This week, I reported on the American Public House Review from one of the best brewpubs I have ever been in, Gritty McDuff’s in Portland, Maine. It sits in the historic Old Port section of this seaside city and is practically a landmark in itself. It is also the perfect place in town to sip some terrific, fresh beer and really get a feel for what this part of New England is all about.
While writing the article, I had the pleasure of interviewing author James L. Nelson who wrought the book George Washington’s Secret Navy.
It is a gripping account of Washington’s foray into the world of the fighting sail, and even tells the tale of how Portland itself played an instrumental role in galvanizing the thirteen colonies behind the concept and cause of independence. Take a look at the article, An Historic Pint in the Old Port, to learn more.
Last year while I was on vacation in Maine, I passed the time by reading one of Mr. Nelson’s other great books. This one, called Benedict Arnold’s Navy, is also a must read for any history buff. It tells the tale of how Benedict Arnold, and officer in the Continental Army, literally built a navy out of the trees of New York and used his makeshift flotilla and his command of landlubbers to drive the British back into Canada and bought the colonies a few more months so that the cause of independence could go on.
In the book this complex man, who is now known to us as a traitor, comes to life. But here, years before he famously turned coat, we get to see why he was so popular among Americans and why his treason was so painful for so many who were loyal to him. Here is what Mr. Nelson has to say about Benedict Arnold’s Navy:
I have always been fascinated by the Battle of Valcour Island. There is nothing really like it in history, a battle in which both sides had to build their fleet right on the spot before they could fight, and do so in a virtual wilderness with none of the usual resources they could count on. Adding to the story is the fact that the hero, from the American perspective, is Benedict Arnold, the man who would go on to be one of the most despised in our history. Researching this book, it became even more incredible to me, and even more tragic, that Arnold did what he ultimately did. I can never be excused, but at least I, and I hope my readers, can come to better understanding of why the once national hero made such a terrible choice.
Benedict Arnold’s Navy is the first book-length treatment to look exclusively at the build-up to the battle, the fight on Lake Champlain, and the amazing fallout from that fight on a wilderness lake.
Posted by: David McBride