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Washington's Secret War: The Hidden History of Valley Forge

4.01  ·  Rating Details ·  940 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
History - Revolutionary War
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published October 25th 2005 by Smithsonian Books (first published 2005)
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Aug 22, 2008 Matt rated it did not like it
Lately I've been on a Revolutionary War kick. My brother got me this book for my birthday, so I read it.


Despite the subtitle, nothing I read about Valley Forge in this book was hidden to me. I already knew that the weather wasn't that cold, or that the soldiers were starving because of poor administration, not a lack of food (Valley Forge is actually rich farmland with high yields). Moreover, I already knew about the Conway Cabal and Washington's efforts to fend off usurpers like Horatio
May 05, 2014 Tom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: presidents
Well I wasn't going to rate this more than 3 but the final 75 pages turned things around for me. Washington's secret political war was in fact quite remarkable. Reminded me a bit of Eisenhower's similar political war with some of his allied compatriots. Only leaders of this caliber could stand a chance of success. Some fascinating things I learned . . .
* Did you know that during the Revolutionary War that Philadelphia was the largest city in America and 3rd largest city in the British Empire.
Dec 31, 2013 Paul rated it liked it
A very well-executed history of this pivotal time & place in the American Revolution. Fleming succeeds in his avowed aim of showing George Washington the adept political operative, a man at least as skilled in the art of politics as he was in the art of war.

Fleming doesn't bother to hide his contempt for his villains, the "true Whigs" (such as Benjamin Rush, Sam Adams, James Lovell, and their fellows; political theorists today might call their tendency "civic republicanism") and the scheming
Jul 11, 2012 Tony rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
WASHINGTON’S SECRET WAR: The Hidden History of Valley Forge. (2005). Thomas Fleming. ****.
This is an alternative history of the period during the Revolution when Washington and his Continental Army was holed up at Valley Forge for the winter of 1777. 1777 was a mixed year for the Continental effort. It started out on January 3 with Washington’s victory at Princeton after his surprise attack and victory at Trenton on December 26 of 1776. These two victories turned the tide for the rebels and sec
I read almost all of this book in one day and I enjoyed reading about the events of Valley Forge that I was not terribly familiar with. The parts on Baron Von Steuben were my favorite. I knew that he was not what he presented himself to be when he arrived here, but I did not realize how impressed everyone, even those outside of Valley Forge, was with the work that Von Steuben did with the Continental Army.

A majority of the book focuses on the political intrigues between Generals (Washington, Ga
Stanley Cramer
Jul 07, 2013 Stanley Cramer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this because of the amount of interesting information I never knew of nearby Valley Forge. I suppose that,s why it's the hidden history - duh. Washington sure didn't have an easy go of it and it had only a little to do with the weather. A must for Revolutionary War history buffs.
Craig Pearson
Jun 07, 2017 Craig Pearson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was hard to put down. Many history authors are very knowledgeable on their subject but have difficulty putting readable thoughts into a good story. I won't repeat what other reviewers have said about the book, they are all accurate. What Fleming has done is to provide a narrative of a narrow part of the Revolution and intertwine it into the wider context of the era. Any book that can entertainingly add to a better understanding of Washington the man and soldier is worth reading.
Feb 20, 2017 Cindy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating - Insightful - Well researched Details I'd never heard before
Jun 18, 2014 Jim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author debunks a number of myths about Valley Forge while portraying George Washington as a master politician who out maneuvered his opponents both in the Continental Army and in the Continental Congress. The soldiers at Valley Forge were short of clothing & food and lived in unsanitary conditions both in their camps and in the hospitals. Mismanagement in the quartermaster & commissary departments resulted in the soldiers starving while food & other supplies went to waste due to ...more
Mar 11, 2013 Ryan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: military history fans, war buffs, colonial history fans
Shelves: favorites
Thomas Fleming rolls up his sleeves and delves into the Valley Forge saga of the Revolutionary War with his usual stylistic fervor and shrewd ability to ensnare the reader into his specific, carved-out, well-researched slice of history. A compelling case is made to dispel the common myths of Valley Forge while simultaneously bolstering and stressing the magnitude of the interplay of the soldiers, the commander-in-chief, and the political intrigue of many prominent characters.

There is enough dram
Dec 21, 2012 William rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Most people have this idyllic view of America's founding as one in which all Americans were united behind George Washington. This turns out to be not true, as egos and personal ambition drove a few to try and discredit him to make themselves look better. I learned a lot about that political aspect of the time, as well as details about the Winter of 1777-1778 spent in Valley Forge. The British were holed up in nearby Philadelphia with a stronger force, and the American Continental Army was quite ...more
Ken Lang
Apr 23, 2012 Ken Lang rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

As an avid reader of American history, I truly loved this find. After visiting the Valley Forge National Park, I stumbled onto this book in the bookstore when searching for a good read about the history behind Valley Forge. Washington's Secret War: The Hidden History of Valley Forge was an extraordinary historical recollection as Thomas Fleming reveals the 'politics' of the day. Through letters and personal journals, Fleming shares Washington’s struggled to prepare the Continental Army to fig
Apr 08, 2016 Patrick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Washington’s Secret War: the Hidden History of Valley Forge

The hardships and suffering of George Washington’s forces at Valley Forge during the winter months of 1777-8 have been related by numerous historians and are well known, even to those with a mere smattering of knowledge of American history. However, the political intrigues and behind-the-scenes efforts by various factions during the American Revolution to undermine George Washington’s leadership are not so well known – until now.
Tom Fl
Glenn Robinson
Jan 29, 2016 Glenn Robinson rated it really liked it
There is office politics and then there is office politics. General Washington during his time faced office politics that could have destroyed the success of the American Revolution. During the Winter and Spring of 1776, 1777, with the British troops warmly ensconced in Philadelphia, Washington's army shoeless and starving in Valley Forge and Congress in tiny York, Pennsylvania, Washington was the target from multiple groups wanting him out. General Gates, General Charles Lee and others all had ...more
Jan 28, 2017 Don rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, own, revolution
I really wanted to like this book. Thomas Fleming has written a lot of books, some very good -- but this was just plain tiresome. Valley Forge sort of lent itself to be filed on the boring side of things: It's the original America tale of "hurry up and wait."

It's the tale of George Washington and his not-just-sunshine patriots wintering at Valley Forge while the Brits literally crapped all over the capital of Philadelphia.

Granted, GW had to overcome LOTS of doubters and haters and back-stabbers
James Rada Jr.
Aug 13, 2010 James Rada Jr. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Washington’s Secret War: The Hidden History of Valley Forge is the first book I’ve read by Thomas Fleming. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I learned a lot from reading it and found it was more than simply a story about survival during the winter of 1776-1777. Behind that story is the story of the political machinations of men.

You had a faction of Congress that believed that a weak federal government was the best course for the states and worked toward this goal behind the scenes. George Washing
Of the many historians that author books on the American Revolution, Thomas J. Fleming is quickly becoming my favorite. I, of course, appreciate the amount of research he must do in order to ensure he is faithful to the history he is sharing. But it is his ability to write an enjoyable narrative that sets him apart from other historian authors. As for this particular novel...I have read many accounts of the revolution and it seems to me that Valley Forge is often mentioned in passing. It does ap ...more
This book does a masterful job of explaining two important ideas in the America revolution. First and foremost it deconstructs the myths surrounding Valley Forge and while showing how hard it was at times for the soldiers it also puts their struggle into perspective. The author does an excellent job of looking at how Lafayette and Baron von Stueben figure into the revolution. The most impressive part however is the way in which the author looks at George Washington's political side. He analyzes ...more
An informative and engaging look at the Continental Army's time in Valley Forge. It also devotes some attention on the political situation at the time, which mainly consisted of Washington fending off threats to his authority and command from various politicians and other generals. That's the main focus of the book, but not the most interesting. The author also explodes some myths about Valley Forge (cold wasn't the main problem, it was lack of food, and only in the first couple months). Fleming ...more
Ron Tenney
Mar 02, 2014 Ron Tenney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After reading General Washington: A Military Life, I wanted to read more about the winter of 1777-1778: Valley Forge.
Thomas Fleming does an amazing job of telling the story from the complex angle of the political movements of the “true whigs” in Congress to discredit Washington and replace him with Horatio Gates, Charles Lee, or who ever else the could find to bring down this “demigod” named Washington.
I am a true believer in the premise that there were many key figures in the birth of our Nat
Ruby Danderfluff
After a spring break spent with Washington and his political/military allies and enemies, I've found a new appreciation for just how severely partisan the fledgling American government was from its inception. Fleming takes aim at the "Conway conspiracy," (complete with Saratoga hero Horatio Gates, along with Samuel and John Adams) which sought to remove Washington from power and disband the continental army from within Congress. It took an adept politician, as well as military leader to maneuver ...more
Jul 24, 2007 Wm rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fleming expertly blends narrative and quotes from source documents. What's more he is up front but not over-wrought about where he differs with other historians.

Of course, it helps that the source material is fantastic -- turns out that the Gen. Washington of reality is more interesting, intelligent and even admirable and awesome than the one of myth. The book outlines how Washington outmaneuvered the American politicians and soldiers that were trying to get rid of him (and by extension the Con
Dec 13, 2016 Lance rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fleming focuses on the winter of Valley Forge and the following spring, but pays particular attention to the political and military rivals of George Washington and how he outmaneuvered them. Details of the continental army's dispositions, suffering and battles are included, but the revelation that Washington was also fighting against American generals who wanted his job and politicians who tried to discharge him is fascinating. Strong insights into the character of Washington as well as his coll ...more
Aug 21, 2012 Goatville9 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history

As histories go this is a short book. While much of the saga of Valley Forge is well-known this book explores the multiple fronts GW fought: the British army as well as the Continental Congress and power-seeking generals.

The American Revolution was almost lost due to greed, sectionalism infighting, and a Whig aversion of a standing army.While there may be some merit to this in times of peace it is folly during times if war. This folly was directly responsible for under-fed, unclothed, shoeless,
Nov 02, 2008 Big rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone with the slightest interest in American history
I found this book to be quite intriguing. While it did mostly rehash everything that is known about Valley Forge from the soldiers point of view, what interested me most was discovering how well George Washington could do the political dance. The impression I always had of Washington was of this quiet, but imposing, figure during the birth of our nation. This book showed that he was very adept at navigating the pitfalls of political conflict. It also showed how well he could deal with each indiv ...more
May 30, 2009 Norberto rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just cannot believe the political garbage poor Washington had to go through
during the war. He had enemies from within and without! I am so impressed
that he had so much stamina to fight a mortal enemy while he was surrounded
by so many back stabbers. That plus all the short comings of the pathetically
equipped Continental Army makes me say 'How in the heck did we win that war??!!'
We should have lost! We should be saying 'God save the Queen' and eating crumpets
at high noon with tea! It was truly a
Vincent Darlage
Sep 16, 2012 Vincent Darlage rated it really liked it
Shelves: biographies, war
Wow. I've been coming to respect George Washington more and more, and this book just elevated him in my esteem even higher. I am stunned to discover that Congress was as divisive and idiotic as it is today, with ruinous zealots on both sides. Washington gave us our liberty from England; if any of these other idiots had had their way, we'd be speaking English today! Wait... We'd be paying our respects to the Queen! There we go. Anyway, George Washington was an amazing leader.
Jan 22, 2009 Matt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book focuses on the politics of the revolutionary war, and does a good job with that. It doesn't go into details of the battles, so if you are interested in more action I wouldn't recommend this book to you. One downfall is the book reads like a text book at times, so it can drag on a little. Overall though it was a good read.
Jeff Raymond
Fleming is fast becoming one of my favorite modern historians. This guy can take such a small part of a significant historical event, make it into something absolutely wonderful, and hook you in until it's done, and that's something special. A great read about the politics of Washington's issues at Valley Forge.
Jan 27, 2016 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating look at the politics of the early days of our country. Well written and details the difficulties facing Washington and the Northern Army. It also gets into the workings of the Continental Congress and the various factions competing to set policy. A lot of information I had never heard of before, well researched and well written.
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Thomas J. Fleming is an historian and historical novelist, with a special interest in the American Revolution. He was born in 1927 in Jersey City, New Jersey, the son of a World War I hero who was a leader in Jersey City politics for three decades. Before her marriage, his mother, Katherine Dolan Fleming, was a teacher in the Jersey City Public School System.

After graduating from St. Peter's Prepa
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