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December 18, 2023

God Save Benedict Arnold by Jack Kelly ~ a Review

by Donna Huber

Benedict Arnold committed treason— for more than two centuries, that’s all that most Americans have known about him.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

book cover of history nonfiction book God Save Benedict Arnold by Jack Kelly
December 2023; St. Martin's Press; 978-1250281951
audio, ebook, print (320 pages); history nonfiction

I love history but I often find it difficult to read nonfiction history. So it is always with a little trepediation that I pickup a history book. The American Revolution isn't usually a time period I have much interest in but I was curious about Benedict Arnold. I knew that he had been accused of treason but I'm not sure if I ever really knew what he did. 

I'm glad I picked up this book. There was a lot about the American Revolution that either I just don't remember or I was never taught in school. For example, I don't remember the Patriots invading Canada or that there was a navy with warships. I knew that they did have to use boats - there's that famous painting of Washington crossing the Delaware River, but I didn't realize that there were battles fought on rivers and lakes.

I was also wondering on more than one occasion how the Americans ever won - we seemed so disorganized and there was very little money to support such a war. The book also gave me an appreciation of the feat that this fledgling country undertook. Many of the places that have bridges today did not then. There weren't roads or even footpaths in parts of the country where soldiers had to travel to reach other areas. We know how fast a battle can change yet communication between troops and higher command was almost non-existent because they relied on couriers on horseback that might be several days ride away. Jack Kelly does an excellent job of setting up the scene of the American Revolution.

Often the nonfiction books I struggle with has lists of dates and names, but Kelly is judicious in using both. At one point, I did wish that there was a bit more of a timeline given as I had lost track of when we were. Partly that is because Kelly is entirely linear in telling the life story of Benedict Arnold. He moves back and forth through Arnold's life to sprinkle out details that inform who Arnold became.

The writing flows well. At times it almost read like a novel, but Kelly provides plenty of eyewitness accounts through the letters, logs, and diaries of people that knew Arnold so it never felt like Kelly was inventing any of the plot.

By the time we get to the treasonous act, I was really questioning how could such a man commit treason. Kelly made it clear that Arnold was a vain man, but he also seemed very supportive of the Patriots cause. He often used his private funds to outfit regiments, he was injured a number of times, while personally aggrieved by the actions of Congress he continued to fight when he could have easily returned home. 

With so much of history we can't really know what happened and when it comes to an individual's actions it is even more difficult. I like that Kelly lays out the various possibilities and doesn't just come right out and say "This is the reason!"

Whether you've been looking for more nonfiction to read since participating in Nonfiction November or have someone on your holiday gift list that loves history, this is an excellent book to pick up.

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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