George Washington's Great GambleThere are a number of naval fiction books that feature the Battle of the Capes where the French Fleet under the Comte De Grasse defeated the British under Admiral Graves. Invariably they refer to the surrender of the British Army under Cornwallis at Yorktown as resulting from this action but little detail is given.

This new book George Washington's Great Gamble by James L. Nelson explores both the land and sea events that led up to the battle. Starting with the arrival of the initial French forces and the defection of Benedict Arnold it follows the manouveres and disposition of the forces on both sides. It is clear from the quoted correspondence that Washington was clear throughout that the British could not be defeated while they had naval superiority and could move there forces by sea and that therefore the intervention of a French fleet would be vital.

When the first French Squadron arrived Washington devised a plan to capture Benedict Arnold who had been sent in command of a British force to Virginia. In this instance the fleet did not gain mastery of the sea and they were unsuccesful although the various movements were almost a dress rehearsal for the Yorktown campaign.

The narrative goes on to explore the relationship between the Commander-in-Chief, General Clinton, in New York, Government in Britain  and Lord Cornwallis in the Carolinas and  what led him to march to Virginia and eventually find himself besieged in Yorktown.

As Washingtom had predicted, whilst there was an element of luck, the arrival of a large French fleet under De Grasse proved to be decisive and victory on land then became a foregone conclusion. This led to the end of the war which was something neither side was anticipating a mere few months earlier.

A really interesting read which is definitely recommended.

Description of: George Washington's Great Gamble

Author: James L. Nelson




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