The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism, and Treacheryby Steve Sheinkin
Most people know that Benedict Arnold was America's first, most notorious traitor. Few know that he was also one of its greatest war heroes. This accessible biography introduces young readers to the real Arnold: reckless, heroic, and driven. Packed with first-person accounts, astonishing battle scenes, and surprising twists, this is a gripping and true… See more details below
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Most people know that Benedict Arnold was America's first, most notorious traitor. Few know that he was also one of its greatest war heroes. This accessible biography introduces young readers to the real Arnold: reckless, heroic, and driven. Packed with first-person accounts, astonishing battle scenes, and surprising twists, this is a gripping and true adventure tale.
The Notorious Benedict Arnold is the winner of the 2011 Boston Globe - Horn Book Award for Nonfiction.
If only Benedict Arnold had died sooner. Had he been killed at the Battle of Saratoga, he'd be one of the greatest heroes of American history, and "we'd celebrate his life as one of the best action stories we have." Instead, he survived and went on to betray the colonies and die in shame. Sheinkin sees Arnold as America's "original action hero" and succeeds in writing a brilliant, fast-paced biography that reads like an adventure novel. Opening with the hanging of Major Andre, the British officer who plotted with Arnold to turn West Point over to the British, the story sticks to the exciting illustrative scenes of Arnold's career—the invasion of Canada, assembling America's first naval fleet, the Battle of Valcour Island, the Battle of Saratoga and the plot with Andre, whose parallel narrative ends in a bungled mission, his execution and Arnold's dishonor. The author's obvious mastery of his material, lively prose and abundant use of eyewitness accounts make this one of the most exciting biographies young readers will find. (source notes, quotation notes, maps [not seen]) (Biography. 11-14)
Read an Excerpt
Clearing in the Woods
October 2, 1780
It was a beautiful place to die. The sky above the woods glowed blue, and the leaves on the trees were a riot of fall colors: sunshine yellow, campfire orange, blood red.
In a grassy clearing, a small group of American soldiers quickly built a gallows. It was a simple structure, made of two tall, forked logs stuck into the ground, with a third log laid horizontally between the forks. The soldiers tied one end of a rope to the middle of the horizontal log, letting the other end hang down. There was no platform to stand on, no trapdoor to fall through—the prisoner would have to climb onto a wagon with the rope looped around his throat. Horses would jerk the wagon forward, and he would tumble off the back. The force of his falling weight should be enough to snap a man’s neck.
As the soldiers worked, a crowd began to gather. Officers rode up and sat still on their horses. Soldiers and citizens from nearby towns gradually filled the clearing. By late afternoon, hundreds of people surrounded the gallows, and thousands lined the road leading to it. It was a somber crowd. People spoke in whispers, if at all.
Shortly before five o’clock, a wagon carrying a plain, pine coffin rattled along the road and into the clearing. The driver stopped his horses just beyond the gallows, with the wagon lined up under the dangling rope. The ghoulish figure of a hangman appeared, his face sloppily smeared with black axle grease to disguise his identity. He stood by the wagon and waited.
A few minutes after five, the distant sounds of a fife and drum band reached the clearing. The music grew louder, and the crowd recognized the tune—a funeral march. Soon the players came into view, stepping slowly and heavily in time with the music.
Behind the band marched the prisoner. He wore a spotless officer’s uniform, his long hair pulled back and tied neatly behind his neck. When he reached the clearing he saw the gallows and stopped. The color drained from his skin. He swallowed, making a visibly painful effort to force the saliva down his throat. Then he began marching again, walking steadily toward his death.
But this is the end of the story. The story begins thirty-nine years earlier and 125 miles to the east, in the busy port town of Norwich, Connecticut. The story begins with Benedict Arnold.
THE NOTORIOUS BENEDICT ARNOLD Copyright © 2010 by Steve Sheinkin
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