When the Revolutionary War began, Congress established a national army and appointed George Washington its commander in chief. Congress then took it upon itself to choose numerous subordinate generals to lead the army’s various departments, divisions, and brigades. How this worked out in the end is well known. Less familiar, however, is how well Congress’s choices worked out along the way. Although historians have examined many of Washington’s subordinates, Washington’s Revolutionary War Generals is the first book to look at these men in a collective, integrated manner. A thoroughgoing study of the Revolutionary War careers of the Continental Army’s generals—their experience, performance, and relationships with Washington and the Continental Congress—this book provides an overview of the politics of command, both within and outside the army, and a unique perspective on how it affected Washington’s prosecution of the war.
It is impossible to understand the outcome of the War for Independence without first examining America’s military leadership, author Stephen R. Taaffe contends. His description of Washington’s generals—who they were, how they received their commissions, and how they performed—goes a long way toward explaining how these American officers, who were short on experience and military genius, prevailed over their professional British counterparts. Following these men through the war’s most important battles and campaigns as well as its biggest controversies, such as the Conway Cabal and the Newburgh Conspiracy, Taaffe weaves a narrative in the grand tradition of military history. Against this backdrop, his depiction of the complexities and particulars of character and politics of military command provides a new understanding of George Washington, the War for Independence, and the U.S. military’s earliest beginnings.
A unique combination of biography and institutional history shot through with political analysis, this book is a thoughtful, deeply researched, and an eminently readable contribution to the literature of the Revolution.
“Stephen Taaffe has given us an overview of the Revolution’s generals as comprehensive as it is unsparing. He convincingly explains why so many of them were mediocre commanders at best—and how patriots ultimately produced enough capable generals to win their independence. Washington’s Revolutionary War Generals is a welcome contribution to our understanding of the Continental military.”—Mark Edward Lender, coauthor of Fatal Sunday: George Washington, the Monmouth Campaign, and the Politics of Battle
“Stephen Taaffe’s meticulous research and splendid writing illuminates an understudied aspect of the Continental Army’s organization and leadership. This book is an important contribution to the field.”—Joseph F. Stoltz III, author of A Bloodless Victory: The Battle of New Orleans in History and Memory
“Expertly combining biography, institutional history, and political analysis, "Washington's Revolutionary War Generals" is a meticulously researched work of seminal scholarship, and an eminently readable and impressively informative contribution to the growing body of American Revolutionary War literature.”— Midwest Book Review, Wisconsin Book Watch