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Valiant Ambition: George Washington,…

Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the… (2016)

by Nathaniel Philbrick

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Valiant Ambition continues the story of the American Revolution after Philbrick's Bunker Hill. George Washington is the commander of the army, but the Congress is fighting, the British take New York City, and many of the new nation's soldiers are leaving after their term of service.
From the battle of Long Island, through Fort Ticonderoga, the crossing of the Delaware River and the battle of Trenton, to the final treason by Benedict Arnold, this is a glorious recounting of the birth of a nation.
Washington and Arnold are the main protagonists though many other familiar names pop up on both the American and British sides. Mr. Philbrick tells how Washington learned and grew as a general; his first battles were not especially distinguished. On the other hand, Arnold was celebrated, credited with various victories culminating in the battle of Saratoga. Arnold was also volatile and brash, thin-skinned and greedy. He spent a lot of his own money for his country but complained when he was repaid for his efforts. The two men respected each other but didn't really seem to understand each other.
The burning of Danbury, Connecticut and the burning of Ridgefield was a small section but of special interest to me as I was born there. I knew quite a bit about that history but I was surprised that Arnold fought in the battle. I remember General Wooster better as the commander of the American forces and Sybil Ludington's ride.
Mr. Philbrick always writes well. He relates history in an engaging manner. His research is impeccable; I especially enjoyed the pieces of the story of Joseph Plumb Martin, a soldier who left a diary after the war.
Fingers crossed that he will continue the next part of the history of the American Revolution, the war in the South. ( )
  N.W.Moors | Jul 16, 2018 |
Fairly straight-forward historical narrative. The author clearly has no high opinion of George Washington's generalship (although he rates high in terms of character). OTOH, he has little but praise for Arnold's exploits -- up to the time of his plot to change sides. He credits Arnold with "galvanizing a nation" and giving "this nation of traitors the greatest of gifts: a myth of creation." -- One small discrepancy I found (perhaps there are others??): He characterizes Elias Boudinot as an "army officer"; while he was commissioned a colonel in the Continental Army due to his position as commissary general of prisoners, Boudinot never served in a field command. He was basically a politician at this period of his life. ( )
  David_of_PA | Jul 14, 2018 |
Philbrick has been one of my favorite authors for quite some time now, and this new book does not disappoint. This book tells the story of George Washington and Benedict Arnold during the Revolutionary War up to the point where Arnold turns traitor and escapes to British New York. Philbrick's writing is always very well done, and that is the case here again. I love the way he can tell a story. I don't think there was much new here about Washington, but for me at least, I learned a great deal about Arnold and his actions during the war. Philbrick is also great at bringing in many side stories and the thoughts of players in and around the central figures. Highly recommended. ( )
  msaucier818 | Apr 9, 2018 |
5518. Valiant Ambition George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution, by Nathaniel Philbrick (read 11 Dec 2017) This 2016 book tells in great detail of Benedict Arnold's recklessly heroic exploits when he was a patriot and of his many quarrels and complaints over how he was treated by other American figures in the Revolution. The account of his treason, in which I was most interested, I thought not as clearly explained as it could have been--in fact, it seems to me I have read a more clear account of it heretofore, though I do not recall where. The book gives a full account of Major Andre's last days, but then hurries to a quick conclusion, with no account of what Arnold did after his evil was found out. This I thought a lack. I know the book does not hold itself out as a biography of Arnold but it would have been appropriate, I felt, to tell what became of Arnold and his wife after Arnold fled to the British. I was a bit disappointed in some aspects of the book. ( )
  Schmerguls | Dec 11, 2017 |
I enjoy reading political history and social history but I really dislike military history and unfortunately that's all this book seemed to be about, at least the first part of the book which is all I managed to read before abandoning it. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher but I wound up borrowing and listening to the audiobook from the library. The narrator didn't manage to make the book any less boring. ( )
  fhudnell | Dec 4, 2017 |
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As he was valiant,  
I honor him. 
But, as he was ambitious, 
I slew him.

 - William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar
To Melissa
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(Preface) We all know the story: how a defiant and undisciplined collection of ctizen soldiers banded together to defeat the mightiest army on earth.
By the spring of 1776, George Washington had established his army's headquarters at New York, then a wedge-shaped labyrinth of streets and lanes at the southern tip of Manhattan Island.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0525426787, Hardcover)

From the New York Times bestselling author of In The Heart of the Sea, 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Wed, 04 Nov 2015 17:15:11 -0500)

In the summer of 1776, Washington's army in Brooklyn and New York City faced one of the largest invading forces ever assembled by the British Empire. After suffering a series of devastating defeats, Washington's vulnerable and dejected troops were forced to evacuate the southern tip of Manhattan Island. Three weeks later, however, near the Canadian border, one of his favorite and most talented generals accomplished a tactical miracle by stalling the British advance in a viciously fought naval battle on Lake Champlain. An American defeat would have effectively ended the war, and it was Benedict Arnold who saved his young country from ruin. Moving beyond the storied victories at Trenton and Princeton and the ordeal of the Continental army at Valley Forge, Philbrick shows how the injuries Arnold suffered at the Battle of Saratoga set Washington's greatest fighting general on the road to treason. Arnold was an impulsive but sympathetic hero whose misfortunes at the hands of self-serving politicians undermined his faith in the legitimacy of the rebellion. By 1780, he had fled to the enemy after his failed attempt to surrender the American fortress at West Point to the British. During the same period, Washington came to embrace the full scope of leadership. The book tracks the messy collision of military and political goals and shows how the deep divisions among the American people posed a greater threat to their cause than the British army. In a new country wary of tyrants, Washington's unmatched ability to rise above the petty politics of his time enabled him to recognize the war that really mattered. In his treason, Arnold may actually have saved America. By intertwining the stories of Washington and Arnold, Philbrick reveals the dark path America traveled during its revolution. This is a portrait of a people in crisis and the war that gave birth to a nation.… (more)

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