The Notorious Benedict Arnold

Like most people, I am familiar with Benedict Arnold and his treasonous behavior. And also like most people, I have not done any reading on him outside of the textbook from school. When I saw this book on the shelves in my library, I decided to check it out. Boy, am I glad that I did!

Benedict Arnold really only desired on thing: to be known. You got to give some credit there, because, don’t we all? But his biggest issue was that he needed recognition and accolades at a time where there were bigger fish to fry (or lobsters in this case). Congress did not have money or time to spend doling out accolades for every little success. This, added to Arnold’s personality, created a real issue. (That and his young bride, Peggy Shippen.)

I won’t spend too much time going into the details oh his heroics and then his betrayal, but I do want to share this quote from the author:

“If Arnold had died from his wounds at the Battle of Saratoga, we would think of him today as one of the all-time great American heroes. Aside from Washington, we’d say, he did more to win our Revolution than anyone. We’d celebrate his life as one of the best action stories we have– Washington never did anything half as exciting as the march to Quebec or the Battle of Valcour Island. Sure, we’d say Arnold was unstable, tormented, a loose cannon. But he’d be our loose cannon.” (p. 306)

I think back to my lessons on Saratoga, the turning point of the revolution. Not once did I ever mention Arnold’s involvement. After reading this extremely well-researched biography, I realize that Arnold really was, up to the point where he betrayed the colonists, one of our greatest fighters for independence.


-Well-researched (there are 28 pages of notes!)

-I think we get a really good look at the struggles in Arnold’s life that created a perfect storm.


-This book is set during the American Revolution. There are battle scenes and wounds depicted, but none with excess graphic descriptions.

For the more mature crowd, if you found this interesting, you might look into The Traitor’s Wife. I read this book several years ago and found it fascinating. I do think Arnold’s marriage to Peggy Shippen (who I think was truly in love with Andre) was the tipping point. I think he would have been less likely to betray the cause if he had not had such easy access to the British. Full disclosure: I do not remember all of the details in this book. I’m pretty sure there is a bit of a romantic escapade described at one point. I would only suggest this book to mature readers.