First of Men: A Life of George Washington

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Written by John Ferling, one of America's leading historians of the Revolutionary era, The First of Men offers an illuminating portrait of George Washington's life, with emphasis on his military and political career.

Here is a riveting account that captures Washington in all his complexity, recounting not only Washington's familiar sterling qualities—courage, industry, ability to make difficult decisions, ceaseless striving for self-improvement, love of his family and loyalty to...

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The First of Men: A Life of George Washington

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Overview

Written by John Ferling, one of America's leading historians of the Revolutionary era, The First of Men offers an illuminating portrait of George Washington's life, with emphasis on his military and political career.

Here is a riveting account that captures Washington in all his complexity, recounting not only Washington's familiar sterling qualities—courage, industry, ability to make difficult decisions, ceaseless striving for self-improvement, love of his family and loyalty to friends—but also his less well known character flaws. Indeed, as Ferling shows, Washington had to overcome many negative traits as he matured into a leader. The young Washington was accused of ingratitude and certain of his letters from this period read as if they were written by "a pompous martinet and a whining, petulant brat." As commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, he lost his temper more than once and indulged flatterers. Aaron Burr found him "a boring, colorless person." As president, he often believed the worst about individual officials. Ferling concludes that Washington's personality and temperament were those of "a self-centered and self-absorbed man, one who since youth had exhibited a fragile self-esteem." And yet he managed to realize virtually every grand design he ever conceived. Ferling's Washington is driven, fired by ambition, envy, and dreams of fame and fortune. Yet his leadership and character galvanized the American Revolution—probably no one else could have kept the war going until the master stroke at Yorktown—and helped the fledgling nation take, and survive, its first unsteady steps.

This superb paperback makes available once again an unflinchingly honest and compelling biography of the father of our country.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In addition to reviewing the first president's familiar sterling attributes, Ferling, a historian at West Georgia College, focuses on his character flaws, although here there isn't a great deal of material to work with. The young Washington was accused of ingratitude, and certain of his letters from this period read as if they were written by ``a pompous martinet and a whining, petulant brat.'' As commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, he lost his temper more than once and may have indulged a flatterer or two on his staff. Aaron Burr found him ``a boring, colorless person.'' As president, he was ready to believe the worst about individual officials, before all the evidence was in. Ferling concludes that Washington's personality and temperament were those of ``a self-centered and self-absorbed man, one who since youth had exhibited a fragile self-esteem.'' He nevertheless managed to realize virtually every grand design he ever conceived, as the biographer fully demonstrates. (July)
Library Journal
Ferling's Washington is driven, fired by ambition, envy, and dreams of fame and fortune. He could be rash, even reckless, in pursuit of his goals; his formidable temper erupted at real and fancied slights. Yet in leadership and character he symbolized the American Revolution; no one else could have kept the war going until the master stroke at Yorktown. At proper times, both militarily and personally, he exhibited an almost inhuman self-restraint. ``At the core of his being lay the compelling drive . . . for self-enhancement,'' writes Ferling, ``and all his life Washington had sought to learn the techniques that would facilitate his yearnings.'' A compelling biography, judicious and searching in its quest for the connections between the private and public man. Harry W. Fritz, Univ. of Montana, Missoula
Booknews
Ferling (history, West Georgia College) probes the contradictions and complexities of character that led to Washington's success. This is the first major biography to draw on the new George Washington Papers project at the University of Virginia. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From the Publisher
"A compelling biography, judicious and searching."—Library Journal (starred review)

"Ferling obviously has a rare feel for the language. His prose is at times almost poetry, his re-creations of the scenes of Washington's endeavors, especially the natural surroundings in which the surveyor, the planter, and teh soldier labored, are gripping and masterful."—American Historical Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780870495625
  • Publisher: University of Tennessee Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/1988
  • Pages: 704
  • Product dimensions: 6.11 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.18 (d)

Meet the Author

John Ferling is the author of nine books and numerous articles on the American Revolution and early American wars, and has appeared in four television documentaries devoted to the Revolution and the War of Independence. His book A Leap in the Dark won the Fraunces Tavern Book Award as the year's best book on the American Revolution, and Almost a Miracle was named the New York American Revolution Round Table Best Book of 2007 He lives in metropolitan Atlanta.

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Table of Contents

Preface

PART ONE
1. Young George Washington
2. The Frontier Warrior
3. The Acquisitive Planter
4. Patrician Revolutionary

PART TWO
2. Commander of America's Army
6. At the Brink
7. Washington's War Begins
8. The Campaign of 1777
9. The New Continental Army
10. The Character of General Washington
11. The Forgotten Years: 1778-1780
12. Victory and Retirement

PART THREE
13. A Brief Retirement
14. An End to Retirement

PART FOUR
15. The Early Presidency
16. The End of the First Term
17. The Second Term Begins
18. Last Years in Office

PART FIVE
19. The Last Years

Afterword
Notes
Select Bibliography
Index

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