From an acclaimed military historian, a bold reappraisal of young George Washington, an ambitious if reckless soldier destined to become the legendary general who took on the British and, through his leadership, defined the American character
How did George Washington become an American icon? Robert L. O’Connell, the New York Times bestselling author of Fierce Patriot and The Ghosts of Cannae, introduces us to Washington before he was Washington: a young soldier champing at the bit for a commission in the British army, frustrated by his position as a minor Virginia aristocrat. Fueled by ego, Washington led a disastrous expedition in the Seven Years’ War, but then the commander grew up. We witness George Washington take up politics and join Virginia’s colonial governing body, the House of Burgesses, where he became ever more attuned to the injustices of life under the British Empire and the paranoid, revolutionary atmosphere of the colonies. When war seemed inevitable, he was the right man—the only man—to lead the nascent American army.
We would not be here without George Washington, and O’Connell proves that Washington the general was at least as significant to the founding of the United States as Washington the president. He emerges here as cunning and manipulative, a subtle puppeteer among intimates, and a master cajoler—but all in the cause of rectitude and moderation. Washington became the embodiment of the Revolution itself. He draped himself over the revolutionary process and tamped down its fires. As O’Connell writes, the war was decisive because Washington managed to stop a cycle of violence with the force of personality and personal restraint.
In his trademark conversational, witty style, Robert L. O’Connell has written a compelling reexamination of General Washington and his revolutionary world. He cuts through the enigma surrounding Washington to show how the general made all the difference and became a new archetype of revolutionary leader in the process. Revolutionary is a masterful character study of America’s founding conflict filled with lessons about conspiracy, resistance, and leadership that resonate today.
Advance praise for Revolutionary
“Given the amount of ink spilled over the years, it is not easy to offer a fresh look at George Washington’s leadership role during the war for American independence. But Robert L. O’Connell has done it in Revolutionary. The title announces the insight, which is the otherwise uncontrollable political and military energies released by the war that Washington was able to orchestrate.”—Joseph J. Ellis, author of American Dialogues: The Founders and Us
This idiosyncratic volume from popular historian O'Connell (Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman) about Washington's life before the White House takes some contrarian stances. Writing in a colloquial style (he frequently refers to Washington as GW),O'Connell declares, for example, that "the English armed forces never came close to winning, and never could." The book follows Washington from his time as a canny young aristocrat eager to climb the ladder of power in the British military, through his turn from a member of the colonial Virginia House of Burgesses to the determinedly honorable leader of the revolutionary forces, to his 1873 "victory tour" after the revolution's conclusion. In addition to including some hyperbole, this account is often more speculative than rigorous; a typical passage reads, "Washington says nothing in his diary about the brutality he might have observed , but he cannot have missed the paranoia of the place... quite possibly the initial template for his own unease with slavery." Readers seeking an entertaining yarn will find one, but those who find this kind of loose argumentation anathema will want to pass it up.