THE COURT MARTIAL OF BENEDICT ARNOLD

0court martialby Richard McMahon

What if, instead of escaping to British lines, Benedict Arnold had been captured by the Americans after his attempt to surrender West Point? Suppose he had been brought to trial before a military court for the capital offense of treason in time of war? What would his defense have been? In The Court-Martial of Benedict Arnold, America’s most infamous traitor defends himself before a panel of his peers, claiming that the entire event was an enemy plot to discredit him and thus undermine the American cause.

This is also the story of Joshua Thorne, a conflicted officer in the Judge Advocate General Corps, who has been given the task of defending Arnold. Thorne is depressed by the role he is required to play in prosecuting soldiers for offenses caused mainly by the failure of Congress to feed and pay them. He has started to drink heavily, and is beginning to question his loyalty to the quest for America’s independence. His life is further complicated when his defense of Arnold places his love affair with Amelia Martin at risk. Amy, a school mistress and fierce patriot, detests Arnold as a traitor, and is distressed by Thorne’s growing alliance with him.

The trial begins with a case against Arnold that appears overwhelming. However, a brilliant defense engineered by Arnold and Thorne slowly demolishes the evidence and the credibility of the government’s witnesses. When he manages to discredit the government’s star witness, it appears as though Arnold may go free.

The book also presents an accurate and fascinating account of life in colonial America at the time of the American Revolution, and affords an insight into the character of some of the most famous men of the age.

 

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