The name Benedict Arnold survives today as a synonym for treachery. Author James Kirby Martin points out that Arnold's life, however, was not a simple black-and-white morality play--high-school textbook narratives to the contrary. Indeed, under different circumstances the American Judas might have gone down in history as the most revered military leader of the Revolutionary War, save George Washington. "His treason was shocking because of the magnitude of his contributions to the Revolutionary effort," writes Kirby, a professor at the University of Houston. In this revisionist account, Kirby suggests that Arnold was more a victim of his own inept political skills than a slave to base motives. A complex psychology was at work as well: Arnold always felt underappreciated by his colleagues, especially after victories at Saratoga. Benedict Arnold, Revolutionary Hero
presents a detailed account of an often misunderstood man.
From Library Journal
Arnold is the best-known traitor in U.S. history. In this revisionist study, Martin (history, Univ. of Houston) directs attention to a less-well-known period of his subject's life. During the years before he became a turncoat, he was a devoted, skilled, and courageous Revolutionary officer. Had the war ended in 1780, the year Arnold switched allegiance, he would have likely been remembered as one of the most accomplished American military leaders of the War for Independence. However, he rightfully believed his contributions were undervalued and insufficiently rewarded. Martin presents an outstanding analysis of Arnold's pretreason years; his grasp of the details of Arnold's life and the context of the era are extraordinary. Readers will be frustrated by the author's failure to provide more than a brief summary of Arnold's years after treason, but this work is strongly recommended.?Charles K. Piehl, Mankato State Univ., Minn.
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