cover image General George Washington

General George Washington

Edward G. Lengel, . . Random, $29.95 (450pp) ISBN 978-1-4000-6081-8

Lengel's Washington is the archetypal American soldier—an amateur citizen in arms who struggles to learn an unfamiliar and demanding craft on the job—one who is at the opposite pole from the paragon described in Douglas Southall Freeman's seven-volume biography. A military historian and associate editor of Washington's papers, Lengel presents a Washington who was not a creative military thinker, who made no contributions to the theory of war and who conducted his operations, Lengel argues, conventionally and unreflectively. He lacked an eye for defensive positions and could be dangerously rash in attack. More serious, Lengel finds, was Washington's consistent overestimation of the fighting power of his own forces relative to the British. But though Washington was no more than a competent soldier, he excelled as a war leader. Lengel praises his strategic vision, and his perception of America as a nation of free people with a collective destiny, as well as his bravery in battle, loyalty to his subordinates, indefatigability in his administration at all levels and his concern for the welfare of his troops. Lengel also shows Washington as a superb politician, whose relations with civilian authorities were almost uniformly good, and who was dedicated to the cause of independence. For Lengel, Washington's character inspired the trust necessary for any successful revolution. This outstanding work does that character justice. (June 7)