In late August 1776, a badly defeated Continental Army retreated from Long Island to Manhattan. By the end of September, George Washington’s inexperienced army had been forced out of New York into New Jersey and, by the end of the year, into Pennsylvania. During this dark night of the American Revolution—“the times that try men’s souls”—Washington began developing the strategy that would win the war. In this illuminating account, Arthur Lefkowitz reveals how George Washington turned defeat into victory.
During his retreat across New Jersey, Washington reconceived the war: keep the army mobile, target small parts of the British Army, rely on surprise and deception, form guerrilla units, and avoid large-scale battles. This new strategy first bore fruit in the crossing of the Delaware on Christmas night 1776 and the attack on the British at Trenton and Princeton. From there, Washington took up winter quarters at Morristown, New Jersey, and moved into the mountains, an ideal position from which to check British movements toward Philadelphia or north up the Hudson. The British tried and failed several times to coax Washington into a decisive battle. Stymied, the British were forced to attack Philadelphia by sea, and they would not be able to seize Philadelphia in time to support the British invasion of upstate New York which ended in defeat at Saratoga.
Lefkowitz relies on a lifetime of deep research on the Revolutionary War and close knowledge of New Jersey to tell this exciting, important story whose impact rippled throughout the rest of the war.
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