WINNER OF THE GEORGE WASHINGTON BOOK PRIZE 2013.
'I am a warrior'. These were the uncompromising words that George Washington chose to describe himself in May 1779, at the height of the Revolutionary War against Britain. It's an image very different to the one that he's been assigned by posterity - the patriotic plantation owner who would become the dignified political leader of his country.
Stephen Brumwell's new book focuses on a side of Washington that is often overlooked: the feisty young frontier officer and the tough forty-something commander of the revolutionaries' Continental Army. It examines Washington's long and chequered military career, tracing his evolution as a soldier, and his changing attitude to the waging of war. Brumwell shows how, ironically, Washington's reliance upon English models of 'gentlemanly' behaviour, and on British military organisation, was crucial in establishing his leadership of the fledgling Continental Army, and in forging it into the weapon that won American independence.
George Washington is a vivid recounting of the formative years and military career of 'The Father of his Country', following his journey from brutal border skirmishes with the French and their Indian allies to his remarkable victory over the British Empire, an achievement that underpinned his selection as the first president of the United States of America. Drawing on a wide range of sources, including original archival research, Stephen Brumwell paints a compelling and challenging portrait of an extraordinary individual whose fusion of gentleman and warrior left an indelible imprint upon history.
Upon meeting George Washington, Abigail Adams remarked to her husband, John, that "the gentleman and the soldier look agreeably blended" in him. Seizing upon this observation, biographer Brumwell (Paths of Glory) offers an intense portrait of a military leader whose habits of leadership combined a thirst for victory with the deep emphasis on discipline and order that Washington had observed in the British army. In exhausting detail, Brumwell wearily traces the well-known story of Washington from his childhood and youth, his work as a surveyor, his love for Sally Fairfax, his marriage to Martha Custis, and his decision to settle down as a gentleman planter in 1759. Brumwell then covers Washington's military exploits in the Indian Wars on the Monongahela, his elevation to commander of the Continental Army, and his successful exploits and leadership in the War of Independence. Since Washington often fought on the frontlines, he witnessed the horrors of war firsthand and years after his military career had ended, he turned his back on the "rage of conquest" he witnessed in various European conflicts. Brumwell's often tedious book portrays Washington as he grew from a "feisty young frontier officer" to "the tough 40-something commander of the Continental Army" who wished to be remembered most for his military exploits and leadership.