on November 15, 2011
Let me begin this review by saying I purchased the Kindle version - mistake! I missed the color portraits and informative maps, which are poorly reproduced with black-and-white electronic ink. I gave this title five stars in deference to its good-quality narrative text, and my appreciation of how nice the maps would have been, as if I had the normal full-color Osprey book in my hands instead.
Washington came from relatively humble beginnings. Had he been able to serve in the British army, as he wanted, he would no doubt have ended up a frustrated major or colonel at best. His career instead put him in the less prestigious colonial forces during the French and Indian War. On the frontier he made mistakes, learned from them, and developed skills that would serve him well during the American Revolution.
This title puts its main emphasis on Washington's military career during the Revolution. Author Mark Lardas develops an incisive narrative that conveys the leadership challenges and tactical nuances of the Revolutionary War. Washington's leadership was not flawless but he was ultimately very successful. Other American commanders, like Horatio Gates and Charles Lee, sought traditional set-piece battles, failing to understand the essence of Fabian warfare. Washington held firmly to the tenet that revolutionary forces could give ground, and even lose battles, so long as they remained in being. Washington's generous terms to Loyalists, and his refusal to brutalize those who disagreed with the rebellion, contrasted sharply with harsher British treatment of rebels who fell under their domain. In the end, Washington's integrity inspired his men, and probably won over converts from those with wavering sympathies.
Washington was a strong leader of men, an astute and flexible military thinker, and a man whose integrity founded a nation. If there is a case for American exceptionalism, its most important cornerstone was laid when Washington refused a military dictatorship. He stood by the Continental Congress, despite its ineptitude and petty infighting. Loyalty and obedience to duty, Washington knew, were the essence of what he was fighting for, without which no democracy could flower.
Washington's legacy has outlasted other better-esteemed military leaders from his era, like Frederick the Great and Napoleon. And this title just might inspire you to read more about the Founding Father without whose military astuteness and personal strength there would have been no other Founding Fathers.