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.”
"Clear and insightful, it consolidates his reputation as one of America's foremost practitioners of narrative nonfiction."
—Wall Street Journal
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.
By recounting inconvenient truths, including "how patriotic zeal had lapsed into cynicism and self-interest," Philbrick once again casts new light on a period of American history with which many readers may assume familiarity. He relates the four years of the Revolutionary War (1776 1780) in a compulsively readable and fascinating narrative, prefacing his account with a provocative description of what really happened during the American Revolution, which was "so troubling and strange that once the struggle was over, a generation did its best to remove all traces of the truth." Philbrick makes vivid and memorable the details of numerous military engagements and reliably punctures any preconceptions that the rebels' victory was inevitable. Eye-openers abound, such as how British general John Burgoyne's use of Native American warriors backfired, as "even more than their love of liberty, the New Englanders' multigenerational fear of native peoples was what finally moved them to rise up and extirpate" the British. Balancing his portrayals of the protagonists, Philbrick presents Washington's weaknesses as a military commander without apology and contextualizes Arnold's eventual betrayal of his country in the context of a long list of slights against him. Philbrick's deep scholarship, nuanced analysis, and novelistic storytelling add up to another triumph. Maps.
Customer ReviewsSee All
GOOD BUT FOR THE ENDING
I greatly enjoyed this book. As I have other Philbrick books. It kept me reading. The ending however left me flat footed. I wanted more. I would have liked to see how Arnold's life continued in England and until his death.