In late August 1776, a badly defeated Continental Army retreated from Long Island to Manhattan. By early November, George Washington’s inexperienced army withdrew further 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.
During his retreat across New Jersey, Washington reconceived the war: keep the army mobile, target isolated detachments of the British Army, rely on surprise and deception, form partisan 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.
The new book George Washington’s Revenge: How General Washington Turned Defeat into the Strategy That Won the Revolution (Stackpole Books, 2022) by Arthur S. Lefkowitz looks at how George Washington and the Continental Army turned from the brink of defeat to victory.
Arthur Lefkowitz is an independent historian whose previous books are The Long Retreat, the Calamitous Defense of New Jersey; The American Turtle Submarine, The Best Kept Secret of the American Revolution; George Washington’s Indispensable Men, The 32 Aides-de-Camp Who Helped Win American Independence; Benedict Arnold’s Army, The 1775 American Invasion of Canada During the Revolutionary War; Eyewitness Images from the American Revolution; Benedict Arnold in the Company of Heroes, The Lives of the Extraordinary Patriots Who Followed Arnold to Canada; and Colonel Hamilton and Colonel Burr, The Revolutionary War Lives of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. He lives in New Jersey.
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