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Treacherous Beauty: Peggy Shippen, The Woman Behind Benedict Arnold's Plot To Betray America Hardcover – July 3, 2012


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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Treacherous Beauty fills an important gap in American history with its in-depth narrative of the treason of Benedict Arnold and his beautiful young wife, Peggy. This excellent book is also the story of a star-crossed love affair beyond anything that a playwright could imagine.”
—Arthur S. Lefkowitz, author of George Washington’s Indispensable Men
 
“Treacherous Beauty is history at its most engaging: familiar in its context, but surprising, even enlightening, in its detail. It is, in fact, surprising that those who care about America’s past have not been enlightened about Peggy Shippen before.”
—Eric Burns, author of Virtue, Valor, and Vanity
 
“At last, a serious work on one of the most fascinating and little known women in American history! Peggy Shippen was so much more that the wife of the famous traitor—she was a women with a foot in two worlds, an American whose life serves as a perfect illustration of the wild complexities of the Revolution. With Treacherous Beauty Mark Jacob and Stephen H. Case have done ample justice to the life and times of their subject with this fair-minded, well researched, and finely crafted biography, a gift to students of the Revolution eager to dig beneath the well worn surface of that conflict’s history.”
—James L. Nelson, author of Benedict Arnold’s Navy
 
"Chicago Tribune deputy metro editor Jacob and Case, an American Revolution Center board member, detail Peggy’s role as go-between and document her later life in London. They succeed in capturing the period atmosphere as they adroitly interweave military maneuvers with the shadowy machinations. The book also benefits from rarely studied correspondence by Peggy to her son Edward provided by her descendant Hugh Arnold." --Publishers Weekly

From the Inside Flap

Histories of the Revolutionary War have long honored heroines such as Betsy Ross, Abigail Adams, and Molly Pitcher. Now, more than two centuries later, comes the first biography of one of the war’s most remarkable women, a beautiful Philadelphia society girl named Peggy Shippen. While war was raging between England and its rebellious colonists, Peggy befriended a suave British officer and then married a crippled revolutionary general twice her age. She brought the two men together in a treasonous plot that nearly turned George Washington into a prisoner and changed the course of the war. Peggy Shippen was Mrs. Benedict Arnold.

After the conspiracy was exposed, Peggy managed to convince powerful men like Washington and Alexander Hamilton of her innocence. The Founding Fathers were handicapped by the common view that women lacked the sophistication for politics or warfare, much less treason. And Peggy took full advantage.

Peggy was to the American Revolution what the fictional Scarlett O’Hara was to the Civil War: a woman whose survival skills trumped all other values. Had she been a man, she might have been
arrested, tried, and executed. And she might have become famous. Instead, her role was minimized and she was allowed to recede into the background—with a generous British pension in hand.
 
In Treacherous Beauty, Mark Jacob and Stephen H. Case tell the true story of Peggy Shippen, a driving force in a conspiracy that came within an eyelashof dooming the American democracy.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Lyons Press (July 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 076277388X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0762773886
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #249,867 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By the happy beast on July 31, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The farther I get into Treacherous Beauty, the harder it is to put down. This book reads like a novel, but is full of facts. It just goes to prove that fact can be more interesting than fiction. The authors did a wonderful job creating a book that is enjoyable and informative. History can be boring - this book isn't. There's enough of everything to be an enjoyable read for both men and women. So often, books written about women only appeal to women, books written about men only (and wartimes) only appeal to men. Not Treacherous Beauty. It's easy to see that hours and miles went into researching the facts about the Shippens, the Arnolds, the other folks involved, and the events. Read, learn and enjoy!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on September 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Every American schoolchild knows that Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag, although this story may well be untrue. Few know the name of Peggy Shippen, who had much more direct effect on the events of the American Revolution. Betsy Ross was a seamstress, however, and Peggy Shippen was a conspirator, a role that clashed with her being a female. She also was a conspirator on the losing side, as she was the wife and helpmeet of the far more notorious Benedict Arnold. Historians have uncovered her role, one that her contemporaries did not believe, but her story still is relatively unknown. In _Treacherous Beauty: Peggy Shippen, the Woman Behind Benedict Arnold's Plot to Betray America_ (Lyons Press), Mark Jacob and Stephen H. Case haven't so much brought out new facts about Shippen, but rather they have told her story vividly and with sympathy. Shippen was regarded in her time as a woman wronged and disgraced by her husband, and that might have been true, but not for the reasons people thought. She was active in the plotting for the British cause.

Shippen's father was a businessman in Philadelphia, and tried to stay neutral during the conflict so as to keep profits coming in. He knew Washington, and dined with the family in 1774 when Peggy was fourteen. When the war came, the British invaded Philadelphia, and the beautiful Peggy took advantage of the social whirl brought by the British officers, especially the dashing and creative John André. He and Peggy kept an affectionate correspondence going even through the war, but the suitor that won her was Benedict Arnold. He had a brilliant record in battle, but was hotheaded, quarrelsome, greedy, and scheming.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Kim Burdick on June 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
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A great new release!

The story of Margaret Shippen, the Philadelphia socialite who flirted with Major Andre and married Benedict Arnold, has long been a popular part of Philadelphia's oral history. Case and Jacob's new book examines the facts that support the old tales.

"Treacherous Beauty" includes a detailed look at the Meschianza, John Andre's fabled send-off for General Howe, a comprehensive examination of Benedict Arnold's shady business deals, his traitorous shenanigans at West Point, and a decent study of his wife, the shrewd but unstable Peggy Shippen.

When you are done reading you won't like Benedict Arnold at all and may not have the sympathy you once had for Major Andre. The jury is still out on Peggy Shippen. It is probably safe to say that all three got what they deserved in the end.

"Treacherous Beauty" is carefully researched, well-footnoted and very readable.

Kim Burdick
Stanton, Delaware
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Martha Fewell on April 28, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read the "A Traitor's Wife" by Allison Pataki and was very disappointed with the lack of evidence and the author's apparent denial of some key facts. This version, by Stephen Case is a more factual version and uses reliable evidence from multiple sources to support the version presented. Several alternative explanations of events are presented but facts lead one to understand events more fully.

This book, unlike the Pataki version, is well worth the read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By SSpoonster on January 6, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The book was good but it felt like it kind of ended abruptly. I understand that there are not a lot of sources about her life after they committed treason. There was a lot of detail leading up to and during the treason but then it just kind of stops. It is still an interesting read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sidney B. Silverman on November 26, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Shippen Book Review
“Sir, a woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”—Samuel Johnson, 1763.
Margaret (Peggy) Shippen was born three years before Dr.Johnson made this much quoted comment. She preached betrayal well, and no one who knew her was surprised.
Treacherous Beauty: Peggy Shippen, The Woman Behind Benedict Arnold’s Plot to Betray America, is the biography of a Philadelphia socialite who, at twenty, married the forty-one-year-old American Revolutionary general Benedict Arnold. It was he who offered to surrender the strategically located forts at West Point to the British in exchange for twenty thousand pounds. Arnold’s traitorous act had it succeeded, would have doomed the American cause, and reduced it to a footnote in history.
Although historians have closely scrutinized this pivotal plot, until the publication of this book they have accepted the judgment of George Washington and his advisors that Arnold left his wife in the dark. The authors, after examining private letters never before revealed, posit a different theory: Peggy was not only complicit, but played an important role.
Peggy Shippen was that rare combination of beauty and intelligence: an Aphrodite, and Athena both. Born into an upper-class Philadelphia family with divided loyalties—her brother Edward and three cousins served in the British army during the revolution—Peggy opened her arms to enemy officers after they captured Philadelphia. Her beauty and wit charmed the dashing John Andre, the British spy who subsequently became the case officer running Arnold.
When the British were forced out of Philadelphia, Andre gave Peggy a keepsake, a lock of his hair. She kept it throughout her life.
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