BEAT THE LAST DRUM by Thomas J. Fleming


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n his earlier book on the Battle of Bunker Hill, Now We Are Enemies, this excellent writer made fact read as fiction; here, writing of the Siege of Yorktown and the surrender of Cornwallis in 1781, he ignores fictional additives and bases his fascinating account entirely on contemporary historical records. The tale is less one of actual warfare than of frustrations, surprises, accidents and conflicting personalities on both sides. Washington, through personal charm and military genius, ould enforce discipline on his army and his array of brilliant and quarrelsome officers; ornwallis, a fine soldier, was saddled with a dilatory commander-in-chief, Sir Henry linton, who believed ""that if he did nothing the Rebellion would fail of itself"". In the spring of 1781 Cornwallis, after two years of successful campaigning in the South, retired to Yorktown on the Chesapeake, there to fortify his position while awaiting help promised him by Clinton -- which never came. In August Washington, giving up a dream of retaking New York, moved into Virginia with an army of glittering French troops and hard-bitten Americans, and with a dim hope that France would send a promised fleet to the Chesapeake. The fleet, under the inept Admiral de Grasse, actually arrived and to the surprise of all concerned defeated a larger English fleet under the even more inept Admiral Graves, sending it limping back to New York, leaving Cornwallis rapped in Yorktown. The Americans attacked on Oct. 9; on the 17th, his fortifications n ruins under a ferocious bombardment, Cornwallis capitulated, and on the 19th, arched out of Yorktown, his men in full regalia, bands playing and drums beating. ""The finest army Great Britain had in America was gone"". Accurate and enormously readable, this book will appeal to historians of all breeds, war buffs and casual readers. It is unfortunate that a few minor grammatical errors are permitted to mar its otherwise outstanding excellence.

Pub Date: Oct. 19th, 1963
Publisher: St Martin's Press