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To Blind the Eyes of Our Enemies: Washington's Grand Deception, by G. L. Lamborn and W. L. Simpson

Alexandria, LA: White Hart Publications, 2018. Pp. 206. Appends, notes, biblio.. $15.00 paper. ISBN: 1942923317.

Washington, the Grand Deceiver

The authors, respectively a retired Army Reserve colonel and CIA operations officer and a retired naval officer and civilian wargaming specialist for the U.S.M.C. and Center for Naval Analyses, give us a look at a facet of George Washington’s military abilities ignored by his hagiographers and generally neglected by most historians, his skill at deception, especially strategic deception.

The authors open with an historical overview of deception in warfare and then compare the strategic situation of the Patriots with that of the Crown. While the situation argued for a cautious strategy, a “Fabian” approach, named for Fabius Maximus, the Roman practitioner of deception during the Hannibalic War, Washington, along with most Patriot leaders, initially thought a confrontational strategy would lead to victory. But this resulted in several serious defeats, which the authors cover well.

The authors explain how Washington learned from these defeats. By 1778, even as he was professionalizing his army, aided by his reading in history, with the support of Nathanael Greene, and against calls for a confrontational strategy, Washington began to avoid battle under any but the most favorable conditions, while using maneuver and deception to help bring about those conditions.

From then on, Washington maintained what the authors call an “army in being”, a force posing a viable threat to the British, yet keeping mostly out of reach. This forced the British to tie up a lot of troops to watch his army, which allowed smaller Patriot forces to gain control over much of the country outside of some coastal cities, primarily New York, the principal British base.

The arrival of the French in force in 1780, allowed Washington to execute his most notable deception. Having hinted at capturing New York for some time – perhaps seriously, perhaps not – in 1781, Greene having trapped a British army at Yorktown, Washington engineered a rendezvous at West Point with the French army, coming down from Rhode Island. This was masked as preparations for an attack on New York, an impression strengthened by a massive turnout of militiamen, the building of many boats, and the strengthening of American positions around the city, while increasing harassment of its defenses. Then, in a remarkably swift movement, the combined Franco-American forces marched from West Point to Yorktown between August 21st and September 18th, aided by the victory of the French fleet over the British. The British surrendered Yorktown a month and a day later, effectively ending the war.

In essence, the authors argue, well, that had Washington lived up to the mythic “I cannot tell a lie”, the United States would almost certainly never have attained independence.

Although some maps would have been of help, this is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in the American Revolution, the still underrated generalship of George Washington, or the art of strategic deception.

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Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   


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