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


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Malice Toward None
Featured New Release in Historical Biographies

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 6.7 x 1.4 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: #361,612 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

4.1 out of 5 stars
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I thought this was a well written and informative book.
Kieran O'Keefe
A portrait of General Washington emerges that helped me better understand him as a man, politician, soldier, and above all else, a real leader.
Steve Pollock
I'm totally shocked that no review of this book mentions these inaccurate statements.
A. Wilson

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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Eric Williams on July 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
General George Washington: A Military Life by Edward G. Lengel. 2005. 450 pages.

This book covers the military career of George Washington from his days as a youth watching the adventures of his brother through the Seven Years War/French and Indian War, the Revolution, The whisky Rebellion and ends with the former President of the United States (POTUS) Washington still on duty at the end of his life.

This book is primarily concerned with Washington the military man. It provides a good history of his military career and some historical evaluation. The author is not a military man or military scholar; rather he is involved with the George Washington Papers Project. The author's lack of military experience however does not impact his selection of material or his evaluation of Washington the soldier.

While Washington's exploits during the Seven Years War and the Revolution are fairly well known some of the details and the scope of these exploits are often not understood. This lack of understanding is partly the result of our distance from the way things were in the 18th century and partly because Washington was a unique and extraordinary leader and man. In many ways he was much more akin to our modern sensibilities than he was to those of the military establishments of his time. Though he himself operated firmly in an 18th century frame of reference.

Washington was a one man staff system who directed his logistics both on the practical side and on the political side, always wary to avoid burdening the populace and maintaining civilian control and a sense of proper order in the army.
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