Treacherous Beauty (Book Acquired, 7.30.2012)

 

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Treacherous Beauty by Mark Jacob and Stephen H. Case. Blurb—

Histories of the Revolutionary War have long honored heroines such as Betsy Ross, Abigail Adams, and Molly Pitcher. Now, more than two centuries later, comes the first biography of one of the war’s most remarkable women, a beautiful Philadelphia society girl named Peggy Shippen. While war was raging between Britain and its rebellious colonists, Peggy befriended a suave British officer and later married a crippled revolutionary general twice her age. At age 19, she brought these two men together in a treasonous plot that, had it succeeded, might have turned George Washington into a prisoner and changed the course of the war.

Peggy Shippen was Mrs. Benedict Arnold.

 

Ethan Allen (Book Acquired, Some Time Over the July 4th Holiday)

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Willard Sterne Randall’s biography of OG Green Mountain Boy Ethan Allen—pretty good stuff—is new in trade paperback. We’ll be running an interview with Randall about the book sometime next week. From publisher Norton’s blurb:

While Ethan Allen, a canonical hero of the American Revolution, has always been defined by his daring, predawn attack on the British-controlled Fort Ticonderoga, Willard Sterne Randall, the author ofBenedict Arnold, now challenges our conventional understanding of this largely unexamined Founding Father. Widening the scope of his inquiry beyond the Revolutionary War, Randall traces Allen’s beginning back to his modest origins in Connecticut, where he was born in 1738. Largely self-educated, emerging from a relatively impoverished background, Allen demonstrated his deeply rebellious nature early on through his attraction to Deism, his dramatic defense of smallpox vaccinations, and his early support of separation of church and state.

Chronicling Allen’s upward struggle from precocious, if not unruly, adolescent to commander of the largest American paramilitary force on the eve of the Revolution, Randall unlocks a trove of new source material, particularly evident in his gripping portrait of Allen as a British prisoner-of-war. While the biography reacquaints readers with the familiar details of Allen’s life—his capture during the aborted American invasion of Canada, his philosophical works that influenced Thomas Paine, his seminal role in gaining Vermont statehood, his stirring funeral in 1789—Randall documents that so much of what we know of Allen is mere myth, historical folklore that people have handed down, as if Allen were Paul Bunyan.

As Randall reveals, Ethan Allen, a so-called Robin Hood in the eyes of his dispossessed Green Mountain settlers, aggrandized, and unabashedly so, the holdings of his own family, a fact that is glossed over in previous accounts, embellishing his own best-selling prisoner-of-war narrative as well. He emerges not only as a public-spirited leader but as a self-interested individual, often no less rapacious than his archenemies, the New York land barons of the Hudson and Mohawk Valleys.