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

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

Thomas Fleming, . . Smithsonian, $27.95 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-06-082962-9

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)