George Washington's War: The Saga of the American Revolution

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An exciting trip back in time to the American Revolution, "a reminder of what history can be when written by a master."—Publishers Weekly

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George Washington's War: The Saga of the American Revolution

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Overview

An exciting trip back in time to the American Revolution, "a reminder of what history can be when written by a master."—Publishers Weekly

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
In this third volume of narratives of important events in American history (following Delivered from Evil: the Saga of World War II and None Died in Vain: the Saga of the Civil War), popular historian Leckie traces the course of events from the causes of the break between the American colonies and the British government to the surrender of Lord Cornwallis to George Washington at Yorktown. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060922153
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/28/1993
  • Series: Harper Perennial
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 688
  • Sales rank: 683,598
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.54 (d)

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Chapter One


The Fall of Quebec

During the early days of September 1759, General James Wolfe sank deeper and deeper into the dark night of despair. Only a few months previously, he had come sailing up the broad St. Lawrence River toward Quebec in a mood of the highest optimism and exaltation. To him, at only thirty-two years of age, had gone the chief command of William Pitt's three-pronged campaign to end the 150-year-old Anglo-French struggle for North America. While the veterans Lord Jeffrey Amherst and General John Prideaux were to capture Montreal and Fort Niagara, respectively, Wolfe, a mere colonel during the American campaign of a year earlier, had been chosen to crack the hardest nut of all: Quebec. The selection had provoked bitter criticism both in the army and in the ministry. The Duke of Newcastle complained to King George II that Wolfe not only was too young to command such an important expedition, but was also slightly demented. "Mad is he?" the old king growled. "Then I hope he will bite some others of my generals."

But James Wolfe was not insane, only insanely ambitious. When the British fleet arrived in the great basin below Quebec on June 26, his heart beat wildly when he beheld the beautiful white city on the cliff above him. If it were his, Niagara and Montreal would fall like rotten fruit and North America at last would be the king's. What, then, of James Wolfe? A peerage? James Wolfe, first Earl of Quebec? Why not? Dukedoms had been granted for less. Coming back to earth, Wolfe saw immediately that this clifftop city would be a tough nut to crack, indeed. He knew that it held 14,000 enemy soldiersagainst his 8,500, of whom many were those Americans whom he despised as "the dirtiest, most contemptible, cowardly dogs that you can conceive." Yet it was the American Rangers--forty of them--whom he quickly ordered ashore to capture the Island of Orl‚ans, across the basin from Quebec. Here, he built his base camp, hastening a few days later to the island's tip to study Quebec's fortifications.

Wolfe held his telescope delicately. A soldier standing near noticed the marks of scurvy on the backs of his thin white hands. Here was no "normal" British general. Tall, thin and awkward; pallid in complexion; given to picking nervously at his cuffs with his long, tapering fingers, he seemed more a sissy than a soldier. He did not even wear the customary military wig or powder his bright red hair, but let it grow loose and long, pinning it together at the back of his head like any jackanapes. Yet James Wolfe's bulging blue eyes were hard, blazing now with a zealous fire and then with wonder while he studied his objective.

High, high above him, beautiful and white in the sunlight, was the city. He could see the stone houses, the churches, the palaces, the convents, the hospitals, the forest of spires and steeples and crosses glinting beneath the white flag whipping in the breeze. Everywhere he saw thick square walls and gun batteries, even along the strand of the Lower Town, straggling out of sight to his left beyond Cape Diamond. To his right as he swung his glass slowly like a swiveling gun, Wolfe perceived the entrenchments of Montcalm. He saw the sealed mouth of the St. Charles and the thundering falls of the Montmorency guarding the French left flank. He saw the little town of Beauport and the mud flats before it beneath the grape and muskets of Montcalm's redoubts. From left to right he saw steep brown cliffs, scarred with the raw red earth of fresh entrenchments; the stone houses, with windows reduced to firing slits by piles of logs; and behind them, the tops of the Indian wigwams and the white tents of the regulars. If Wolfe could have seen beyond Cape Diamond to his left, he would have been appalled by natural obstacles that were more formidable than Montcalm's fortifications. Here for seven or eight miles west to Cape Rouge rose steep after inaccessible steep, ranges of cliffs atop which a few men might hold off an army, all ending at another river and waterfall like the Montmorency.

Each time Wolfe thought he detected a flaw in the enemy's fortifications, he paused, studying the area eagerly, searching for a likely landing place, each time shaking his head petulantly and moving on. At last he snapped his telescope shut in exasperation and returned to his camp to notify William Pitt that he had gazed upon "the strongest country in the world."

Louis Joseph, the Marquis de Montcalm, had commanded in Canada since 1755 and had proved himself a veritable thorn in the side of William Pitt and his luckless, feckless generals, from the unimaginative Edward Braddock to the listless Lord Loudoun to the willy-nilly and artless James Abercrombie, known to his contemptuous troops as "Mrs. Nanny Cromby." Montcalm was also a gentleman of high principle and deep religious convictions and a scholar. He was extremely proud of those fortifications that had so dismayed James Wolfe, having erected them over the objections of Pierre Franýois Rigaud, the Marquis de Vaudreuil, governor of Canada and son of an earlier governor of the little colony of sixty thousand souls along the mighty St. Lawrence. Vaudreuil seems to have studied corruption under his father, learning how best "to clip and cut and rob the king." Vaudreuil's objections to spending money to fortify the capital of the colony were based, in part, on his jealousy of Montcalm's victories--which he often reported to Versailles as his own--and, in part, on his awareness that Montcalm had informed Paris of Vaudreuil's connivance in the colony's corruption. "Everybody appears to be in a hurry to make his fortune before the colony is lost," Montcalm had written, "which event many perhaps desire as an impenetrable veil over their conduct."

Nevertheless, Montcalm had persevered in his determination to make Quebec impregnable. His confidence remained unshaken even after the appearance of the British fleet carrying Wolfe's army. "Let them amuse themselves," he said calmly. "Two months more, and they will be gone."

At first, James Wolfe made no impatient or impetuous assault upon this "strongest country," but rather attempted to lure Montcalm out of his fortifications. First, he deliberately divided his army into three dispersed forces, hoping Montcalm would seize this seeming opportunity to defeat him in detail, but relying on the British fleet to concentrate his separated army at any given point. Montcalm refused the bait. Next Wolfe ravaged the countryside, calculating that the French general would be so enraged that he would come rallying to the rescue of his tormented countrymen. Again Montcalm sat still. Finally, goaded into indiscretion, Wolfe launched an incredibly ill-conceived and badly executed amphibious assault in which boated troops crossed the river to disembark under enemy fire and attempt to storm a fortified height above them. Here--without harming a single Frenchman--he lost 443 men killed and wounded, together with the respect of his staff, his three brigadiers and Admiral Charles Saunders, commander of the fleet. Enemy sniping had also thinned his ranks, so that by the end of August he had lost 850 men killed and wounded, an alarming 10 percent of his entire force. Disease and desertion further reduced his strength, while the general himself was gripped by an indecision that was nearly as destructive of discipline as was his constant feuding with his brigadiers. Then, on August 20, Wolfe himself fell ill of a fever that was probably malaria. For a week he lay in a French farmhouse, his thin body racked in an oven of heat. Recovering, he assembled his brigadiers and asked them how best to attack the enemy.

As they had done before, the brigadiers recommended that he seize a position on the opposite shore somewhere between Quebec and Montreal upriver. To their surprise, instead of peremptorily rejecting this advice, as he had done before, he not only accepted it, but proposed to climb the inaccessible heights beneath the high plateau of the Plains of Abraham under the very walls of Quebec. Montcalm, cut off from assistance from Montreal, would have to come out and fight.

Here, it seemed to the startled brigadiers, was a desperate solution born of despair and their commander's dread of defeat, of going home to face "the censure and reproach of an ignorant population." Here also was a resolve strengthened on September 10, when Admiral Saunders informed him that with ice floes beginning to form on the Gulf of St. Lawrence, he would have to leave. Alarmed, Wolfe told Saunders that he was going to send 150 picked men up a secret path leading to the Plains of Abraham. If they could overpower the light guard posted there, his main body would follow. If they could not, Wolfe would agree to return to Britain.

Wolfe is said to have discovered this path while studying the cliffs west of Quebec. Examining a little cove called the Anse-du-Foulon--Fuller's Cove--he is said to have discerned outlines of a trail winding up the steep cliffside, and observed that only a few white tents were visible at the top. But because this assumes much too much and because Wolfe deliberately destroyed the September entries in his diary, it is not too speculative to suggest that treachery, rather than the implausible pretext of seeing the path "through a glass darkly," had revealed to him Montcalm's Achilles' heel.

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Table of Contents

List of Maps
Acknowledgments
1 The Fall of Quebec 1
2 The Americans 10
3 Mercantilism/Birth Cry of Freedom 22
4 King George III 26
5 The Stamp Act and Samuel Adams 41
6 George's First Seizure/Stamp Act Repealed 51
7 The Boston Massacre 56
8 John Adams 62
9 Trial of the Redcoats 71
10 The Boston Tea Party 76
11 Thomas Gage 83
12 Gage Takes Over 87
13 Dr. Joseph Warren and Paul Revere 94
14 Lexington and Concord 103
15 Ethan Allen and Fort Ticonderoga 116
16 Congress Chooses a War Chief 122
17 George Washington 126
18 The Battle of Bunker Hill 144
19 British Shock and Chagrin 164
20 George III's War Machine 168
21 Washington's Yankee Doodles 177
22 Lord George Germain 189
23 The Lure of Canada 198
24 Benedict Arnold and Quebec 203
25 Toward an American Navy 216
26 Charles Lee and Charleston 220
27 Henry Knox and the Guns of Ti 232
28 Howe Evacuates Boston 239
29 Tom Paine and Common Sense 243
30 The Declaration of Independence 251
31 The Battle of Long Island 258
32 "Peace" Talks/Alexander Hamilton/Kip's Bay 268
33 The Rabble Aroused/New York Burns/Nathan Hale 279
34 The Battle of White Plains 283
35 Disaster at Fort Washington 289
36 "Admiral" Arnold Saves the Cause 297
37 The Cause Collapsing/The Perfidy of Charles Lee 307
38 Trenton: Washington Rallies the Revolution 315
39 Princeton: Cornwallis's "Bag" Comes Up Empty 322
40 The Tories Sour on "Saviors"/Washington Acclaimed 331
41 The Marquis de Lafayette 336
42 The Battle of Brandywine Creek 344
43 The Battle of Germantown 357
44 John Burgoyne 366
45 Saratoga I: Ticonderoga Falls 375
46 Saratoga II: Fort Stanwix, Oriskany, Bennington 389
47 Saratoga III: Freeman's Farm, Bemis Heights - Finis 399
48 After Saratoga/The French Alliance 417
49 The Fall of the Delaware River Forts 427
50 Valley Forge/Von Steuben 433
51 The Conway Cabal 445
52 The British Lion Purrs 452
53 The British in Philadelphia/Howe Goes Home 458
54 The Battle of Monmouth Courthouse 467
55 The French Arrive/Newport Fizzle/Savannah Lost 490
56 The Border War/John Paul Jones 494
57 Stony Point/Savannah Repulse/Inflation 502
58 The Fall of Charleston 507
59 Lord Charles Cornwallis 523
60 The Battle of Camden 528
61 London Riots Prolong the War 539
62 Treason I: Arnold's Disaffection 543
63 Treason II: Arnold's Betrayal 556
64 Treason III: Andre's End 576
65 The Battle of King's Mountain 582
66 Mutiny/Greene and Morgan/Cowpens 591
67 The Battle of Guilford Court House 604
68 Greene Reconquers the South 619
69 Yorktown I: France Delivers 632
70 Yorktown II: The End 649
Epilogue: A New Order of the Ages 659
Selected Bibliography 661
Index 665
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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2011

    Highly recommended

    Very in depth and easy to read account of the American Revolution.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2004

    Great Book

    This book was given to me. It looked long and boring with lots of small print, like a text book. It wasn't! I usually read Sci-Fi like Star Wars and Star Trek. I'm hooked on American History now! Thanks!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2004

    GREAT

    Perhaps the best book ever written on the American Revolution!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2008

    I have his son for a teacher!

    i have robert leckie's son for a teacher and i love him! so anyway, i'm pretty sure that some people wouldbe upset with me because i'm not saying anything about the book. but it's got to be good, because (either this one or another one) i think is going to be made into a movie. (i assume hbo... i'm not sure and don't take my word.)

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2008

    Awesome book

    Fatastic book. Gives you a lot of information on not only the revolutionary war but also on many other wars that preceded it. A must read for any colonial era enthusiast.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2008

    Info Galore

    Very informative about every aspect of the war.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2003

    Excellent!

    This is an enjoyable, enlightening account of a war that is somtimes overlooked. Mr. Leckie has done an admirable job in making this war understandable and relavent to Today's generation. A great book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2001

    WONDERFULL!

    This is a wonderful entertaining book. A must read for military and non military historians alike. A page turner for all!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2001

    FANTASTIC!

    This has become the most enjoyable book I've ever read on the American Revolution.

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