by Stephen R. Taaffe
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2019. Pp. xii, 346.
Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $39.95. ISBN: 080616431X
Prof. Taaffe (Austin State), author of Marshall and His Generals, Commanding Lincoln's Navy, and others, gives us a critical evaluation of the Patriot generals and their supreme commander. As in his earlier works, this is not a collection of biographical profiles, but rather looks at them as they appear on the stage in the course of the War for Independence.
Taaffe explains how each man came to be appointed as a general, a complicated matter because for political reasons Congress had to try to allocate to each of the colonies a “fair share” of the brass, despite the fact that not all of the colonies contributed their “fair shore” of the manpower. He does a good job of navigating through disputes about seniority among the various general, their numerous personality clashes, office politics, and more.
Taaffe makes the case that the “Conway Cabal” supposedly conspiring to replace Washington with Gates, was less real than is usually thought, a reflection of Washington’s sensitivity to criticism, some of which was valid. He also shows us how the generals grew or failed to grow. Taaffe points out that many men who too aggressively sought battle were often less successful than those who were more cautious, like Washington himself.
Taaffe notes that that while some officers were good at leading troops in combat, they were often less so at conducting a battle, and frequently very bad at managing logistics, a matter which led Washington to be overburdened by paperwork. And of course, the book is has a great cast, populated by with such iconic figures as Nathanael Greene, who never won a battle, yet was second only to Washington in helping bring the war to a successful conclusion, as well as Benedict Arnold, an impressive combat leader, and Lafayette, “Mad” Anthony Wayne, and many more.
A volume in the Oklahoma series “Campaigns and Commanders”, Washington’s Revolutionary War Generals is a valuable read for those interested in the War for Independence or generalship.
Note: Washington’s Revolutionary War Generals is also available in several e-editions.
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