George Washington – one of the most written about figures of the American Revolution – is a fascinating individual on so many levels. Thomas Fleming in The Strategy For Victory: How General George Washington Won the American Revolution gives his perspective of Washington as the general who led the colonies to victory.
Earlier in my life, I thought that Washington was a mediocre general who was fortunate to keep an army together until the French poured money, material, and men into the war effort. However, that view has changed significantly as I studied the war more thoroughly. Washington did the best he could with the scant resources allotted to him. Not only that, but he preserved the tiny American army against the more veteran and better-equipped British army.
Fleming does a masterful job of depicting Washington as a general who learned from his mistakes and changed his strategy in the middle of the war. He not only changed his own thoughts on strategy, but also those of his chief subordinates. As Fleming so adeptly writes, Washington realized that the American army could not continue with a Bunker Hill strategy expecting the British to bash themselves against stout defenses manned by state militia. Washington changed to a strategy of preserving a professional army and coordinating that army with supplementation from state militias. This strategy was one that worked in a number of battles – especially when the militia was used properly.
Fleming highlights the winning strategy in several battles. He details the plans of, and their execution by, Washington at Monmouth Courthouse, Benedict Arnold at Saratoga, and Daniel Morgan at Cowpens. Cowpens was the epitome of Washington’s strategy on using the militia. Fleming goes into great detail on Morgan’s excellent use of a small core of Continental troops with a larger number of state militia.
Fleming’s book is an excellent analysis of Washington’s expert handling of the American war effort during the American Revolution.