BOOK REVIEW: ‘Treacherous Beauty’

But like many other of our founder generals, Arnold knew how to lead men into the maelstrom of battle and had run up an impressive string of victories (and twice as many critics and enemies) by the time he was severely wounded in the leg at his greatest triumph, at the Battle of Saratoga.

Arnold overcame Shippen family doubts and married Peggy in the spring of 1779 while he was recuperating (and embroiled in black-marketeering) as military governor of Philadelphia. The authors make a convincing case that Arnold’s greed and Peggy’s urging were what caused him to switch sides.

I won’t spoil for the reader the exciting thriller that unfolds during this treachery, but Peggy clearly is a full partner in the drama, which, the authors show, could have caused the collapse of the patriot cause. Instead, poor John Andre was hanged as a spy and Arnold spent the rest of his life squabbling over money.

In the end, Arnold would have to agree with Jimmy Buffett: “And I know it’s my own damn fault.” But Peggy sure pushed him.

James Srodes is the author of “Franklin, the Essential Founding Father” (Regnery, 2003).

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