Just in time to wrap up the long holiday weekend…
Mr. Philbrick dives behind the complex personalities of personages significant and not so significant that played roles in the Revolutionary War, specifically Horatio Gates, Philip Schuyler, politician Joseph Reed, Henry Clinton, John André, and of course, Benedict Arnold. The premise of the book is a psychological look at the egos, temperaments, insecurities, and relationships that underscored the political, military, and personal decisions on the parts of the key players throughout the war.
The author suggests that the British, who were distracted by the more lucrative eastern Caribbean islands than by the troublesome Americans, preferred peace and that the Americans began to lose their appetite for rebellion as the war continued. Dragged down by the petty egos and warring factions that comprised the Continental Congress, many began to think that perhaps the best course of action was to make their peace with the British rather than spend the time, blood, and treasure required to win the war. Peggy Shippen Arnold played on these sentiments as well as on her new husband’s smoldering resentments and financial insecurities. Arnold told himself (and others) that his treason was born out of a feeling that the war torn country would be better off under the British than under the indecisive congress, but Philbrick paints a convincing picture of a narcissistic individual motivated solely by revenge and greed. When John André, not Arnold, pays the ultimate price for Arnold’s schemes, Arnold shows little remorse and concentrates only on saving his own neck.
Although the narrative tends to wander at times, the look into the personalities of Washington, Arnold, and André are fascinating. Arnold is described as a man for whom “the sense of right and wrong didn’t extend beyond his own self interests”. Arnold muddied the waters between what was best for him personally and what was best for the country. His warped justification was shaped by his lens of selfishness. Ironically, Philbrick claims that Arnold’s treachery did indeed help America, but not in the way he’d hoped. Arnold galvanized them behind a common enemy, which helped them reunite, forget their petty differences, and remember their patriotism to ultimately win the war. An intriguing look inside the personalities behind the Revolutionary War.
I reviewed Mr. Philbrick’s last book “In the Heart of the Sea” here.
Amazon link is here.