George Washington: Gentleman Warrior
George Washington is the subject of seemingly countless biographies, and his conduct and exploits are detailed in every survey of the American War for Independence and the early American republic. But what Brumwell has done with this work is focus not merely on Washington’s various roles—militia colonel, general, president, et al — but on his life as a gentleman warrior. To set up this narrative, Brumwell details what it meant to be a gentleman in 18th-century America, and how this way of life, including its attitudes and expectations, helped transform Washington into one of the greatest contributors to western democracy. We see how Virginia planter society, British connections, and Washington’s family legacy influenced his childhood. We spend more time with him during the French and Indian War than in most biographies, and from there we launch into the War for Independence itself. Though many of the details, including the blow-by-blows in the war, are well known, Brumwell returns time and again to Washington as a gentleman warrior, thereby giving the reader a new perspective on the great man. Little time is spent on the presidency or on his life in retirement, seeing as his role as a warrior, save for a few brief interludes, had been retired. This book has won the George Washington Book Prize for 2013, and is likewise recommended by this reviewer.