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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Very Genius of War

"Few men ever met with so many hairbreadth escapes in so short a period of time." 
-General Horatio Gates 

Check it out. That monument is of a boot. Just a boot. The inscription reads as follows:
"Erected 1887 By
Brev: Maj: Gen: S.N.Y.
2nd V. Pres't Saratoga Mon't Ass't'n:
In memory of
the "most brilliant soldier" of the
Continental Army
who was desperately wounded
on this spot the sally port of
7th October, 1777
winning for his countrymen
the decisive battle of the
American Revolution
and for himself the rank of
Major General."

No name, though. That's because that "most brilliant soldier" was Benedict Arnold. His leg was seriously wounded in that battle, and he never fully recovered. When, after his betrayal, he asked an American prisoner "What will the Americans do if they capture me?" The prisoner supposedly responded, "They will cut off the leg which was wounded when you were fighting so gloriously for the cause of liberty, and bury it with the honors of war, and hang the rest of your body on a gibbet."

According to Steve Sheinkin, author of The Notorious Benedict Arnold, 
If Arnold had died from his wounds at the Battle of Saratoga, we would think of him today as one of the all-time great American heroes. Aside from Washington, we'd say, he did more to win our Revolution than anyone. We'd celebrate his life as one of the best action stories we have -- Washington never did anything half as exciting as the march to Quebec or the Battle of Valcour Island. Sure, we'd say Arnold was unstable, tormented, a loose cannon. But he'd be our loose cannon.
He didn't die, though. Instead he's gone down in the books as one of the most well-known traitors in history.  He set out to make his name famous, he just didn't do it in the way he'd hoped.

The book also tells the story of British soldier John Andre. Who is, and bear with me here, like a James Bond without the spy skills. I'm saying he was good with the ladies. And for the most part, he seemed to have a fine time during the Revolutionary war. Except for the bit at the end.

Anyway, The Notorious Benedict Arnold isn't very long and it reads like a fine adventure story. You know in movies how the hero seems to be invulnerable to a hail of bullets and you're like what the crap? That's what this book is like, but TOTALLY TRUE. Guns were much less accurate back then, I guess, so you'd think that the guy up on a horse waving a sword around would be the easiest target, but really before rifling became a thing, war at the time was more about shooting walls of lead into walls of dudes at short range, so maybe being up high gave you an advantage.

Whatever, dude was a maniac.