Valley Forge: George Washington and the Crucible of Victory
By: Newt Gingrich, William Forstchen, Albert Hanser
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publication Date: November 2010
Reviewed by: Bill Alberts
Review Date: January 2011
It’s the year 1777 and British General Burgoyne has been defeated at Saratoga. General Gates, Washington’s competitor, insists on taking all the credit, ignoring the fact that General Greene and Benedict Arnold whom Gates had confined to quarters had carried the assault to win the day.
Washington’s troops had been over run at the New York Palisades, losing all their supplies and equipment. His men are subsequently and repeatedly defeated as they fall back to the south with the poor performance of the poorly equipped militia.
Philadelphia had been taken by General Howe’s troops with his brother’s ships sealing off the harbors. Congress had run to Baltimore as the British troops moved on Philadelphia where they scoured the countryside along the north side of the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers of all livestock, foodstuffs and usable shoes and clothing. What they left behind them was a countryside unable to feed or support the American troops.
As Washington led the troops toward the winter bivouac at Valley Forge he expected the detailed plans for revetments, housing, tools and food supplies which he had worked out (and which Congress and liaisons General Gates had accepted) would be implemented. On arriving during cold stormy weather Washington was chagrined to find no housing, no food supplies, no clothing and no tools to build shelters.
Throughout this recounting of Valley Forge, the events and characters of the soldiers and commanders are brought to life by the authors. They provide realistic dialogue for the shoeless, shabbily dressed troops and overwhelmed officers. The conversations bring these conditions to life. Bloody footed young militia with feet wrapped in yards of burlap, no training and no prospects for even spoiled meat to eat was the condition of the day.
Throughout this book the characters that Gingrich and Forstchen developed and gave voice to bring this remarkable chapter of America’s beginning alive before your eyes. Indeed this is a book which all Americans need to read to understand and appreciate how we became a nation.