Book Review: “Valiant Ambition”

February 5th, 2018 On Our Shelves

Valiant AmbitionReviewed by park historical interpreter David Price

Philbrick’s body of work is fabulous, and his latest volume is no exception. It offers a somewhat unconventional and thought-provoking perspective on the extent to which the American public actually supported the struggle for independence.

Philbrick’s thesis is that Benedict Arnold’s treachery galvanized support for the “glorious cause” at a time when the conflict was going badly for the new nation and the initial burst of revolutionary fervor had largely dissipated, and in that sense was an important factor in sustaining the war effort.

If so, one of the most despised figures in our national saga should be credited with having inadvertently furthered the patriot enterprise by his betrayal—perhaps even more so than by his heroics on its behalf before going over to the “dark side.” Philbrick also gives us an insightful comparison of Washington’s and Arnold’s temperaments and the divergent paths taken by them as the war unfolded—another reason why this superbly written narrative is a must-read for Rev War buffs.

David Price is the author of Rescuing the Revolution: Unsung Patriot Heroes and the Ten Crucial Days of America’s War for Independence (Knox Press, 2016), also available at the Park Bookstore. He is currently at work on a book about the Battle of Assunpink Creek.