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General George Washington: A Military Life Hardcover – June 7, 2005

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 450 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1ST edition (June 7, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400060818
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400060818
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #832,854 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

George Washington has been the subject of several new biographies in the past decade (e.g., His Excellency, by Joseph Ellis, 2004). Lengel is a Washington scholar who chronicles his checkered military career, linking events from Washington's humiliation by the French at Fort Necessity in 1754 to victory with the French at Yorktown in 1781 with evaluations about Washington's ability on every occasion. Lengel is not impressed by Washington's record in the field, which was dotted with disasters until the 1776-77 victories at Trenton and Princeton, recounted in the brilliant Washington's Crossing, by David Hackett Fischer (2004). In Lengel's assessment, Washington got into perilous tactical positions through incautious or mismanaged aggressiveness. It is in the less-celebrated area of logistics that Lengel becomes nearly effusive, appraising Washington as an outstanding military administrator. In making his academic points, however, Lengel maintains a fluid and suitably dramatic narrative of Washington's campaigns and battles. A boon for military history readers. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

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See all 19 customer reviews
Besides, the book is simply an enjoyable book to read--it is well written and entertaining.
Terry L
Washington had great flaws as a military man; he was sometimes indecisive; overly bold; poor in topographical placing of troops and could be harsh.
C. M Mills
Edward G. Lengel's book on George Washington was one of the best I have ever read-and I have read many books on Washington.
Mars Ultor

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By M. Gaines VINE VOICE on July 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Edward Lengel has meticulously superseded previous attempts to define the strategy of Washington through the Revolutionary war.
As associate professor of history at the Universtiy of Virgina, Lengel mixes his background of military historic perspective and exhastive investigative research of Washington's personal papers and communique's throughout 1760's-1785 and comes away with an award winning piece of literature that brings Washington's dilemmas and challanges to life.
Lengel's writting style is never overbearing so anyone interested in understanding the events may do so with much enthusiasm, most will find it difficult to put down.
Many interesting facts of Washington's character, judgements, and leadership capabilites are brought to life in a manner that incorporates them into events that would determine the outcome of not only the future republic but many of his commanders and associates.
Begining with Washington's early non military experience and failures, Lengel sets the stage for observing his refusal to accept defeat, always keeping the bigger vision and inspiring those who served him.
Details set aside, "General George Washington" is a fascinating and invigorating piece of work that will be read by anyone who may want an intriguing insight into a man who simply refused to capitulate or compromise his vision.
A brilliant piece of work for the ages............
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Terry L on September 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful book. The book starts with Washington's involvement in the French and Indian War, continues on through the American Revolution, into his Presidency and even after his "retirement." As the book title states, this book is about Washington's military life, and the book sticks to that subject.

For those who have little knowledge of Washington's military life, this book would be an excellent book to read. Many people know of Yorktown, and Valley Forge, and the Battle of Trenton (the crossing of the Delaware), but may have never heard of Washington's exploits before the American Revolution in the French and Indian War when he fought for the British. This book covers that portion of his life and well as his military career after the American Revolution.

There are, of course, entire books written on any single event covered in this book. For instance, one could find many full length books on just the subject of Yorktown, or Valley Forge or the Crossing of the Delaware and the Battle of Trenton or George's involvement in the French and Indian War or the Whisky Rebellion. The strength of this book is while it doesn't cover any one event in as much detail, it does covers them all.

And for those who have read much on Washington's military career, this is still a good book. It puts in order all the different battles and dramas of Washington's military life to show how each affected the others. Besides, the book is simply an enjoyable book to read--it is well written and entertaining. Along the way, the author offers logical opinions of Washington's strengths and weaknesses, and while I didn't agree with all of these opinions, it didn't affect my enjoyment of the book in any way.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Stanley on March 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is a masterful and engaging account of how an untrained impetuous youth turned his ambition for military glory into a life-long quest for the public good - and in the process became one of the greatest military heroes of world history. Based extensively on primary sources - especially Washington's own correspondence, two-thirds of which cover the period of the Revolutionary War - this factual and well-written book tells the dramatic story of how Washington, despite his weaknesses and mistakes and losses of battles, organized from volunteers and conscripts a professional army that wrestled victory away from the most powerful and experienced army in the world. Even the title itself is revealing - A Military Life - for both Washington and his contemporaries considered Washington primarily as a military commander, despite his political and other services to his country. Must reading not only for military enthusiasts but for anyone interested Washington or the history of America.
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20 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A. Wilson on April 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I was enjoying this book for the first sixty-seventy pages until I read Mr. Lengel's description of Ft. Ticonderoga. He places the Fort on the Hudson River. (????) Ft. Ticonderoga, so important a location in the French/Indian and Revolutionary wars is, in fact, on Lake Champlain. Mr. Lengel also incorrectly writes that Henry Knox, after retrieving the cannons from Ft. Ticonderoga takes them down the Hudson. This too is incorrect. Knox and his men took the cannons across land to Lake George (which was frozen in winter), down to Lake George village and south to Albany before turning east to Boston. I'm totally shocked that no review of this book mentions these inaccurate statements. Anyway, after about 100 pages I took the book back to the library. I couldn't depend on the rest of his facts-so what's the point of reading it?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By William S. Grass on November 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In General George Washington: A Military Life, author Edward Lengel does an admirable job of revealing through his biographical focus on Washington not just the development and achievements of Washington the general but also the wider events that affected America from the time of the French and Indian War through to the end of the eighteenth century. As a casual reader, I find this biographical approach to history much more enjoyable than detailed accounts of campaign after campaign where the individual personalities are never sufficiently developed.

Lengel's General Washington is virtuous, personally brave, a tireless quartermaster, a meticulous administrator and reformer, a polished diplomat, an unerring positive example to his troops and possesses no small amount of personal charisma. What he is not, is a brilliant battlefield general. Fortunately for Washington and his nascent country, his positive qualities overcome this deficiency.

He is often careless of terrain and does not perform sufficient reconnaissance. In two specific examples, at Long Island and at Brandywine, he leaves one of his flanks "in the air," and on both occasions the British General William Howe takes advantage by marching around the vulnerable end of Washington's line. Also on both occasions, Washington benefits from Howe's reluctance to vigorously pursue the withdrawing Americans.

Although finding numerous faults with Washington's generalship, Lengel concludes that Washington was indeed the indispensable leader, without whom there would have been no United States of America.
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