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Washington's Secret War: The Hidden History of Valley Forgeby Thomas Fleming
Synopses & Reviews
"Congress does not trust me. I cannot continue thus," George Washington confided to Congressman Francis Dana of Massachusetts on his first visit to Valley Forge. Though Congressman Dana assured the general that a majority in Congress still had faith in him, he was nonetheless stunned by Washington's apparent defeatism. George Washington's threat to resign during the fateful winter at Valley Forge is just one of the many revelations awaiting the reader in Thomas Fleming's startling new book. Prize-winning author of Liberty! The American Revolution and 1776: Year of Illusions, Thomas Fleming has returned to the American Revolution, demolishing long-accepted fictions of Valley Forge and cutting through layers of myth to reveal a hitherto unknown side of George Washington.
The defining moments of the Revolutionary War did not occur on the battlefield or at the diplomatic table, claims Fleming, but at Valley Forge. Fleming transports his readers to December 1777. While the British army lives in luxury in conquered Philadelphia, Washington's troops huddle in the barracks of Valley Forge, fending off starvation and disease even as threats of mutiny swirl through the regiments. Though his army stands on the edge of collapse, Washington must wage a secondary war, this one against the slander of his reputation as a general and a patriot. Readers watch as Washington strategizes not only against the British army, but against the ambitions of General Horatio Gates, the victor in the battle of Saratoga. Gates has attracted a coterie of ambitious generals who are devising ways to humiliate and embarrass Washington into resignation.
Using diaries and letters, Fleming creates an unforgettable portrait of an embattled Washington. Far from the long-suffering stoic of historical myth, Washington responds to attacks from Gates and his allies with the dexterity of a master politician. He parries the thrusts of his covert enemies and, when necessary, strikes back with ferocity and guile. While many histories portray Washington as a man who transcended politics, Fleming's Washington is an exceedingly complex man, a man whose political maneuvering allowed him to retain his command, even as he simultaneously struggled to prevent the Continental Army from dissolving into mutiny at Valley Forge.
Written with his customary flair and eye for human detail and drama, Thomas Fleming's gripping narrative develops with the authority of a major historian and the skills of a master storyteller. Washington's Secret War is not only a revisionist view of the American ordeal at Valley Forge—it calls for a new assessment of the man too often simplified into an unreal American legend. This is narrative history at its best and most vital.
Book News Annotation:
The secret war of the title was Washington's fight--while staving off the collapse of his army at Valley Forge--to identify and outmaneuver the political enemies who thought it was time to replace him with a more reliable and experienced general. Fleming, a longtime scholar of the Revolutionary War, thought he would be writing about the stubborn endurance of the American soldiers that winter. Instead he gleaned from his research a more personal story, revealing a new side of Washington--usually portrayed as a man who transcended politics: "He was a good politician in every sense of the word....He had to out think the conspirators who sought to destroy him and persuade others to out vote the congressional ideologues whose wrongheaded policies were the source of the Continental Army's woes." Annotation ©2006 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
The defining moments of the Revolutionary War did not occur on the battlefield or diplomatic table, claims Fleming, but at Valley Forge where the Continental Army overwintered. This is the tale of how Americans endured and triumphed over nearly-impossible odds.
About the Author
Thomas Fleming is the author of more than forty books of fiction and nonfiction. His most recent book on the Revolutionary era, Duel: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr and the Future of America, won unstinting praise from fellow historians and reviewers. Thomas Slaughter of Notre Dame wrote: "Fleming gets the story right in ways that generations of historians have missed." The Associated Press reviewer concluded: "It is impossible not to love this book." Mr. Fleming is a frequent guest on C-Span, PBS, A&E, and the History Channel. He lives in New York City.
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