Nice post on George Washington over at Powerline. I just finished reading a great historical novel about the Revolutionary War, “The Glorius Cause,” by Michael Shaara. (His father wrote “The Killer Angels,” an excellent account of Gettysburg.) I knew next to nothing about the Lexington, Valley Forge or Yorktown before reading the book, and its prequel, “Rise to Rebellion.”

Washington’s exploits as a general are often overshadowed by his presidency. Shaara makes one point very clear: Washington was the right man at the right time. We’d still be an English colony if not for his leadership. A ragtag colonial government gave Washington a downtrodden army with no experience. They then offered him the barest of financial support and constantly maligned his decisions while debating his removal from command. Faced with this situation, Washington managed to defeat the much-larger army of the greatest empire of the day.

By the way, the book also details the heroics of two foreign officers who I knew little about: The Marquis de Lafayette and Baron Von Steuben. Lafayette disobeyed his king (before France entered the war) in order to serve with Washington. His cool-headed leadership under fire was sorely needed. Von Steuben receives much less credit (note how many places are named for LaFayette, but just a couple Steubenvilles), but his role was just as important. He brought much-needed training to the men at Valley Forge and turned them into a real army.

So on his birthday, a moment of thanks to Washington and all the people (even Frenchmen!) who led to the formation of our country.