Continuing to delve into the Revolutionary War some more, I recently read The Winter that Won the War: The Winter Encampment at Valley Forge, 1777-1778 by Phillip S. Greenwalt. It is an excellent brief history of the American army at Valley Forge.
The Winter that Won the War is part of Savas Beatie’s Emerging Revolutionary War Series. The Series offers an overview of the Revolutionary War’s most important battles and stories.
The Winter that Won the War does not disappoint. It is a succinct history that summarizes the major events and characters that molded the American army into the fighting machine that eventually won the war.
Greenwalt establishes Valley Forge’s place in the timeline of the war – immediately following the disastrous Philadelphia campaign (which had the Battles of Brandywine and Germantown). He follows that with the encampment at Valley Forge and the training under Prussian Baron von Steuben. He finishes the book with a study of a small battle after Valley Forge (Battle of Barren Hill) that illustrated how well the newly trained army maneuvered under stress.
Although Valley Forge was a time of misery for those recovery from their battle wounds and the common soldier, it was also a time of rebirth. The men not only became better trained, they formed an esprit de corps from their hardship. Greenwalt focuses more on the transformation of the Army, rather than the misery (he does not ignore the hardship and sacrifice). He also discusses, rightly so, Washington’s phenomenal efforts to keep the army together and spy on the British.
Greenwalt liberally sprinkles in illustrations and maps that help the reader visualize Valley Forge and its inhabitants.
The Winter that Won the War is a must-read for anyone wanting an overview of the American army at Valley Forge.