Benedict Arnold’s Army
The 1775 American Invasion of Canada
by Arthur S. Lefkowitz
Reviewed by Russ Lockwood
Savas Beattie, 2008, $32.95, ISBN: 978-1-932714-03-6, 380 pgs., hardback
There is a growing interest in the Founding Fathers and the Revolutionary War as a source of national pride and identity and the Arnold Expedition as told through Benedict Arnold’s Army is one of the greatest adventure stories in American history. “…In short, BENEDICT ARNOLD’S ARMY is brilliant.
Benedict Arnold‘s name equates with “traitor” more than anything else, although some may recall his exploits at Ticonderoga or Saratoga before he tried to turn West Point over to the British. But in 1775, Washington entrusted him with an 1100-man expedition to Canada through the wilds of Maine. His objective was Quebec, ripe for the taking at the beginning of the Revolution. Benedict Arnold’s Army recounts this expedition and the battle of Quebec.
The first 20 pages provide a brief bio of Arnold and situation report of the Revolution. The next 180 pages or so detail the expedition from the fitting and prep work to the daring crossing of the river at Quebec. The next 75 pages outline Montgomery’s expedition to Quebec, the link up of the two American forces, and the conduct of the siege and battle of Quebec. The final 100 pages are extensive end notes (thankfully at the end and not traditional footnotes on every page — great reading in themselves), followed by a few pages of index.
In short, Benedict Arnold’s Army is brilliant. The prose sparkles, the research shines, and the historical fog enveloping this obscure expedition lifts to reveal the military gamble across a barely-charted wilderness.
I had high expectations because a previous Lefkowitz book, The Long Retreat, was excellent. I read Benedict Arnold’s Army, including the footnotes — and who reads 100 pages of footnotes — in two days. The book is that good and that hard to put down. Then I went back and re-read selected portions. With Benedict Arnold’s Army, my expectations were matched and exceeded.
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