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General George Washington


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About the Author

EDWARD LENGEL is associate professor of history at the University of Virginia and associate editor of The Papers of George Washington. A specialist in military history, he is the author of World War I Memories and The Irish Through British Eyes.


Garrett's sonorous, almost soothing, voice is a perfect match for much of Lengel's outstanding revisionist assessment of George Washington's military impact, based on the voluminous correspondence that Washington engaged in through several decades of military leadership. Garrett warmly narrates the close details of Washington's life and letters, lending an intimacy to the man's relationships and an engaging sense of immediacy to his dealings with others. Garrett's tone generally well reflects the book's essential thesis: that although Washington exercised tremendous leadership and vision in political life, he was something of a dud as a military commander, making impetuous decisions based on an almost arrogant underestimation of the enemy. The audio particularly excels in the scenes where Washington is engaged in the careful tete-a-tete of military diplomacy, with Garrett's peacefully resonant voice describing the intricacies of various treaties and accords. However, that same calm demeanor is less compelling when the book vacates the passive world of correspondence and conciliation for the heat of the battlefield. Although the battle sequences lack vocal excitement, this is generally a marvelous interpretation of Lengel's significant work. Simultaneous release with the Random House hardcover (Reviews, May 9). (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Lengel (history, Univ. of Virginia; assoc. ed., The Papers of George Washington) attempts to give readers a balanced view of Washington as a military leader, beginning with his appointment in 1753 as a major in the Virginia militia and extending to his death in 1799, when he was once again serving as commander of America's forces. Lengel shows that Washington was not a great general. Many of his shortcomings, including impulsiveness, overconfidence, misjudgment of his enemy, and his being a poor tactician, were demonstrated in his first major engagement at Fort Necessity (Pennsylvania) in 1754 and were to be repeated throughout his military career. Lengel makes the case that despite these shortcomings Washington possessed the perfect combination of personal, social, political, and leadership skills to win the war with England. It was this unique combination, not his abilities as a general, that made him a truly great man and the only leader of that period who could have accomplished what he did. Lengel's role at his university's George Washington Papers Project gave him unprecedented access to many unstudied and unpublished materials: Washington's papers serve as the foundation for the book. Well researched and written, with detailed battle descriptions, this book is recommended for Washington scholars and libraries with a special interest in the military context of his career. Other libraries may be better served by a recent biography such as Joseph Ellis's His Excellency: George Washington.-Robert Flatley, Kutztown Univ., PA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Advance praise for General George Washington: A Military Life

"Although there is no such thing as definitive history, Lengel's book now tops the list as the most comprehensive and authoritative study of Washington's military career ever written."
-Joseph J. Ellis, author of His Excellency: George Washington "Historians have long debated George Washington's generalship. Now, armed with many previously untapped sources obtained by the acclaimed Papers of George Washington project Edward Lengel enters the fray with a full-scale biography of Washington the soldier. With a sharp eye for drama, a mastery of detail, and balanced and insightful judgments, Lengel gives us a brilliant and compelling study of the military strengths and weaknesses of the remarkable man who was 'first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.'"
-John Whiteclay Chambers II, Rutgers University, editor of The Oxford Companion to American Military History "Ed Lengel knows the Washington military papers as have few historians, past or present. His study of Washington's career as a soldier is a model of clarity and judicious analysis. It deserves a wide readership."
-Don Higginbotham, Dowd Professor of History, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill "Lengel has immersed himself in the most important sources bearing on Washington's military life. He has not neglected other primary sources, and he has also used existing scholarship well. The result is a book that covers Washington's military career from beginning to end and offers fresh insights into Washington's role in the American Revolution."
-Robert Middlekauff, Preston Hotchkis Professor of American History, Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley

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