American history, American Revolution, biographies, book reviews, George Washington, James Thomas Flexner, presidential biographies, Presidents
“George Washington in the American Revolution (1775-1783)” is the second book in a four-volume series written by James Thomas Flexner almost 45 years ago on the life of George Washington. This volume covers the period of Washington’s life from the outset of the American Revolution in 1775 (when Washington was elected Commander of the Continental Army) to the War’s conclusion in 1783.
To praise this book as merely a successful and worthy effort by Flexner would be to understate its efficacy and impact by a wide margin. The methodical and vibrant description of Washington’s life often seems brilliantly composed (particularly in hindsight, when reflecting on a book now finished) and although a somewhat dense and detailed biography, this story seemed to flow more easily and with more vitality than the first volume.
Although this book was not designed as a primer on the American Revolution, it probably serves that purpose far better than was intended, and likely better than many books written to that purpose. More importantly, its utility as a biography on Washington’s life during the tumultuous, controversial and chaotic years of the Revolution seems difficult to exceed.
With another six or seven works on Washington yet to read (among them several which are highly anticipated), I expect none may provide quite the journey of these 550+ pages. At times, the author’s insight into Washington’s intellectual and emotional struggles was so well portrayed you were led to believe you might well have been inside the General’s head for a time.
Overall, Flexner’s work was impeccably and seemingly dispassionately researched and supported. It is an incredibly thorough compendium of not just fact, but of insight and analysis, dissecting the complicated Washington into a series of guiding principles and values. Even absent the other three volumes in this series (the final two I have yet to read), this volume seems to stand on its own completely and provides a comprehensive, vivid image of our nation’s soon-to-be first President.
Overall rating: 4½ stars