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Washington's Secret War

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  1,544 ratings  ·  51 reviews

The defining moments of the Revolutionary War did not occur on the battlefield or at the diplomatic table, claims Thomas Fleming, but at Valley Forge, where the Continental Army wintered in 1777 & 78. WASHINGTON'S SECRET WAR tells the dramatic story of how those several critical months transformed a beaten, bedraggled group of recruits into a professional army capable

Paperback, 384 pages
Published November 7th 2006 by Harper Perennial (first published 2005)
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Aug 22, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it
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.
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing
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.
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
A well written and interesting account of George Washington while he led his new army to Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War. While this is not a difficult read, if one is not familiar with some of the key individuals (e.g., Mifflin, Gates, Wayne, etc.) that influenced the Revolutionary War, the beginning of the book can be somewhat confusing until the reader becomes acquainted with all of the military officers, politicians, and people in power during this time in American history. Written ...more
Renn Daniels
Nov 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Valley Forge is a very special place for those that have been there. As you walk among the ruins or remnants of an army that lived, breathed and died here, picture a brutal winter, no food--men eating their leather goods, bark huts or dugouts, disease and death. You wonder how a General of any kind kept his soldiers together. Washington said loses were as high as 3000, however, it's now estimated that he lost more than half his army oh, BTW, their enlistments were up so they could just go home. ...more
This book was all over the place. I did learn some new things despite having previously read a bit about Valley Forge. I appreciated the in-depth examination of the events going on behind-the-scenes during the winter of 1777-78. But how accurate this book is remains to be seen; there are no references in this edition to support anything the author claims. The writing is so biased I can’t make a determination about what is real and what is exaggerated.
Craig Pearson
Jun 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
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.
Lori Szajdek
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent read

I have lived in Philadelphia my entire life and have visited Valley forge a few times however I feel the need to revisit after reading this book. We owe so many thanks to the men who served there.
Joe Spoto
Oct 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book goes into great detail about the politics during the revolutionary war and the behind the scenes conniving of Gates and Lee to try and replace Washington. I was somewhat familiar with it from reading other books but not at this level of detail.
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book! Fleming combines the rigorous research and scholarship of a historian with the readability of a great novelist. This is a very interesting story of the intrigue surrounding Washington, both in Congress and the army, during the long winter at Valley Forge.
Cheryl Ruhl
Nov 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This important work reveals the full scope of the obstacles facing Washington and the war for American independence at Valley Forge. Very readable and enlightening.
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fascinating - Insightful - Well researched Details I'd never heard before
Jan 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great read

Thank you

5star rating. I lived near valley forge and visited there many times. They don't tell you what is written in this book

Andrew Scholes
Good detail on Valley Forge

He would have had a good book if he had kept it just to Valley Forge. He got too wide ranging to keep my attention throughout the entire book.
Aug 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Heavy on names, dates, and places, but an interesting read.
Jun 18, 2014 rated it liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it

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 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was ok
Shelves: own, history
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 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
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
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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