Gingrich and Forstchen (Valley Forge, 2010, etc.) continue their series on the American Revolution by following Washington and the Continental Army to Yorktown.
Washington is little understood as a man, perhaps because his widow burned decades of their correspondence. Thus, the authors have undertaken to “enrich and broaden our knowledge of the past” through fiction. In that quest, much of the narrative filters through the perspectives of the fictional Peter Wellsley and Allen Van Dorn, New Jersey childhood friends who pledged allegiance to opposite sides. It is fall, 1780. Wellsley serves at West Point on Washington’s staff. Van Dorn, a Loyalist, serves the British Gen. Clinton in Manhattan. The friends meet at opportune times during the narrative. The success at Yorktown begins when Washington dispatches Gen. Nathanial Greene to the Carolinas to right the bumbling of Gen. Gates. With Wellsley on staff, Greene bleeds Cornwallis in the Carolinas. Cornwallis maneuvers toward Virginia, dragging a train of casualties. Contemptuous of colonials at heart, Britain’s passive Clinton lingers on Manhattan behind impregnable fortifications, with the less-than-audacious British fleet securely anchored around Staten Island. Ably supported by French Gen. Rochambeau, Washington receives word the French can also come to his aid with de Grasse’s Caribbean fleet, blockading Chesapeake Bay and pinning Cornwallis at Yorktown. Washington realizes he can take half his northern army and 4,000 of Rochambeau’s allied French forces and spring a trap, one that will cost the British their mid-Atlantic forces while simultaneously undercutting peace initiatives from “sunshine patriots” in Philadelphia. Wellsley and Van Dorn, meanwhile, gather intelligence behind enemy lines.
Augmented with character sketches of lesser-known patriots, the book brings Washington to life as a resolute and bold general. The authors shine brightly in describing the depth of his emotion flowing from the victory at Yorktown.