in New York State, 1777. The brutal heat of summer lingered
too long into autumn, but is now finally giving way to
crisp, cool air. The leaves have shed their deep green
mantle in an annual explosion of flaming yellow, burnt
orange and blood red colors that has reached its peak,
transforming this heavily forested region of New England
into a natural wonder, the inexpressible beauty of which
future generations will travel hundreds and thousands
of miles to admire.
But today that beauty is undoubtedly lost on the Patriots
whose own blood, shed here for an heroic ideal, soaks
into the already fertile soil of Freeman's Farm, and the
acrid smell of gunpowder spoils the senses for any appreciation
of clean, free air.
British General John Burgoyne's army had been pressing
the Continentals from the north, but his position was
becoming increasingly precarious. Faced with a growing
American force, the Brits nonetheless fought gallantly
and had almost won the battle of Saratoga. The Continental
Army, led by General Horatio Gates, had all but secured
victory when the British formed a final desperate assault,
bolstered by Hessian mercenaries. The American lines wavered
and were in danger of breaking. General Gates did not
appear on the battlefield.
Enter Benedict Arnold.
Arnold had been relieved of command by Gates after a
quarrel over tactics. Despite having no proper command,
Arnold, sensing impending defeat, rallied the men and
drove them against the German troops holding the British
center. Under tremendous pressure from all sides, the
Germans withdrew into the fortifications on Freeman Farm.
In a stirring display of reckless courage, Arnold led
one column in a series of savage attacks on the Balcarres
Redoubt, a powerful British fieldwork on the Freeman Farm.
He then wheeled his horse and, dashing through the crossfire
from both sides, galloped northwest to the Breymann Redoubt.
There he joined the final surge that overwhelmed the German
soldiers defending that fortification. As he entered the
Redoubt Arnold took a bullet in the leg. The resulting
wound almost cost him his life. As it was, the injury
was to plague him for the rest of his life.
Burgoyne surrendered on October 17, utterly defeated,
in one of the most decisive battles in history. Historians
consider the Battle of Saratoga to be the turning point
of the Revolutionary war, convincing the French and the
Americans themselves that an American victory was possible.
Had Benedict Arnold died in battle that day, there would
be few heroes of the American Revolution more hailed and
revered today than he. Instead, Arnold lived to fall into
disgrace, narrowly avoiding hanging, and his name has
become synonymous with "traitor."
The story of the Revolutionary War is a story of miracles
and dumb luck, unlikely heros and villains, selfless bravery
and a nobility of ideals that, if fiction, might well
be rejected by a publisher as stretching the credulity
of a potential audience too far beyond their ability to
suspend disbelief. It follows, then, that any successful
retelling of that story would come from a mind in tune
with the miraculous; a mind familiar with the possibilities
inherent in causes larger than the self.
Enter Robert Zubrin.
Benedict Arnold, A Drama Of The American Revolution,
In Five Acts, is as the title suggests a dramatization
of the Revolutionary War. The historically accurate play
is Zubrin's first, as well as his first work of historical
Zubrin is an internationally renowned astronautical engineer
and the author of, among man other worksy, The Case for
Mars, which no less a "possibility thinker"
than Arthur C. Clark hailed as "the most comprehensive
account of the past and future of Mars that I have ever
encountered." Whether describing future possibility
as with "The Case for Mars," satirizing current
political events in The Holy Land, or dramatizing past
historical fact in Benedict Arnold, it is Zubrin's ability
to grasp the larger vision and to share it in a way that
grips the imagination that makes his writing so compelling.
"The American Revolution has always fascinated me,
because it was a moment that a people rose above its apparent
practical self-interest to launch and win a fight for
a visionary future," writes Zubrin, and visionary
futures are a concept with which he is uniquely familiar.
Zubrin’s knack for characterization is on full
display in Benedict Arnold, leaving the reader with strong
impressions of the motives, passions and moral grounding
that drove the players in this most crucial moment in
"The key struggle was more moral than military,"
says Zubrin, and it is a testament to the men of that
time that even the most common among them remained morally
resolute through that struggle in the face of incredible
hardship. It was three of the humblest and most unlikely
of heroes, for example, who rose above the chance for
personal gain to thwart Arnold’s treachery and save
the cause, while Arnold himself, a genuine hero, succumbed
to all-too-human passions - jealousy, greed, a beautiful
young woman - betraying his beloved Washington and the
Revolution itself. It is one of the miracles of the Revolutionary
war, not that strong men like Arnold sold out, but that
more like him did not.
"That miracle carries a message of real hope and
challenge for our kind," says Zubrin. "It dares
us to be great."
Zubrin captures the reader's imagination on the first
page with the American charge into the Hessian lines and
keeps his grip throughout; taking us from Benedict Arnold's
most noble hour at Saratoga, through his decline at the
delicate, manipulative hands of beautiful and treacherous
spy, to his utter disgrace and flight to the British side
- all in a single sitting.
Strap in for a visionary trip into the past. Gain insight
along the way into the minds of such heros as Washington,
Lafayette and Hamilton, villains such as Peggy Shipton
and Captain John Andre', and understanding of the passions
that drove one of the most intriguing personalities in
all of American History – Hero of the Revolution
and traitor to the cause - Benedict Arnold.
About the author:
Dr. Robert Zubrin is an internationally renowned astronautical
engineer, a former senior engineer at Lockheed Martin,
and he is president of the Mars Society, a non-profit
group promoting planetary exploration, and founder of
Pioneer Astronautics, a successful space technology research
and development firm. Zubrin is the author of over 150
technical and non-technical papers in the areas of space
exploration and nuclear engineering, and holds two US
patents. His other books include the non-fiction Entering
Space: Creating a Spacefaring Civilization, and Mars on
Earth, the hard science fiction novel First Landing, and
The Holy Land, a science fiction satire on contemporary