Book Review: The Red Ribbon
Book Review: War Animals

Book Review: Valley Forge

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.


Valley Forge by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin allows readers to go back in time and journey with the American revolutionaries in their attempts to defeat the British. It delves into the Continental Army’s six-month stay at Valley Forge, which enabled them to transform fromundisciplined militia men to a professional army.

 “We wrote how our Founding Fathers sacrificed for future generations.  The spirit they had is in our DNA.  Washington showed that Americans have a steely backbone with a steely composure. After spending time with a Valley Forge historian, we realized there is so much we did not know about it, including that it was the turning point of the Revolution.”

 The authors delve into Baron von Steuben’s ability to use the knowledge he gained on the Prussian battlefields, drilling dedication, discipline, and proficiency into the Colonist army. While George Washington’s aides were fighting the British, disease, starvation, and the elements, he and Alexander Hamilton were combating those in the Continental Congress. His political enemies were calling for the General to be replaced.  They saw him as unqualified after the humiliating loss of Philadelphia.  Yet, Washington is able to hang on and after defeating the British at the Battle of Monmouth Court House, the momentum is never again with the Redcoats.

Drury explains, “Washington had to groom his generals and have them mature into their role, especially Pennsylvania’s Anthony Wayne, Boston’s Henry Knox, and Rhode Island’s Nathanel Greene. They basically learned on the job. He trusted them, but did not trust the colonists’ British born generals Charles Lee and Horatio Gates.  Both these men were extremely jealous of Washington and were inept.  As the war progressed it showed Washington’s instincts were correct.  

He was astonished that Lee wanted to retreat during the Battle of Monmouth Court House at the sound of gunfire.  Every time Lee was put in charge of something he showed his incompetence. The 10,000 elite British troops were driving hard for a counterattack, determined to crush the colonists’ rebellion here and now.  They thought the mere sight of an endless wall of British ‘cold steel’ would send the Continental rabble fleeing in disarray.  But Washington knew that having endured the mud and elements at Valley Forge he could use his presence to spur the troops to fight.  Because this was the critical juncture of the war, Washington knew he had to exude a sense of urgency and inspiration, which he did. As Lafayette said, ‘His presence seemed to arrest fate with a single glance.’ Washington dismissed Lee and took command of the troops himself, turning the tide to a victory.”

This book show how Washington emerged as fallible but indispensable; succeeding in the face of so many hardships. With extensive documents, they capture the iconic characters that instilled the energy needed to defeat the British empire leading to America’s independence.