Book Review presents reviews of recent publications on Pennsylvania subjects by noted scholars, historians and journalists.

Valley Forge
by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin
Simon & Schuster, 432 pp., hardcover $30

In Valley Forge, Bob Drury and Tom Clavin explore the harsh realities of Gen. George Washington’s most trying winter in impressive and vivid detail. Utilizing the writings of an impressive who’s who of the American Revolution, the authors weave a narrative that accurately and dramatically recreates the Continental Army’s most desperate hour.

One of the greatest strengths of  Valley Forge comes from the authors’ ability to set the stage properly; for as desperate as the winter at Valley Forge was, the Continental Army’s problems started long before the encampment. Breaking the book into three sections, Drury and Clavin first review the disastrous conflicts of 1777 — the battles of Brandywine, the Clouds, Paoli and Germantown. In the second part of the book, the authors paint a vivid picture of the many challenges faced by Washington’s army aside from the wintery elements, including loyalist threats, constant shortages, and growing dissent among the general’s detractors in Congress. The third and final portion of the book focuses on Washington’s greatest asset: his fellow officers and confidants. Making sure to touch on the unique roles these individuals played, the authors effectively bring figures like Marquis de Lafayette, Baron von Steuben, Nathanael Greene, Henry Knox, and many others into the spotlight where they belong. As an element of balance, the narrative never strays too far from Gen. William Howe’s British perspective either. As Washington noted so frequently during the winter of 1777–78, and the authors echo, the army’s survival at Valley Forge was a dramatic exercise in teamwork and perseverance. Finally, in a grand climax, the Battle of Monmouth is recounted in detail.

Although there is little new information presented in the form of interpretation or source material, Drury and Clavin succeed in distilling a complex set of circumstances into a coherent, highly readable narrative that is sorely needed on this most important topic.

Brady J. Crytzer
Robert Morris University