- Hardcover: 400 pages
- Publisher: International Marine/Ragged Mountain Press; 1 edition (May 10, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0071626794
- ISBN-13: 978-0071626798
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 31 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #669,853 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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George Washington's Great Gamble: And the Sea Battle That Won the American Revolution 1st Edition
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About the Author
James L. Nelson is the author of 15 works of fiction and nonfiction. His novels include the five books of his "Revolution at Sea" saga and three in his "Brethren of the Coast" series. His novel Glory in the Name won the American Library Association's W.Y. Boyd Literary Award for Best Military Fiction. Reign of Iron: The Story of the First Battling Ironclads, 2003, was his first work of nonfiction, and he has since authored two other histories of naval warfare in the American Revolution: Benedict Arnold's Navy and George Washington's Secret Navy, which earned the Samuel Eliot Morison Award from the Naval Order of the United States. The Morison Award is one of the top honors accorded maritime historians in the U.S., and past winners include David McCullough and Patrick O'Brian.
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Top customer reviews
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So, why do I only give four stars and not five? By necessity, a large portion of this book is devoted to naval matters, for the siege of Yorktown was largely a naval operation. I like boats, but I am not a sailor. The author is, and I think that he assumes that his audience knows more about naval matters than they actually might. He does explain some naval matters (for example, he takes to time to make sure that his audience understands what makes ships sail faster or slower than other ships). But for a non-sailor like myself there is still a lot of naval matters he does not explain which I did not understand.
That aside, though, this book is still worth the read. I definitely enjoyed it and look forward to exploring history with this author again.
There was lots on interesting background information. For example, since the British had a mighty navy (and the American navy was nearly non-existent), the British could quickly ferry troops anywhere along the eastern coast to raid American goods and to destroy American manufacturing capability. The Americans, who could only their move troops via overland routes, subsequently had no means to rapidly redeploy their forces in response.
And, of course, key questions are answered. How did Lord Cornwallis wind up in Yorktown? Why was the mighty British navy unable to prevent the French navy from supporting Washington?
But what was Washington’s “Great Gamble”? Almost as an afterthought, the book says that it was Washington’s decision to move his troops from outside NY to Yorktown. But since the British were well entrenched in NY (and had more troops inside NY than Washington had outside NY), an American attack on NY was simply not possible. So Washington redeploying his troops to a place where they might actually impact the outcome of the war seemed smart rather than chancy.
Bottom line: Very much a history book -- so contains lots of interesting information, though not wrapped in particularly exciting prose.
The book also notes Washington's fixation on New York as the proper focus of his military strategy. British General Clinton was hunkered down in New York City and its environs--making it difficult for Washington to "get at him."
The book also considers Lord Cornwallis' retreat from the Carolinas to Virginia. Poor strategic thinking by the British left Cornwallis and his forces tied to the coast, to allow for the British fleet to communicate with him. However, a large French fleet set out from the Caribbean. Cicrumstances conspired to lead Washington and the French General, Rochambeau, to target Cornwallis rather than Clinton. The march of these two forces south and the confluence with the French navy threatened Cornwallis' position.
Then the story of the naval battle and the French victory and the doom of Cornwallis' forces. The book concludes that Washington's evolution in thinking about the importance of control over the waters was a key part of the signal victory at Yorktown. Well done. . . .