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Children's LiteratureBenedict Arnold, one subject of Chelsea House's "Leaders of the American Revolution" series, led a turbulent and conflicted life. Brought up in a privileged household, Arnold had difficulty adjusting to his father's business losses and alcoholism. Eventually the troubled teenager became a successful merchant and, after the colonial tax disputes with Britain, a smuggler as well. When the Revolution started in earnest, he signed up as a captain of militia. The author portrays him as ambitious and impulsive, continually seeking recognition for his talents, while his edgy egotism usually defeated his purpose. Success at Fort Ticonderoga brought him command of a disastrous expedition to Canada and later, participation in the decisive battle of Saratoga. His reward was the governorship of Philadelphia, where his arrogance, extravagance, and shady deals made him heartily disliked. When Congress refused to pay him or promote him further and then threatened court martial, Arnold made his decision to desert and hand over the fort at West Point to the British. After the plot was discovered, Arnold was branded a traitor by Americans and never achieved wealth or success in Britain either. Readers will find details of his campaigns, his two marriages, and complexities of the treasonous plot (including the sad fate of Major Andre) well-told, sometimes quite dramatically. The text is illustrated with prints and paintings of the time, including one stunning color view of West Point. Extra features are long sidebars with more details, a timeline, a chronology, and a short bibliography. 2006, Chelsea House, Ages 12 to 16.
—Barbara L. Talcroft