By: Allison Pataki
Publisher: Howard Books
Publishing Date: February 2014
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Review Date: December 18, 2013
The Traitor’s Wife is a fascinating look at the life and marriage of Revolutionary War General Benedict Arnold, whom you’ve all heard of, and his bride Peggy Shippen. Benedict was a storekeeper when the Revolution began in 1775. He joined the army at that time and made quite a name for himself. He was greatly involved in many battles: Fort Ticonderoga 1775; Valcour Island 1776; Saratoga 1777. He was charged with corruption and when Congress investigated, it was discovered that he was spending much of his own money on the war effort, and thus, not corrupt. General Arnold became extremely irritated with his own side and decided to change sides. He was discovered when a British Major was captured carrying papers that were strategic to the Revolution. When the Major was captured, General Arnold climbed onto a British warship and ran.
But, as the title of this story is The Traitor’s Wife, there is a lot more to come with this book. Mrs. Benedict, Margaret Shippen, is a little trouble maker and really is the one who influenced her husband to turn against the cause that he fought so valiantly for. Peggy’s story is told by a fictional maid in her household, Clara Bell. Peggy is a woman with a plan. She uses her charm and good looks to seduce British soldiers and has no inhibitions about going after whatever she thinks she wants and deserves. It seems that Peggy was much younger than Arnold and it didn’t take her very long to seduce him. After they marry, Benedict is so enamored with his new bride that he doesn’t realize that she has a big secret; she is loyal to the British. She watches her husband become more and more disenchanted with Washington and the cause and she hatches a plan, with her husband and a former lover, who is British, to deliver West Point to the British and become famous as she and Arnold become saviors.
The book covers the time from May 1778 to September 1780 during the Revolution and is very readable. The plots and characterizations are mind boggling even though readers know what happened, it’s still a kick to read it and imagine it through this well-written book.
Quill says: For American history lovers, this is a gem. We have certainly heard of Benedict Arnold but it was fun meeting his very cunning wife.