Valley Forge

Bob Drury

Book - 2018

"December 1777. It is 18 months after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and some 12,000 members of America's beleaguered Continental Army stagger into a small Pennsylvania encampment 23 miles northwest of British-occupied Philadelphia. The starving and half-naked force is reeling from a string of demoralizing defeats at the hands of King George III's army, and are barely equipped to survive the coming winter. Their commander in chief, the focused and forceful George Washington, is at the lowest ebb of his military career. The Continental Congress is in exile and the American Revolution appears to be lost. Yet a spark remains. Determined to keep the rebel cause alive through sheer force of will, Washington transf...orms the farmland plateau hard by the Schuylkill River into a virtual cabin city. Together with a dedicated coterie of advisers both foreign and domestic--Marquis de Lafayette, Baron von Steuben, the impossibly young Alexander Hamilton, and John Laurens--he sets out to breathe new life into his military force. Against all odds, as the frigid and miserable months pass, they manage to turn a bobtail army of citizen soldiers into a professional fighting force that will change the world forever. [This book] is the story of how that metamorphosis occurred, despite thousands of American soldiers succumbing to disease, starvation, and the elements. Here is Steuben, throwing himself into the dedicated drilling sessions he imported from Prussian battlefields. Here is Hamilton, proffering the shrewd advice that wards off his beloved commander in chief's scheming political rivals. Here is Laurens, determined to integrate the Continental Army with freed black men and slaves. Here is Lafayette, thirsting for battlefield accolades while tenaciously lobbying his own king for crucial French aid. At the center of it all is George Washington, in the prime of his life yet confronting crushing failure as he fends off political conspiracies every bit as pernicious as his incessant military challenges. The Virginia planter-turned-general is viewed by many as unqualified to lead the Continental Army after the humiliating loss of Philadelphia, and his detractors in and out of Congress plot to replace him. The Valley Forge winter is his--and the revolution's--last chance at redemption. And, indeed, after six months in the camp, Washington fulfills his destiny, leading the Continental Army to a stunning victory in the Battle of Monmouth Court House. The momentum is never again with the Redcoats. Valley Forge is the riveting true story of a nascent United States toppling an empire. Using new and rarely seen contemporaneous documents--and drawing on a cast of iconic characters and remarkable moments that capture the innovation and energy that led to the birth of our nation--Drury and Clavin provide the definitive account of this seminal and previously undervalued moment in the battle for American independence."--Dust jacket.

Saved in:

2nd Floor Show me where

1 / 1 copies available
Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 973.334/Drury Checked In
New York, NY : Simon & Schuster 2018.
Main Author
Bob Drury (author)
Other Authors
Thomas Clavin (author)
First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition
Item Description
Maps on endpapers.
Physical Description
xii, 417 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
  • A sprig of green
  • To crown the brave
  • The French connection
  • Burned forges
  • Fix bayonets
  • A perfect scribe
  • A bloody day
  • The idealist
  • An eerie foreboding
  • Blood on the Delaware
  • The relics of an army
  • Chaos in the east
  • Trenton redux?
  • Starve, dissolve, or disperse
  • The best answer to calumny
  • Integration
  • Firecakes and cold water
  • Civil war
  • An American army
  • "Howe's players"
  • Franklin's miracle
  • "Those dear raggedy Continentals"
  • The political maestro
  • Martha
  • Prussian spring
  • The rains never cease
  • A trim reckoning
  • A rumor of war
  • "Long live the king of France"
  • The modern Cato
  • Knights and fair maidens
  • The gauntlet thrown
  • "You damned poltroon"
  • "So superb a man".
Review by Booklist Review

The winter quarters of the Continental Army in 1777-78 was meant to shelter the American soldiers and allow them to rest, refit, and retrain after a string of defeats at the hands of the British. Instead, the name Valley Forge conjures images of deprivation, disease, intense cold, and disaster. Indeed, the revolution was hanging by a thread. But up to now this picture of disaster has included few details. Enter the best-selling duo Drury and Clavin, and it all comes magnificently into focus. The authors concentrate on the journey of George Washington, his trials and eventual triumph, but many other familiar names of the founding generation also receive due attention. Drawing extensively from primary sources, Drury and Clavin leave few stones unturned, from accounts of the fall campaigns to the Continental victory at Monmouth Courthouse. All of the grisly details of supply failures, corruption, conspiracy, bureaucratic waste, and the reforms that resurrected the American cause are exquisitely well told in this exceptionally vivid history, one that will please all who are interested in the revolutionary era and American history in general.--James Pekoll Copyright 2018 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

This gripping, panoramic account of the Continental Army's 1777-1778 winter encampment at Valley Forge charts, in lively language, the decisions that allowed the American Revolution to survive. George Washington's ragtag troops had fled the pursuing Redcoats to Pennsylvania, and the Continental Congress was sheltering in York, Pa., after the British occupied the revolutionary capital, Philadelphia. Vicious budgetary squabbles, corruption, and military rivalries proved almost as dangerous to Washington's army as the British. Judicious excerpts from the diaries of enlisted men and officers elucidating the squalid misery and deprivation at Valley Forge nearly waft off the page. But, Drury and Clavin recount, Washington turned the Revolution around. The battles, politics, and diplomacy that kept Washington's troops from faltering-the Battle of the Brandywine and skillful handling of French volunteers-are lucidly recounted. There are valuable insights, too, into the strategic thinking of British general William Howe and admiral Richard Howe, the aristocratic brothers charged with putting down the rebellion. As the authors sketch out the dizzying array of obstacles Washington faced, the reader gains an appreciation for the genuinely heroic role he played in the founding of the United States of America. Agent: Nat Sobel, Sobel Weber. (Oct.) c Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

At the end of 1777, then army commander George Washington was in trouble. He was blamed for a series of recent defeats, the British controlled Philadelphia, and his soldiers were struggling through the winter at Valley Forge, PA. Best-selling coauthors Drury and Clavin (Lucky 666) return to the battlefields that have shaped American history in this latest work that provides context to the famous winter quarters of 1777-78, beginning with the Continental defeats at the Battles of Brandywine and Germantown, as well as the growing fissure between Washington and his subordinate Gen. Horatio Gates. The grim hardships of the winter quarters are cast in full detail; the disease and the desertion, which are matched by the growing discipline and cohesion of the Continental Army. The work concludes with Washington's victory at Monmouth Courthouse, NJ; a symbolic affirmation for both Washington and the patriot cause. As in their work The Heart of Everything That Is, Drury and Clavin craft an informative history while maintaining a smooth, narrative flow. -VERDICT The authors' large readership will relish this book, as will American history buffs seeking a well-researched yet accessible presentation. [See Prepub Alert, 4/30/18].-Jeffrey Meyer, Mt. Pleasant P.L., IA © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

A central episode in the history of the American Revolution comes under thoughtful examination.The story of Valley Forge is a trope in America's sense of itself, a morality play in which beleaguered, stalwart soldiers outlast the ferocious elements in order to wrest freedom from imperial oppression. The reality, ably told here, is far more complexand far more interesting. Drury and Clavin (co-authors: Lucky 666: The Impossible Mission, 2016, etc.) open with the desperate engagement at Monmouth Courthouse in the summer of 1778, the first major battle the Continental Army fought against the British after being defeated at Brandywine nine months earlier. That defeat had led to the loss of Philadelphia, but now the British were withdrawing to New York. They faced an American Army made resolute by six months' retreat to Valley Forge, which cost thousands of lives to disease and weather but that also turned the Continentals into a disciplined fighting force. Some of that transformation was due to the influence of European officers; some came about through institutional reforms and increased congressional funding. There was much reform to be done. As the authors write, George Washington found considerable challenges simply in taming his rivalrous commanders; when one of those newcomer Europeans was elevated to senior rank, "Washington's squabbling collection of more experienced and longer-serving brigadiers revolted." The cast of characters is impressive, among them a pre-treasonous Benedict Arnold, a sharp-edged Lord Cornwallis, and an Anthony Wayne who would soon reveal why the adjective "mad" should have been applied to him. In the authors' account, Washington emerges as fallible but indispensable; it is hard to imagine that another commander would have had the same success in the face of so many hardships. A bonus is the authors' examination of what happened to the principals after the war, ranging from death by chicken bone to enshrinement at Westminster Abbey.A fluent, readable story that corrects mythmaking errors and provides a more nuanced narrative in their place. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Valley Forge PROLOGUE His troops had never seen George Washington so angry. His Excellency, as most of them called him, had always been the most composed soldier on the battlefield. But on this sweltering late June morning in 1778 the commander in chief of the Continental Army could not mask his fury. He reined in his great white charger and trembled with rage. Rising in his stirrups, he towered over his second in command Gen. Charles Lee, the man he had charged with leading the attack. "What is the meaning of this, sir? I demand to know the meaning of this disorder and confusion!" Nearly two years to the day since the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the fate of the American cause lay uncertain, all because the officer cowering before Washington had panicked and ordered a premature retreat. In a sense Washington blamed himself. General Lee had not wanted the assignment in the first place. He should have followed his instincts and left the Marquis de Lafayette in command. Lafayette had been by his side at Valley Forge, had witnessed and absorbed the esprit of the troops who had survived the horrors of that deadly winter. Valley Forge had been the crucible they had all come through together, the very reason the forces of the nascent United States were now poised to alter the course of the revolution. And was that same army now about to be destroyed because of one man's incompetence and lack of faith? Charles Lee, dust-covered and dazed, gazed up at his superior. His eyes were dull, and his face wore the gray pallor of defeat. "Sir?" he stammered. "Sir?" The words were nearly unintelligible. He could find no others. Washington dismissed him and spurred his own horse forward. As he'd approached the rolling green hills and swampy culverts surrounding the small New Jersey village of Monmouth Court House, an astonished Washington had demanded of each brigade and regimental commander he encountered to know why his unit was falling back. None could give a coherent answer, other than that Gen. Lee had ordered it. Now, as Washington galloped up and down the lines before his weary and bedraggled soldiery, the determination on his face was evident. Those who witnessed it would never forget it. "A gallant example animating his forces," one veteran artillery officer later recalled. Less than a mile to the east, 10,000 elite British troops had shed their packs, fixed bayonets, and were driving hard in counterattack. The British generals Henry Clinton and Charles Cornwallis could hardly believe their good fortune. After 12 months of a stalemated Philadelphia campaign, here was an opportunity to crush the colonial rebellion. If past was prologue, the mere sight of an endless wall of British "cold steel" would send the Continental rabble fleeing in disarray. A glorious rout would restore the transatlantic equilibrium. King George III would be ecstatic. Washington knew otherwise. The hellish winter at Valley Forge had taught him so. He and his army had not endured the mud and blood of that winter encampment only to be turned back now. Half hidden in the smoke and cinders of battle, he ascended a rise and gathered about him the remnants of his exhausted army. It was the critical juncture of the war, and the tall Virginian exuded a sense of urgency and inspiration. Thirsty men who had wilted in the hundred-degree heat rose to their feet in anticipation. "Will you fight?" Washington cried. "Will you fight?" The survivors of Valley Forge responded with three thunderous cheers that reverberated across the ridgeline. Lafayette, riding with Alexander Hamilton beside the commander in chief, was overwhelmed. "His presence," the young Frenchman wrote, "seemed to arrest fate with a single glance." The skies darkened with cannon shot just as Washington raised his sword and pointed it toward the approaching sea of red. He was about to spur his horse again when Hamilton jumped from his own steed and shouted, "We are betrayed, and the moment has arrived when every true friend of America and her cause must be ready to die in their defense!" Washington, his aristocratic reserve regained, replied in a calm voice. "Colonel Hamilton," he said, "get back on your horse." Excerpted from Valley Forge by Bob Drury, Tom Clavin All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.