George Washington's Great Gamble
- AOS Naval Non-Fiction - General
- By James L. Nelson
And the Sea Battle That Won the American Revolution:
In the opening months of 1781, after six years of grinding war, General George Washington feared his army would fail to survive another campaign season. The spring and summer only served to reinforce his despair, but in late summer the changing circumstances of war presented a once-in-a-war opportunity for a French armada to hold off the mighty British navy while his own troops with French reinforcements drove Lord Cornwallis's forces to the Chesapeake. It was the only opportunity Washington and his French allies ever had for a combined land-and-sea action against the British, and they used it brilliantly. The Battle of the Capes would prove the only time the French ever fought the Royal Navy to a draw, and for the British army it was a catastrophe. Cornwallis confidently retreated to Yorktown, expecting to be evacuated by a British fleet that never arrived. In the end he had no choice but to surrender. Although the war sputtered on another two years, its outcome was never in doubt after Yorktown.
There have been several books about the Battle of Yorktown. The most recent, and probably the best, is Richard Ketchum's Victory at Yorktown (Henry Holt, 2004). Like most histories of Yorktown, it deals only peripherally with the Battle of the Capes. The only book about that epic naval battle was published in 1959 and is out of print. Yet without the Battle of the Capes, the American victory at Yorktown would have been impossible.
General Washington's Great Gamble is the story of the greatest naval engagement of the American Revolution. But it is more than that. It is a study in leadership, good and bad, political machinations and the wild, unpredictable circumstances that led to the extraordinary confluence of military and naval resources at that time and place. Thanks to Washington's insight, Cornwallis's arrogance, and French tenacity and luck at the Battle of the Capes, all the elements of victory came together, after half a decade of fighting, for that one, shining moment, changing the course of history.
Author: James L. Nelson
Title: George Washington's Great Gamble: And the Sea Battle That Won the American Revolution
First Published by: International Marine
Date:19 April 2010
Written specifically for Young Adults: No