The Road to Valley Forge
The book that I choose to review was The Road to Valley Forge, How Washington Built the Army that Won the Revolutionary War, written by John Buchanan. This is a book that covers the beginning of the revolutionary war in America from the time that George Washington is selected as commander-in-chief of the army, until his army enters winter quarters at Valley Forge. It encompasses the weather conditions that Washington and his army had to endure as well as the scrutiny that Washington always seemed to be under. The scrutiny came from people in congress who believed that the war was going to be quick and wanted a large, decisive battle fought.
George Washington took control of the revolutionary army on 2 July 1775. He took over at outside of Boston, before this his experience was limited to wilderness travel and soldiering. His soldiering experiences had been mainly for his home state of Virginia. The first battle that was of significance in this book was the Battle of Long Island. At this battle Washington and the rebel army are soundly defeated by General Sir William Howe and the British army. After this battle was fought Howe did not follow-up the victory with quick action as the Americans retreated. It could be said that if Howe and the British would continued the attack this rebellion could have been put down right away. This will not be the first time that Howe fails to do this, and it will lead to him being replaced later in the war Sir Henry Clinton. Even though his army was thoroughly defeated Washington is able to get his troops off of Long Island back to Manhattan in the middle of the night, this will also not be the last time that Washington is able to get his
army out of harms way. The author briefly discusses the troubles at Kip’s Bay and Fort Washington.
The next subject that Buchanan goes into is Washington’s retreat through the state of New Jersey. The key part of this retreat is when Washington crosses the Potomac River he collects all boats from both shores of the river. He later uses them to cross the icy Potomac to win the very important Battle of Trenton. The importance of this battle is that raised the morale of the soldiers. After this Howe decides to go into winter quarters. Washington and his army do the same, but would occasionally strike against the redcoats whenever they went foraging for supplies for themselves and their horses.
After that first winter the Americans and British continue their war. Howe’s mission was to take over the capital city of Philadelphia. He sailed to the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, during this campaign the two major battles that were fought were Brandywine Creek and Germantown. Brandywine Creek was a decisive victory for the British and the Battle of Germantown begin well for the Americans, but the troubles that they encountered at the Chew House proved to be a problem. Washington relied advice from his friend Henry Knox. Knox was informing Washington that you should never leave a castle behind you as you advance. With this advice Washington decided to stay and try and take the 120 or so British troops that had taken refuge at the Chew House, instead of passing it by and attacking the main British army while he had their heels. After this battle the two armies enter into winter quarters once again, this time the Americans would come out much more like a professional army rather than just militia.
The man that helped the Americans and Washington in accomplishing this was
Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben. He been a captain for Frederick the Great during the Seven Year’s War. Once he joined the Americans at Valley Forge he begin training them in close-order drill and all the maneuvers that a western army would need to be successful. Once leaving Valley Forge the Americans fought to a tie with the British at Monmouth. Also someone could see the improvements that he made with the army at the big turning point of the war the battle of Cowpens. Von Steuben’s help was a turning point in the war for the Americans, as well as the alliance that was created with the French while the Washington and his army were stationed at Valley Forge.
I feel that this book has a ton of pertinent information about the American Revolution. I would definitely recommend it to someone who was wanting to learn about the important battles of the couple of years the war. Buchanan uses a lot of quotes from soldiers of both the American and British sides in this book. I would have liked to see him write more about what his thoughts were on what Washington did during the war. The quotes from the personal letters from people such as John Hancock, Howe, Nathaniel Green, and the so called military genius Horatio Gates are very intriguing and they give a good idea of what the war was like on a personal level for the men of the war. I think that Buchanan does do a good job of giving the reader a good idea of how the war went during the first two to three years. I did enjoy reading this book because of al the information that was included and the author makes it very easy to read. And would definitely recommend it to others.