Washington's Secret War: The Hidden History of Valley Forge

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9780060829629: Washington's Secret War: The Hidden History of Valley Forge

"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 anunforgettable 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.

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About the Author:

Thomas Fleming is the author of more than forty books of fiction and nonfiction, most recently, The Perils of Peace. He has been the president of the Society of American Historians and of PEN American Center. Mr. Fleming is a frequent guest on C-SPAN, PBS, A&E, and the History Channel. He lives in New York City.

From Publishers Weekly:

Starred Review. Fleming enhances his position as a leading general-audience historian of the American Revolution in this convincing argument for the importance of internal diplomacy in the conflict's development. Like David McCullough's 1776, Fleming's volume depicts Valley Forge as the revolution's turning point, with the fulcrum being George Washington's ability to develop "a new kind of leadership" that combined military and political elements. Recognizing the limited applicability of European precedents in the new republic, Washington simultaneously had to revitalize an army on the point of collapse and energize a Continental Congress ignorant of how to conduct a war. He performed both feats while maintaining both his authority as commander-in-chief and the principle of military subordination to political authority. And, all the while, he managed to keep the British believing that conciliation was preferable to battle. Fleming credits Washington's achievement to a force of character that increasingly impressed soldiers and politicians alike, but even more to Washington's ability to persuade waverers and opponents to his point of view by using a "series of positive proposals, well researched and closely argued." Fleming's use of short chapters (one- to three-pages each) and lively prose helps keep the complicated political maneuvers easy to follow. (Oct. 25)
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