Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution, by Nathaniel Philbrick, is an intelligent and readable account of Benedict Arnold’s career.
Rather than the Arnold of myth, Philbrick delves into the complicated motivations of the man. Arnold was a bundle of contradictions. He was brave nearly to recklessness, held his personal honor in high esteem, while at the same time suffering a persecution complex (sometimes with just cause) and an overestimation of his talents.
Philbrick’s thesis is that Arnold’s treason was the cause that rallied the stalled American Revolution. That is debatable, of course. Washington’s overall goal was to fight the British in a war of attrition; to grind them away in the wild interior of American. I’m not sure if Arnold’s defection helped or hurt that strategy.
Regardless, Philbrick’s book paints the characters of the American Revolution in subtle and detailed shades. We think we know these men and women; Philbrick throws this into doubt.