Chapter Twenty-Nine "Long Live the King of France"
Chapter Thirty The Modern Cato
Chapter Thirty-One Knights and Fair Maidens
Chapter Thirty-Two The Gauntlet Thrown
Chapter Thirty-Three "You Damned Poltroon"
Chapter Thirty-Four "So Superb a Man"
Recounts the Continental Army's six-month stay at their winter camp in Valley Forge, where George Washington took his starving and depleted troops and transformed them into a professional army.
Bob Drury is the author/coauthor/editor of nine books. He has written for numerous publications, including The New York Times, Vanity Fair, Men’s Journal, and GQ. He is currently a contributing editor and foreign correspondent for Men’s Health. He lives in Manasquan, New Jersey.
Tom Clavin is the author or coauthor of sixteen books. For fifteen years he wrote for The New York Times and has contributed to such magazines as Golf, Men's Journal, Parade, Reader’s Digest, and Smithsonian. He is currently the investigative features correspondent for Manhattan Magazine. He lives in Sag Harbor, New York.
The winter quarters of the Continental Army in 1777-78 was meant to shelter the American soldiers and allow them to rest, refit, and retrain after a string of defeats at the hands of the British. Instead, the name Valley Forge conjures images of deprivation, disease, intense cold, and disaster. Indeed, the revolution was hanging by a thread. But up to now this picture of disaster has included few details. Enter the best-selling duo Drury and Clavin, and it all comes magnificently into focus. The authors concentrate on the journey of George Washington, his trials and eventual triumph, but many other familiar names of the founding generation also receive due attention. Drawing extensively from primary sources, Drury and Clavin leave few stones unturned, from accounts of the fall campaigns to the Continental victory at Monmouth Courthouse. All of the grisly details of supply failures, corruption, conspiracy, bureaucratic waste, and the reforms that resurrected the American cause are exquisitely well told in this exceptionally vivid history, one that will please all who are interested in the revolutionary era and American history in general. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.
A central episode in the history of the American Revolution comes under thoughtful examination.The story of Valley Forge is a trope in America's sense of itself, a morality play in which beleaguered, stalwart soldiers outlast the ferocious elements in order to wrest freedom from imperial oppression. The reality, ably told here, is far more complex—and far more interesting. Drury and Clavin (co-authors: Lucky 666: The Impossible Mission, 2016, etc.) open with the desperate engagement at Monmouth Courthouse in the summer of 1778, the first major battle the Continental Army fought against the British after being defeated at Brandywine nine months earlier. That defeat had led to the loss of Philadelphia, but now the British were withdrawing to New York. They faced an American Army made resolute by six months' retreat to Valley Forge, which cost thousands of lives to disease and weather but that also turned the Continentals into a disciplined fighting force. Some of that tra nsformation was due to the influence of European officers; some came about through institutional reforms and increased congressional funding. There was much reform to be done. As the authors write, George Washington found considerable challenges simply in taming his rivalrous commanders; when one of those newcomer Europeans was elevated to senior rank, "Washington's squabbling collection of more experienced and longer-serving brigadiers revolted." The cast of characters is impressive, among them a pre-treasonous Benedict Arnold, a sharp-edged Lord Cornwallis, and an Anthony Wayne who would soon reveal why the adjective "mad" should have been applied to him. In the authors' account, Washington emerges as fallible but indispensable; it is hard to imagine that another commander would have had the same success in the face of so many hardships. A bonus is the authors' examination of what happened to the principals after the war, ranging from death by chicken bone to enshrinement a t Westminster Abbey. A fluent, readable story that corrects mythmaking errors and provides a more nuanced narrative in their place. Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.
His troops had never seen George Washington so angry. His Excellency, as most of them called him, had always been the most composed soldier on the battlefield. But on this sweltering late June morning in 1778 the commander in chief of the Continental Army could not mask his fury.
He reined in his great white charger and trembled with rage. Rising in his stirrups, he towered over his second in command Gen. Charles Lee, the man he had charged with leading the attack. “What is the meaning of this, sir? I demand to know the meaning of this disorder and confusion!”
Nearly two years to the day since the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the fate of the American cause lay uncertain, all because the officer cowering before Washington had panicked and ordered a premature retreat. In a sense Washington blamed himself. General Lee had not wanted the assignment in the first place. He should have followed his instincts and left the Marquis de Lafayette in command. Lafayette had been by his side at Valley Forge, had witnessed and absorbed the esprit of the troops who had survived the horrors of that deadly winter. Valley Forge had been the crucible they had all come through together, the very reason the forces of the nascent United States were now poised to alter the course of the revolution. And was that same army now about to be destroyed because of one man’s incompetence and lack of faith?
Charles Lee, dust-covered and dazed, gazed up at his superior. His eyes were dull, and his face wore the gray pallor of defeat. “Sir?” he stammered. “Sir?” The words were nearly unintelligible. He could find no others. Washington dismissed him and spurred his own horse forward.
As he’d approached the rolling green hills and swampy culverts surrounding the small New Jersey village of Monmouth Court House, an astonished Washington had demanded of each brigade and regimental commander he encountered to know why his unit was falling back. None could give a coherent answer, other than that Gen. Lee had ordered it. Now, as Washington galloped up and down the lines before his weary and bedraggled soldiery, the determination on his face was evident. Those who witnessed it would never forget it. “A gallant example animating his forces,” one veteran artillery officer later recalled.
Less than a mile to the east, 10,000 elite British troops had shed their packs, fixed bayonets, and were driving hard in counterattack. The British generals Henry Clinton and Charles Cornwallis could hardly believe their good fortune. After 12 months of a stalemated Philadelphia campaign, here was an opportunity to crush the colonial rebellion. If past was prologue, the mere sight of an endless wall of British “cold steel” would send the Continental rabble fleeing in disarray. A glorious rout would restore the transatlantic equilibrium. King George III would be ecstatic.
Washington knew otherwise. The hellish winter at Valley Forge had taught him so. He and his army had not endured the mud and blood of that winter encampment only to be turned back now. Half hidden in the smoke and cinders of battle, he ascended a rise and gathered about him the remnants of his exhausted army. It was the critical juncture of the war, and the tall Virginian exuded a sense of urgency and inspiration. Thirsty men who had wilted in the hundred-degree heat rose to their feet in anticipation.
“Will you fight?” Washington cried. “Will you fight?” The survivors of Valley Forge responded with three thunderous cheers that reverberated across the ridgeline. Lafayette, riding with Alexander Hamilton beside the commander in chief, was overwhelmed. “His presence,” the young Frenchman wrote, “seemed to arrest fate with a single glance.”
The skies darkened with cannon shot just as Washington raised his sword and pointed it toward the approaching sea of red. He was about to spur his horse again when Hamilton jumped from his own steed and shouted, “We are betrayed, and the moment has arrived when every true friend of America and her cause must be ready to die in their defense!”
Washington, his aristocratic reserve regained, replied in a calm voice. “Colonel Hamilton,” he said, “get back on your horse.”