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General George Washington: A Military Life Hardcover – June 7, 2005
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Top Customer Reviews
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............
For much of the book I found myself becoming frustrated with the negative conclusions drawn from the outcomes of battles. It seemed that Lengel was as interested in “myth busting” as history. I had long ago realized that Washington was not the greatest military strategist. I realized that often he was hampered by incompetent soldiers, political intrigue and lack of resolve of the Congress and by the sabotage of loyalists. But Lengel frequently points out that Washington was woefully unprepared in specific battles. A lack of awareness of local topography was near fatal in the Battle of Brandywine is one example.
I nearly set this book down about half way through. I am glad that I pushed on to the end.
Ultimately, the character of George Washington is what brought about the victorious end. Certainly, fighting against the most incompetent British Generals helped as well.
On a side note, the conduct of the Battle of Monmouth Courthouse was of interest to me.
Years ago I read The Glorious Cause by Jeff Shaara. I think that the depiction of this battle so influenced my thinking that my disgust of General Charles Lee was complete. Later, I read Almost a Miracle: The American Victory in the War of Independence by John Ferling. His conclusions about this battle were so at odds with my preconceived ideas that I found it almost laughable. Lengel trends a middle ground about the conduct of Charles Lee in this battle. Washington does share some blame in Lee’s shameful performance in the field of battle. (I mention this because I find it necessary to get more than one perspective on “history”, even when the subject is my favorite American historical character.)
My favorite part of Lengel’s biography was his recounting of the Newburgh Conspiracy. Washington now faced a very hostile group of even officers as they considered marching on Philadelphia and in effect, staging a military coup. The goodness of Washington inspires me to tears every time I read about this event. Lengel did inspire me with his wonderful recounting of this critical event. (By contrast, Joseph Ellis tells this story with a degree of cynicism that is shocking in His Excellency: George Washington. That is one of the reasons I don’t care for Joseph Ellis. He seems to represent the extreme of modern scholars who want to de-mythologize the American founding. His book on Jefferson left me feeling such cold feelings about another of the figures of Mount Rushmore.)
Finally, if you want to read a book that is purely adoring and apologetic on Washington, you can do no better than The Real George Washington. Every story is told with the greatest respect and devotion. It is slanted to a degree that makes it more devotional than historical.
And if you want to read the best modern biography of Washington, authored by my favorite biographer, read Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow. I go back to this book to re-read events of Washington’s life. Chernow is a wordsmith. He is objective and yet highly respectful of America’s greatest man. His account is captivating and inspiring.
I am sorry for this wordy review. I just re-read it and realize I am perhaps boasting about all that I have read about Washington. Lengel’s book (the supposed subject of this review…) is worth reading if you are interested in the life of Washington, but in my opinion, should not be the final word on Washington.