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Summertime Reading

“A book worth reading is a book worth owning.” So said my dad. That mantra seems to have rubbed off on me, as the stacks of books at home and in my office can attest. While my historical tastes span from the Middle Ages to the present and in both Europe and America, the vast majority of my books focus on 18th-century American history.

Summer always seems to be a time when many of us focus on our reading. Whether it’s at the beach or poolside, or in the hammock in the backyard, for many of us reading is an important part of summer.

My reading the past few months has focused on Benedict Arnold, the subject of the first Fort Ticonderoga Teacher Institute that runs from July 7-12. Fourteen teachers will spend a week learning about the military career of Benedict Arnold, working with James Kirby Martin from the University of Houston, master teacher Tim Potts, and me.

BookI’ve been reading Martin’s Benedict Arnold: Revolutionary Hero. Martin, while not apologetic for Arnold’s treason in 1780, does trace the trail of enemies that Arnold seems to collect through the Revolution. While Arnold’s clash with Ethan Allen here at Fort Ticonderoga in May 1775 is well-known, it’s the conflict with James Easton and John Brown that is to have a longer lasting impact on Arnold, dogging him over the years. At every turn, Arnold seems to create new enemies—here at Ticonderoga in the summer of 1776, a number of junior officers presiding over the court-martial of Moses Hazen become combative with Arnold. General Horatio Gates finally disbands the court-martial, momentarily freeing Arnold from the tangle, but resulting in a number of new antagonists for Arnold.

I also recently completed Arthur Lefkowitz’s book Benedict Arnold’s Army: The 1775 American Invasion of Canada during the Revolutionary War. If you aren’t familiar with this aspect of Arnold’s military career, I highly recommend this book. Arnold’s amazing trek through the Maine wilderness as he led the eastern prong of the American invasion into Canada in the fall of 1775 is a story of persistence against overwhelming odds and challenges. Despite torrential autumn rains (some think it may well have been a hurricane), early snows, and sparse food supplies, Arnold leads a force of nearly 1,000 men through the wilderness to the south shores of the St. Lawrence River across from Quebec City. This feat earned Arnold his promotion to Brigadier General in the Continental Army.

If you prefer historical fiction, Kenneth Roberts wrote two novels revolving around Arnold’s contributions to the American cause during the American Revolution. Arundel follows Arnold’s trek through Maine and ultimately to the failed attack on Quebec City on New Year’s Eve 1775. Rabble in Arms continues the story, covering the retreat from Canada in the spring of 1776, the Army’s arrival at Ticonderoga, the construction of the fleet on Lake Champlain and the Battle of Valcour, and the 1777 Saratoga Campaign.

Several opportunities to meet authors are coming up at Fort Ticonderoga. The Fort Ticonderoga Author Series gets underway later this month, with programs running through late September. Authors include Donald Hagist, Tom Chambers, Mark Bowie, and Ted Corbett. These programs take place on Sundays and are each followed by a book signing in the Museum Store. Each program is included in the cost of admission.

Keith Herkalo, author of The Battles at Plattsburgh: September 11, 1814, is one of nine presenters at the Second Conference on Lake George and Lake Champlain August 10 & 11, 2013. Pre-registration is required to attend the conference; you can learn more here.

Several authors are on the docket at our Tenth Annual Fort Ticonderoga Seminar on the American Revolution. Mark Jacob and Stephen Case are co-authors of Treacherous Beauty: Peggy Shippen, the Woman behind Benedict Arnold’s Plot to Betray America. Douglas Cubbison is the author of several books; most recently Burgoyne and the Saratoga Campaign: His Papers. Speakers with forthcoming books include Phil Mead, Melancholy Landscapes: Writing Warfare in Revolutionary America and Benjamin Smith, Following Knox’s Trail. The Seminar is held September 20-22, 2013, and pre-registration is required. Learn more here.

It’s summertime! I look forward to seeing you at one or more of these upcoming events. In the meantime, happy reading!

Rich Strum
Director of Education