Thomas Fleming: His take on GW





Tom Fleming got everyone's attention -- and then some -- when he revealed that the opening chapter of his latest book, Washington's Secret War The Hidden History of Valley Forge, was titled: "General George Washington: Loser." Today, Valley Forge is a national shrine. In December 1777, Tom said it looked more like a black hole into which the Revolution was about to disappear. As many as fifty men deserted in a single day, while dozens of officers submitted resignations at the same ruinous pace. Meanwhile the British army was luxuriating before warm fires in Philadelphia, which they had captured in late September. According to a veritable chorus of critics, the mess was all George Washington's fault. General Horatio Gates, the victor in the battles of Saratoga in the fall of 1777, was the new hero. Gates made no secret of his readiness to assume Washington's mantle. This push to replace Washington has often been called "The Conway Cabal" and has been discussed by many historians. What's new and different about Washington's Secret War is Tom's discovery of how shrewdly and sometimes savagely Washington fought these critics. They had expected him to resign and go home to Mount Vernon, his dignity, if not his reputation, intact. "Nothing less than a new George Washington appeared before my astonished eyes," Tom said. "A consummate politician." We soon realized why Washington's Secret War is a main selection of the Book of the Month Club and the History Book Club. Applause was followed by a rush to buy copies -- which Tom cheerfully inscribed until the last one was sold.

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William Marina - 1/22/2006

It's a good thing to see someone realistically appaising GW, especially with all of the hero worship in McCullough's recent 1776.

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