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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Relive the story of Valley Forge when the suffering was real and the outcome was in doubt., November 9, 2010
This review is from: Valley Forge: George Washington and the Crucible of Victory (Hardcover)
We all know the images of Washington praying in the snow at Valley Forge. Some of us have some vague ideas about the events in the winter of 1777 and early 1778 being critical to the Revolution, but couldn't tell the story of what happened there. Even the few who can recount the facts of the story tell it as an accomplished thing. And somehow knowing the end takes away from the seriousness of the events as they were for the people who lived through them. They did not know the outcome of their first few days at Valley Forge let alone what might come next spring or how long the War would take or who would win that struggle. We take for granted that Washington was the hero of the Revolution and the most important and respected of our Founders. Not so in December of 1777. And this is why this novelization of those events is so terrific. We get to experience the uncertainty. As we read the story we feel the cold, the starvation, the uniforms reduced to filthy rags, and the sense of wanting to die or to try and go home rather than continue the struggle in these incredibly harsh conditions.

Gingrich and Forstchen have added an even more compelling installment to their story of Washington and the Revolution. I really loved "To Try Men's Souls" To Try Men's Souls: A Novel of George Washington and the Fight for American Freedom (George Washington 1) and encourage you to read it, but I think this is even better. They achieved a real sense of bleakness when the Continental Army arrived at Valley Forge with no food, no uniforms, not shelter, and no tools to use to build the small cabins they so desperately needed. The joy at completing the first of them is terrific and is still remembered in history.

While the location of Valley Forge was important to preventing the British pressing further into Philadelphia while also giving Washington space to prevent a surprise attack while also sitting on higher ground and a river to protect the army's side, the truth is the army was in no shape to fight. The reality was that the army might simply disappear from death or desertion. Yet Washington held the men together. They did get food, but not always in ways that inspire pride. Tthey did get tools and the huts were built. We get to experience all this as if we are with the soldiers watching our friends die of the flux (dysentery) losing their feet to frostbite and trying to put some kind of force together to at least impress the British.

I also enjoyed the way the authors presented the British Army as a serious force. They are clearly far superior to the Continentals. They begin the story ensconced safely in Philadelphia and their efforts in the countryside were to confiscate foodstuffs and supplies needed by the Continentals more to deny their enemy sustenance than for their own needs. We also get to experience what these confiscations meant to the farmers so raided. They could not simply go buy replacements. They faced a very real threat of starvation and very difficult months ahead. The authors also depict the reality of divided loyalties, of not knowing where family members were, who they were even fighting for, or if they were alive.

Washington also faced the politicking of Gates to take command of the Army and the loss of confidence by many in Congress. Gates is not remembered as well as he had hoped because of his maneuvering against Washington. We get to experience the pressure this put on Washington while he was dealing with so many other issues.

The arrival of Baron von Steuben in February of 1778 was critical to the morale and training of the Continental Army under Washington. He helped get the men in regular order and organized to fight as a modern army. What he taught them there helped them immensely during the remaining years of the war. He deserves every bit or praise we can give him and then some.

Look, this is a terrific story and is told in wonderful way. Do yourself a favor and read the novel and study the history. This novel will bring the history to vibrant life in ways I had not experienced before and I hope you get the same pleasure from it I did.

Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Saline, MI
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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 17, 2010 11:44:27 AM PST
L Harberson says:
I have told myself that I will not purchase an ebook (Kindle) if its price exceeds $9.99. Unfortunately, Valley Forge at $14.99 does.

Posted on Nov 18, 2010 1:05:18 PM PST
F. Hollister says:
This is what happens when we open our national borders and just let anyone come in.

Did Gen. Lafayette and Baron von Steuben have passports?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 18, 2010 1:05:38 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 18, 2010 1:06:09 PM PST
F. Hollister says:
That was a solid ten bucks saved, now wasn't it? Wait a few months and you'll be able to pick up a copy of the hardcover for ninety-nine cents or so...

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 18, 2010 5:40:45 PM PST
I think both were invited. But since America wasn't a welfare state them it made no difference who came here. We could have open borders today if we weren't a welfare state or denied non-citizens access to medical care, schools and such. But we don't and won't. So, no open borders. But we could have a far more robust guest worker program than we do for both more entering and LEAVING the country.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 19, 2010 3:16:41 PM PST
F. Hollister says:
Actually, Baron von Steuben invited himself. Good thing the Continental Army didn't enforce "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" back then, huh? We know all it takes is for a member of the military to be accused - or hunted down and then accused - and that is the end of her or his career.

As for your comment that America (do you mean The United States?) is a "welfare state," what do you hate our country so much?

Didn't Ole Newt mention that in his book?

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 19, 2011 10:52:48 AM PST
Dr. Fred says:
Hear hear Craig. Very well put.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 31, 2012 8:06:58 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 31, 2012 8:07:25 PM PDT
lobo65 says:
F. Hollister, you're a sad little man who has waaaayyy too much time on his hands if you spend all of your efforts trolling through these reviews, and attacking every positive review of this book.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 9, 2013 2:57:32 PM PDT
John Adams says:
hollister is a hater...and leads a pathetic life attacking reviewers of books he has actually never read.
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Craig Matteson

Location: Saline, MI

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