Surviving the Winters
Housing Washington's Army during the American Revolution
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
As Elliott reminds us, Washington’s troops spent only a few days a year in combat. The rest of the time, especially in the winter months, they were engaged in a different sort of battle—against the elements, unfriendly terrain, disease, and hunger. Victory in that more sustained struggle depended on a mastery of camp construction, logistics, and health and hygiene—the components that Elliott considers in his environmental, administrative, and operational investigation of the winter encampments at Middlebrook, Morristown, West Point, New Windsor, and Valley Forge. Beyond the encampments’ basic function of sheltering soldiers, his study reveals their importance as a key component of Washington’s Fabian strategy: stationed on secure, mountainous terrain close to New York, the camps allowed the Continental commander-in-chief to monitor the enemy but avoid direct engagement, thus neutralizing a numerically superior opponent while husbanding his own strength.
Documenting the growth of Washington and his subordinates as military administrators, Surviving the Winters offers a telling new perspective on the commander’s generalship during the Revolutionary War. At the same time, the book demonstrates that these winter encampments stand alongside more famous battlefields as sites where American independence was won.
“Reminding us that the armies of the Revolutionary War spent little time in battle, and much in camp, in this insightful book Dr. Elliott discusses how the Continental Army learned to shelter itself…This is an essential read for anyone studying the Revolutionary War and for anyone with an interest in Eighteenth century military practice.”— New York Military Affairs Symposium, NYMAS Review
“Typically, armies occupied winter quarters from December through June. Continental troops under Washington’s command were no different. Their story, however, with the notable exception of Valley Forge, has not been studied in appreciable depth. Steven Elliott has corrected this gap in our awareness. In his analysis, Elliott satisfactorily links evolving American strategy and operations to the selection of long-term encampments. He takes us into the mind of Washington as the commanding general balanced competing requirements. The text is clear and persuasive…I recommend Surviving the Winters to any student of the Revolution."—Journal of America's Military Past