to the reader what makes them human, foibles and all, helps make sense of the events that transpired and why they acted the way they did.”
"Philbrick's deep scholarship, nuanced analysis, and novelistic storytelling add up to another triumph."
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“A lively account of our Revolutions’ most reviled figure.”
"An engrossing narrative of the war’s most difficult years... Philbrick argues that the quarrelsome, divided Americans needed Arnold’s perfidy as much as they did Washington’s greatness to unify their new nation. He pushes aside the patriotic myth to unveil the war’s messy reality—and it’s still a rousing adventure.”
“As another American summer crawls toward the Fourth of July, and with a presidential election creeping up like Freddy on Elm Street, Nathaniel Philbrick offers some beach reading to remind us that outsized egos and a dysfunctional Congress were as much at issue in 1776 as they are now — if that’s any comfort...Valiant Ambition colorfully reconstructs the character-driven battles that defined the Revolutionary War.”
“Look, you’re not getting tickets to Hamilton. If he were alive, George Washington himself couldn’t get tickets to Hamilton. Here’s a cheaper alternative…a new look at the first American president and contrasts him with our most famous traitor.”
—The Miami Herald
Praise for Bunker Hill
"A masterpiece of narrative and perspective."
"A tour de force . . ."
"Popular history at its best—a taut narrative with a novelist's touch, grounded in careful research."
"A story that resonates with leadership lessons for all times."
—Walter Isaacson, The Washington Post
"A gripping book."
—The Wall Street Journal
About the Author
- ASIN : B0141ZP36A
- Publisher : Penguin Books (May 10, 2016)
- Publication date : May 10, 2016
- Language : English
- File size : 41482 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 443 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #88,462 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
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I am a huge fan of Revolutionary War biographies. And I am a huge Nathaniel Philbrick fan, but this is not his best effort. His story-telling style is still strong and his way of melding the story and history is still engaging. However, from the very start, this book emits an odd purpose to which the facts are stretched to fit. Washington is portrayed as a virtual incompetent, stumped and duped by Arnold and others at every turn, and Arnold as a lucky pretender who "almost" causes calamity before he finally fulfills his egomania as a traitor. These two pre-announced characterizations are repeated over and over again in furtherance of a theme: the Revolution hung by a thread with incompetence (and incompetents) abounding and circumstances falling just right. It seems like a strong revisionist intent about this War (or all wars?) over-whelmed the author's research.
Other histories of Arnold supply much more detail on his personality, as well as on such things as the invasion of Canada, Valcour Island and Saratoga. I was left dismayed by this book's lack of detail and credit given to Arnold, which is replaced by character deprecating language speculating on his REAL motives at each step. Even more striking is how he does a similar thing with Washington who, if you read Chernow's account, is anything but the shallow-thinking reactive bungler that Philbrick portrays.
I strongly suggest that ne read both: "Washington, A Life", by Chernow and then Sterne's: "Patriot and Traitor". These two books give a much more balanced presentation of both characters and their pivotal roles in the War. They present the men as human beings, with many strengths and weaknesses, not as easily understood and criticized role players moving to their inevitable fate.
Interestingly, in his earlier book, "Bunker Hill", Philbrick treated another patriot very differently. Hepractically canonized Dr. Joseph Warren who was indeed a patriot, but in a very limited arena, in one colony, and for a very short time, calling him "indispensable" to the Revolution. And yet, Washington and Arnold who were largely responsible for the survival of the cause of 13 barely united colonies, and the only major victories the army had for nearly 4 years thereafter, as well as enticing the French into the War, are framed as lucky but flawed participants in a War that played out by chance. Odd?
Might one suspect the author - a native of Nantucket - of being slightly Boston-ophobic? I urge you to read the other works about these two fascinating and important men and make up your own mind.
Besides the British, the greatest problem for Washington is the incessant meddling in his affairs by the Continental Congress, which for the most part appears to be acting on behalf of the special interests of the various state factions that form the government. This also creates major problems for Arnold, who is passed over many times for legitimate promotions in rank, by a disapproving Congress. It is possible that his treason would not have occurred had Congress behaved in a fair and equitable way and properly recognized his military accomplishments.
As the book draws to a conclusion, the author describes Arnold's predictable slide into treason, the part of the story we are all know from the version of American History taught in grade school. Some reviews say that the book ends without a proper conclusion. I am guessing that they would like more information on Arnold after he defected and some more details on his military exploits under the British Flag. But I think the author, being a writer interested in American History, might have another book in mind as a sequel to this one. All in all I think the author provided a well balanced and unbiased description of events.
I found the TV miniseries TURN, about Washington's Spy Ring, to provide a very interesting look at this period. Clearly the screenwriters have taken some Hollywood liberties concerning historical accuracy. Although the focus is on espionage, it covers the battles of the period starting around late 1776 to the end of 1781 with the siege of Yorktown. And besides the main characters of the Spy Ring, it includes a good portrayal of George Washington and Benedict Arnold and takes on the whole affair of Arnold's treason, including the roles of Andre and Peggy Shippen. It also goes beyond Philbrick's book to let us know the fate of these characters after the revolution.
I can also recommend another book for Revolutionary War history buffs: The Life of George Washington, by John Marshall. Besides a complete biography of Washington, the book covers all the military battles fought throughout the 13 colonies and Canada. It is also where I first learned about the Continental Congress interfering with Washington's prosecution of the war. Post war, when Washington is President, it describes some of the major events, particularly the delicate problem of the French Revolution, that affected his presidency. It is an interesting book if you like American History.
As with all of Philbrick's books that I've read, Valiant Ambition is an excellent read; it's engaging and compelling. It truly is a book that I found hard to put down. It appears to be well researched; it's extensively end-noted and it appears that he used a lot of primary source material including correspondence between and from the subjects involved. It was very easy to give this book five stars. As I mentioned in the opening, it's very much a book worth reading, whether you're interested in History or not because it explores an important, pivotal event in our nation's history
Top reviews from other countries
But the main thrust of this book is the War and it's battles. I personally prefer social and political history; war doesn't interest me much. So, I don't enjoy reading about battles. But if you like this sort of thing, than Philbrick's book is well written and informative. There is a bit of a cliff-hanger ending, too. As I know we won in the end, that is obviously not a surprise, but i don't know the particulars. The book ends with Nethanael Greene writing a letter to his wife and heading South to confront Cornwallis. I had to look up what happens to him. If your knowledge of the War itself extends no more than fifth grade, like mine, than this was genuinely a suspenseful ending. Although I guess it wasn't intended that way.
Philbrick is a good writer, I loved his book on the Mayflower, and this one is worthwhile too. Just be aware, it's primarily a war book.
I spent a week taking my time and savoring this book.
In a way, I wish I had realised that there were so many good portraits at the end of the book - but it was good to take my time going through the supporting notes as well.
Highly, highly recommended!
Nadine in Scotland