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Book Review: Victory at Yorktown

Posted By Blackfive • [December 10, 2012]

The following book review is a special provided by Elise Cooper for BlackFive readers.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books Category on the right sidebar.

YorktownVictory at Yorktown is the third novel in a series about the Revolutionary War.  The novels by Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen are compelling chronicles:  To Try Men’s Souls is about the events leading up to and through the crossing of the Delaware; Valley Forge is a dramatization of the Continental armies winter at Valley Forge; and the latest is Victory at Yorktown, whose story begins in 1781 and delves into General George Washington’s bold decision to engage the enemy at Yorktown. 

The authors allow the reader to be a part of history through their vivid characters, both imaginary and real.  The Continental Army must march undetected, going 300 miles south to launch a surprise offensive after hooking up with the French navy.  Gingrich told BlackFive, “In their password alone, ‘victory or death,’ you can understand how really passionate they were about freedom.  Yorktown was an extraordinary gamble,” since Washington counted on the French navy actually being there, and that he would be able to count on the army not deserting. After arriving, he lays siege to the British General Cornwallis’ army, bombards them, and ultimately defeats them, which led to an ending of the war.

Although this is a historical fiction book it is obvious that it mirrors realistic events and characters of the Revolutionary War.  George Washington and his British counterparts are central to the story. It intertwines war, friendship, and heroism to make a very powerful and compelling story.  The authors explain in the prologue why they chose to tell this event as a fictional story instead of non fiction: “We are historians, but we also love a good story and believe that neglect of good stories has always been the failure of most traditional histories, which turn such exciting adventures and personas into dull and lifeless facts.”

Besides Washington, three central characters are Elizabeth Risher, Colonel Peter Wellsley, and Major Allen Van Dorn.  Elizabeth was the love interest of the Revolutionary Peter and Loyalist Allen.  Both were in charge of the spy networks for their armies.  Throughout the book, there are powerful references on how the Revolutionary War was in some ways also a Civil War, since Americans from the same neighborhood or even family were fighting on opposite sides.  Gingrich noted to BlackFive.net that “there was a substantial amount of the American population, about 1/3 of the American people, loyal to Britain.”  This can also be seen with Elizabeth who was branded as a Tory because of her friendship to some Loyalists and her father who fled to New York to be with the British.  However, in reality she was a Patriot who according to General Washington was “crucial in giving us information while Philadelphia was occupied.”  Through these characters eyes the reader gets an understanding of their strengths, weaknesses, and desires.

A very powerful quote talks about the volunteer army, “This was the army of a free republic, of free men, all of them volunteers…this was an army of freedom.”  Gingrich explained that there are very real parallels between that army and today’s army; although, today’s is much more professional.  He also pointed out that the ranks of the volunteer army had swelled after an incident where the British killed a pregnant woman, which became a rallying cry of the Patriots.  This can be compared to after 9/11 which Gingrich believes “gave most Americans a deep sense of being threatened and strongly committed to defeating our enemies in the post Vietnam era.  9/11 also represented how the bad guys came to our mainland as the British had during the Revolutionary War.”

Anyone reading this series will feel pride in America and be reminded of the difficulties the Founding Fathers had to go through to achieve freedom.  Without men like General Washington America would not exist as a nation.  Although told as a tale, Victory at Yorktown is very powerful in showing how bold and daring Washington and his army had become.  As Gingrich wrote in the book, “We owe Washington all, as a general, as a leader, and as a man.  Let us work together to insure the legacy he gave us is passed, unsullied unto generations of Americans yet to be born.  That is our duty to them; it is our duty as well to that most remarkable of men, George Washington.”


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