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Washington’s Revolution: The Making of America’s First Leader, by Robert Middlekauff, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2015, $30

The American Revolution brought many noteworthy individuals to national attention, but George Washington garnered the highest acclaim among citizens of the emerging nation. Blessed with innate command and organizational abilities, he faced the almost insurmountable task of cobbling together a reliable army from ragtag militias and volunteers. Obstacles included regular desertions by enlisted men and officers alike, a dearth of vital supplies, insufficient financial support from an overly cautious Continental Congress, capricious allies and a superior enemy.

Middlekauff traces Washington’s transformation from regional landowner and soldier to national leader and savvy diplomat. He vividly portrays the onetime Virginia militiaman’s gradual disillusionment with British leaders and his tireless efforts to convert other untested militiamen, whose first loyalty was to their home colonies, into a unified force capable of outlasting and outwitting its antagonists. The author eloquently describes how Washington’s diplomatic skills developed as the direct result of confronting mutiny and raising morale within his own army, as well as convincing his French allies to act more promptly to meet their shared military goals.

Washington’s Revolution is a memorable portrait of a methodical, principled leader who rose to prominence due to his military skills, sense of justice and conscientious personality. Without Washington’s unrelenting persistence as a fighter, his exceptional leadership and his ability to unify countrymen around the common cause of national liberty the outcome of the Revolutionary War could have been significantly different.

—S.L. Hoffman