Stuart (The Muse of the Revolution: The Secret Pen of Mercy Otis Warren and the Founding of a Nation, 2008, etc.) draws on her long experience writing about women and social history to show that strong women have always driven their husbands to perform prominent actions, both good and bad.
Peggy Shippen and Lucy Flucker were socialites who married two Revolutionary War heroes and immediately became parts of their careers. Flucker’s love for Henry Knox saw her following him throughout the war to whatever part of the country he was assigned. He was always able to find her and their children comfortable housing, where she hosted legendary dinner parties. Flucker’s correspondence with Henry shows a loving couple who longed for each other when separated—though it’s not terribly enticing reading. Nor are the tales of their extravagances and scrambles for means. The real story in this book is that of Benedict Arnold, his bravery and heroism, his permanent lameness suffered in battle, and his imperious demands for honor and recognition. It is that sense of entitlement that drove Arnold, with no little egging on by Shippen, to turn his coat. He felt that, since he was passed over for advancement, he had little to lose by defection. Shippen’s close social ties to the British Maj. John André facilitated Arnold’s treachery. Stuart notes a number of incidents in which Arnold’s private use and sale of government equipment cast a distinct pall over his reputation. Too much of the book is then devoted to the Arnolds’ life in England, his attempts at making his fortune and her social successes.
Read this book for the portrait of Benedict Arnold. The tales of the two Revolutionary-era women leave a great deal to be desired.