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Valcour

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Member Reviews

There was a lot of warmth and humanity in this book of a little known historical event as well as rich portrayals of the actual events.  I really loved the way Kelly portrayed the people – the soldiers as well as the officers, their wives and children as well.  Nicely woven into the battle scenes were human emotions, sickness, betrayal, anger and despondency.  Kelly definitely gave a picture of the colonists- those people who were simply struggling to make their way in this new continent, people who wanted the freedom to do so, but people who weren’t all that keen on leaving their homes and going to war.

Every time I think about our ancestors and what they accomplished in the short amount of time to independence, I am simply amazed all over again.  In the battle for Valcour Island, they were not only ill trained soldiers, but had to deal with smallpox, hunger, black flies, dearth of equipment, etc.

And of course, it was fun to see the interaction of the generals in the heat of battle.  I really appreciate learning about Benedict Arnold and how much he contributed to the success of the revolution before his fateful fall.

The only real criticism I have of this book is the lack of maps and perhaps that will be rectified in the finished product.

I am thankful to have received this ARC from NetGalley and the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, in exchange for an honest review.  I will definitely look for other historical works by Jack Kelly.
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This book reads like fiction which can be a good thing when dealing with history.  The research was poorly done and facts were misrepresented.  He failed to mention the Huron-Iroquois name was Kanata.  First of all, Canada was not called Canada until 1791 (Canada.ca, 2020) fifteen years after the events that occurred in the military campaign being discussed.  Canada was not recognized as a country until 1867 and it was not considered a sovereign country until 1982 (Blakemore, 2018).

The author failed to supply maps to help the reader better understand what was going on during the campaign.  The author quoted people but failed to support the quotes with the appropriate reference source.  I expect more from. serious journalists.  I also expect non-fiction to be based on factual information.

References:

Blakemore, E.  (August 29, 2018).  Canada's Long, Gradual Road to Independence.  Retrieved from URL:  https://www.history.com/news/canada-independence-from-britain-france-war-of-1812

Canada.ca.  (July 8, 2020).  Origin of the Name "Canada.". Retrieved from URL: 
 https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/services/origin-name-canada.html

CBC.ca.  (2021).  How Did Canada Become a Country?  Retrieved from URL:  https://www.history.com/news/canada-independence-from-britain-france-war-of-1812
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I received an uncorrected proof of Valcour via NetGalley and I thank St. Martins for asking me to read it. 

It was a shame for me to admit when I first started this work that I had studied little of the actual details of the Battle of Valcour Island. After reading this book, I’m happy to say that deficiency has started to be addressed. 

The Battle of Valcour Island in October 1776 was a campaign led by Generals Gates, Arnold, and Schuyler to blunt a potential British invasion from the north via Lake Champlain, an invasion that would have allowed British forces to reach the Hudson River and link up with troops in New York. Though the battle was a victory for the British, American troops did slow down British troops enough to force them to winter in Canada, providing America a needed respite to regroup. 

Jack Kelly does an excellent job of shifting back and forth between the two sides, providing the reader a good overview of thoughts of both the Americans and the British. The best part of the book, though, is the insight provided into those in charge. I’ve never been a fan of Gates, and this book wasn’t going to change that, but I now have more respect for him and the skills that he brought to the American war effort. The author also provides instructional background on Arnold as well, speculating on possible events that could have nudged him toward the traitorous course he finally took. 

I also have to give the Kelly profs on his research. For me, the hardest part when I start a new historical nonfiction book is that authors often reference tangential events to set the stage for the rest of the work. As someone who reads history for fun, I usually have some idea of what’s being mentioned. However, if I’m unsure on anything, I will immediately look it up to guarantee I understand what the author is saying. Part of this is educational for me. However, on some level, it may be a bit arrogant in that I’m checking the author’s research to make sure I can trust it. I found nothing to give me caution in this book’s first chapters and that allowed me to truly enjoy it as a lover of history should.
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I received an advance reading copy (arc) of this book from NetGalley.com in return for a fair review. The Battle of Valcour Island took place in October of 1776 and was a defining moment in the Revolutionary War. To be honest, I had never heard of it until now. Of course, we all studied what happened at Lexington and Concord, Bunker Hill (or Breed's Hill) and maybe the Siege of Boston, but a little known island on Lake Champlain went unnoticed. Author Jack Kelly has done a magnificent job bringing to life this pivotal battle and the men who fought it. Unlike the usual textbook style, I have come to expect when reading about the Revolutionary War, Kelly's vivid prose allows you to smell the gunpowder, see the smoke, and feel the gut-wrenching fear these soldiers experienced. He eloquently describes the battered ships, the rough waters, and the men's stubborn persistence as cannonballs and bullets whizzed past them. Quotes taken from their diaries and letters tells first-hand what really happened as these men struggled not only to best the British, but to survive the assault. Led by Benedict Arnold, a charismatic leader who showed no fear in the midst of the action, these brave men with little training fought side by side in unfamiliar territory relying on Arnold to get them through. Though methods may have changed over the years, war is still war. There were horrific deaths and gruesome casualties that survivors witnessed and then lived with for the rest of their lives. In that respect, these Colonial soldiers were no different than today's service men and women. We certainly owe them a huge debt of gratitude. One last thing, Benedict Arnold is best known for his traitorous turn, but before his monumental decision to join the British, he was a trusted and respected officer serving under George Washington. The Battle of Valcour Island proved his abilities to act under pressure and at the time, he was hailed a hero. Sadly, his legacy is flawed. I highly recommend this book to history lovers, Revolutionary War enthusiasts, and anyone who likes action. Personally, I look forward to more work from Jack Kelly Excellent read!
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This book is about the failed attempt to invade Canada early in the days of the Revolutionary War and the subsequent battle on Lake Champlain and Fort Ticonderoga. The key players are Benedict Arnold, Philip Schuyler and Horatio Gates and their roles in the success of the battle. The author points out that Arnold did much good for the Revolution before turning traitor. Something that is often overlooked in history. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the Revolutionary War.

I received a free Kindle copy of this book courtesy of Net Galley and the publisher with the understanding that I would post a review on Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon and my nonfiction book review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook page.
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This is a great adventure story that happens to be true. Valcour covers the battle for Lake Champlain in 1776 - one of the lesser-known encounters in the American Revolution, but one of great importance.

One of the heroes is Benedict Arnold. Yes, that guy, who was one of the Patriots' great military leaders before pride and grievance led him to the Dark Side.

Kelly is a fine adventure writer/historian: the story is well-paced, the backstory and context added without slowing the narrative, and he even manages to build up a good bit of suspense. Definitely worth reading.
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It wasn’t until I visited Montreal that I learned that the United Colonies had attempted to invade Canada during the Revolutionary War.  It didn’t end well.  This book starts with the retreat. To be honest, I would have preferred a little more background before the story moves to the battle of Lake Champlain.  I would have also really appreciated a map at the front of the book so I could have gotten my bearings as to where various locales were.  But these issues aside, this is a well researched, educational book.  
I’d heard of all the “big names” in this story - Schuyler, Arnold and Gates.  Kelly does a great job of fleshing out these names and making them come to life.  Kelly shows us over and over that the British were only one of the problems the Colonists dealt with.  And that often, the fights between the military leaders were the biggest issues.  And when he finally gets to the actual battle, I was ducking and weaving trying to escape the grapeshot and cannon balls - it was that realistic.  
The book lays the groundwork for why Arnold finally betrayed the country.  And shows us how much good he did initially to help the cause.  
I really enjoyed Kelly’s previous book, The Edge of Anarchy.  He has the ability to make nonfiction read like fiction. I will continue to read anything he writes.  
My thanks to netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for an advance copy of this book.
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Thank you to Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this book. This is one of those fine books on history that read like a novel. This exceptional writing style make the time spent so much more enjoyable. Most school texts tend to give the Battle of Lake Champlain short shrift in the bigger picture of the Revolutionry War. So much more was at stake and the issue was very much in doubt without the presence of Benedict Arnold. The detail is amazing and just the descriptions of the water craft and maneuvers will keep the reader enthralled.
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I received an advance reader copy of   The book from  Net Galley in return for an honest review. I do not  know if the final print book has illustrations, but the author painted brilliant enough word pictures .
“Valcour” by Jack Kelly is an excellent history of a campaign in the America’s War of  Independence. From first page to last, it did more than hold my interest; I was entranced. How often can one say that about a history book of events in a war nearly 250 years ago centered on an obscure island far to the north of what is now a pleasant lake known for it’s beautiful scenery? 
  In 1776, Valcour , an uninhabited island in Lake Champaign just south of Canada became the site of a desperate naval battle where victory meant the difference in whether the fledgling American colonies survived their first year of independence. The unimpressive Colonial army which is usually and accurately deserved with the term “ ragtag” was facing a numerically superior army of Redcoats. Better trained, armed, supplied and fed, the British plan was to transport troops up the lake ( it flows south, so going “ up” is somewhat counter- intuitive) and overwhelm the weak militia forces at Fort Ticonderoga, thus opening an easy route to invade New York and New England to cut the new country in half. All that stood between the enemy and victory were a small force of hastily gathered troops commanded by Benedict Arnold. 
  Mr Kelly story of how Arnold inspired and lead his citizen army to victory, or at least the kind of victory needed to stall the British advance,  is an exceptionally interesting and well- written book. The facts are presented: the people, the strategies, the struggle by the American to obtain needed supplies, the combat.The British had numerous ships and boats, all armed, and some heavily so, to swamps the few in the American fleet. Reading how Arnold directed the building of gunboats, galleys, and scows , the training men who never did more than row a boat to sail  them into the face of the famously renown Royal Navy was truly fascinating. I   learned a great deal more about Arnold than I ever knew from this book. He was a fascinating person and one wonders what effect he might have had had he remained loyal to America, or, conversely, if the  British had put his daring and military acumen to good us to fight his former country.
That one day running battle when the two lakeside navies came in contact resulted in just what was needed - just enough of a victory to buy time for Ticonderoga to be re-in forced, and more importantly, to show the proud enemy that farmers and shopkeepers were resolute and daring and no pushovers. Arnold was never given the recognition he deserved. He resented being passed over for promotion while other, less able men passed him by.
    There is not a dull sentence in “Valcour” . I have visited Fort Ticonderoga. Reading this book made me want to revisit it ( as soon we are allowed to travel out of our houses, that is.) 
  
Recommended to all, even to those who shy away from non- fiction . Truth is better than fiction when written this well. Fully a five star rating.
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A well researched account of a slice of American history that few have probably heard of. I'm eager to visit some of the places talked about in the book on my next trip to the area,now that I know more "insider knowledge."
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Excellent historical read! Valcour beautifully weaves history with a narrative format highlighting the importance of this campaign. This oft overlooked story makes for a compelling read, particularly for fans of books like 1776.
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Valcour is about the people involved in the 1776 three-day battle of the fledgling American Colonies against the pesky Brits. In the summer of that year, word came that the British were coming from Canada.

The Americans had wanted to maintain their hold on the upper rivers and knew that to do so they would have to make a stand. And what a brave stand these soldiers who were really just volunteers, made. A stand that would change the course of history.

You will recognize the names. Washington, Schuyler, a General who would become Alexander Hamilton’s father-in-law by marrying Eliza. We also see a different side of Benedict Arnold. A bit rougher than some, but a brilliant strategist.

While Washington routed them in Trenton, Arnold sent the British Gates packing in a three-day battle on Lake Champlain and forced a retreat.

This is a well-researched book. I think we all are familiar with Benedict Arnold as a traitor, but he really is so much more. These men were young and untried but passionate about not being under the thumb of Britain. This was more than a history lesson. These were real people who overcame incredible odds to hold up our fledgling country against more powerful enemies and prevailed.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one.

NetGalley/ April 6th, 2021 by St. Martin’s Press
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“Valcour” by Jack Kelly is about the run-up to, the battle of, and the aftermath of the Battle of Valcour Island during the U.S. Revolutionary War.  The narrative starts in 1776 with the failed invasion of Canada.  It describes actions prior to Valcour in the area of Lake Champlain and Quebec, the Battle of Valcour itself, and some parts of the Revolutionary War occurring in New Jersey and New York.  The action on Lake Champlain is not a part of history that is generally known by the public.

There is a lot of historical background and detail for the reader on the region, military figures, native North American tribes, and the French and Indian War (1754-1763).  There is also background on the beginnings of the United States Navy, which is interesting and really could have been expanded upon a little bit.  Finally, living conditions for the soldiers are detailed, particularly the smallpox epidemics.  The Whig political party is mentioned and the narrative could’ve benefitted from a few lines about it at this time in the Colonies.  I recognize that distilling down the relevant parts of this history and keeping the narrative on-track is difficult.

The main focus of the book is the northern campaign of 1776, and of course, the Battle of Valcour Island (or Battle of Valcour Bay) on October 11, 1776.  Notable are General Philip Schuyler, General Horatio Lloyd Gates, and General Benedict Arnold.  General Arnold was in direct command of colonial forces at the Battle of Valcour, which was one of the first battles of the new United States Navy.  The Battle was in many ways a loss for the Patriots as they needed to withdraw from the area, BUT it was a psychological victory for them because of inflicting losses on a far better armed and trained British force.  The Patriots’ performance at Valcour also forced the British into a winter conflict which effectively slowed their advance into the colonies from Canada.    

The narrative style of the book is not as dry as many history books and is quite readable throughout.  I am wondering about some of the passages describing feelings or physical being of soldiers as to whether they were taken from journals or memoirs and hope that those passages are footnoted.  There does appear to have been a lot of journal or memoir research done, with ample quotes of General Gates and General Arnold.  I see a section of “Source Notes” at the end of the galley which I hope will function as either footnotes or endnotes for the final published book.  The Bibliography is welcome and interesting.  I looked up the article from the American Battlefield Trust about Women in the American Revolution.  Thank you for including the brave widow who kept marching with the Colonial Army after her husband’s death.

I read an uncorrected galley of this book.  I noted a few typos in the text that need to be corrected but I will not list them in this review.  I would if this were a published copy.  I like to give credit that the editorial staff will catch them prior to publication. 

A large portion of this history is rightly spent on General Benedict Arnold.  I suspect that this author will next be writing a book about him, which I would like to read.

One of the pluses of this book is the great detail with which it is written.  I particularly like the afterword with the notes on the gondola "Philadelphia" exhibit at the National Museum of American History.  A visit there is at the top of mine and my husband’s list the next time we are in Washington, D.C.

I definitely recommend this book to those interested in American History.

Thank you to Jack Kelly, St. Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for allowing me to read an uncorrected galley of this book.
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Valcour
By Jack Kelly

Valcour Island in Lake Champlain was the site of one of the decisive battles of the Revolutionary War and a turning point for the Continental Army - and yet few of us know the name. Even more startling is the fact that one of the battles greatest heroes was Benedict Arnold, whose name is synonymous today with treason.

This is an amazing book. While a work of non-fiction, Mr. Kelly's depiction of the navel battle rivals some of the best historical fiction of Bernard Cornwell. That is high praise. But even more fascinating is the amount of detail about the man, Benedict Arnold, and others, which allows the reader a more well-rounded picture of who these patriots were - just regular people like you and me.

I would recommend this book highly to anyone with an interest in more than a superficial understanding of what it took to birth our nation.
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I love history, so reading this book was a no brainer. It was a very interesting book about a part of history not known by a lot of people. Very good job done by the author.
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"Valcour" by Jack Kelly is the story of the relatively little-known first true test of the infant U.S. Navy during the Revolutionary War. Following a disastrous attempt to invade Quebec and bring Canada into the rebel fold against England, led by Gen. Benedict Arnold, the British set their sights on a pincer movement. Their goal was to invade and occupy the Hudson Valley, from the north via Lake Champlain and Albany and from the south via New York City. Doing so, the British could cut off the more rebellious New England states from the relatively Loyalist mid-Atlantic citizens. By the end of 1776, Gen. Washington had slipped his army (at a high cost, of course) through New York City and into New Jersey, where he would go on to turn the tide and prevent an all-out defeat that the British hoped to secure early in the conflict. That story is told well by several other authors, including David McCullough. "Valcour" is the story of the other side of the pincer movement, where Gen. Arnold (yes, *that* Arnold) defended the northern route into the Hudson Valley by forming a leading, though contentiously, a small freshwater navy on Lake Champlain in upstate New York. The author's descriptions are all first-rate: the backstories and foregoing campaigns and battles, the personalities and egos involved and the politics among them, the preparations to defend Fort Ticonderoga and, finally, the naval battle that ended in defeat but still pushed the British back into Canada and demonstrated that the rebels would not go quietly. As a campaign to stall the end of the rebellion and give the new United States another season of fighting chances, Valcour was a pivotal event early in the American Revolution, and Mr. Kelly tells that story well and with proper context. With the maps that are planned for the published edition, I would have given it 5 stars.
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This is a well-researched work that presents the desperate days and weeks in 1776 when a dispirited, beaten and sick U.S. force hastily retreated from their optimistic foray into Canada and had to regain cohesion, health, skill and build a fleet in a short period of time to stop the superior fleet, numbers and skill of the British navy prepared to foray down Lake Champlain and onto New York City where they could have crushed the rebellion in its early stages as well as the actual battle itself that many people don’t know about (I didn’t).  

The battle itself doesn’t start until about 50% into the book; this does allow a thorough picture of the desperate position the people were in and the great accomplishment they were able to achieve.  It also allows a portrait of some of the average people who were risking everything on the possibility of a better future and a new country.  The focus, though, is on three people:  Horatio Gates who “transformed the beaten, sick and discouraged army…they became a respectable fighting force”; Philip Schuyler (yes, the father of Eliza who married Alexander Hamilton) who “oversaw the construction of a fleet of war vessels in the wilderness”; and Benedict Arnold whose “actions on Lake Champlain in the summer of 1776 helped save the cause of liberty.”  

Well-known as a traitor it is very interesting to see Benedict Arnold as a charismatic and daring leader whose bold behavior contributed to saving the day and stopped the British fleet from proceeding down to New York City.  His skill and achievements are often overlooked in light of his later behavior.  But this tells the story of the foundation of his later actions.  

Kelly’s work is not a dry recitation of facts.  The tension is palpable in the writing and he gives a good description of the conditions and chaos of the actual naval battle.  He indulges a bit in atmospheric descriptions that I would expect more in a historical fiction story but it makes for good reading.  Informative and interesting.  Good job.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC in return for an honest review.
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Jack Kelly presents an interesting description of the revolutionary war in the north. The battles here early in the war were critical to preserving the colonies during 1776. Several interesting characters stride the stage with Benedict Arnold probably the most notable (before he turned into a synonym for treachery. If you enjoy military history, you will enjoy this book.
 
Thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Thank you to Netgalley for providing me a copy of this to review prior to publication.

Valcour is a finely researched and tightly woven look at the short naval campaign on Lake Champlain during the American Revolutionary War. Jack Kelly goes into detail about the location, the building of the boats and the environment these brave soldiers and sailors endured. Central to the cast is Benedict Arnold, probably one of the most enigmatic characters in early American history in regard to his motivations and actions. His command of the small naval force that tied up the British forces in the north was instrumental in the later actions of the war. The last chapter acts as a "where are they now" type of list where we see the fall of this patriot.
If you enjoy American history, pick up this book about a not widely known battle of the Revolutionary War.
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An interesting read on a little known battle of the American revolution and the impact on the overall war. The intrigue and interactions among the main figures was compelling. The story is well told and held my interest. A great read for history fans.

Thank you to #NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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