Book Review: The Winter that Won the War: The Winter Encampment at Valley Forge, 1777-1778


by Philip S. Greenwalt

El Dorado Hills, Ca.: Savas Beatie, 2021. Pp. xvi, 170. Illus., maps, appends., biblio. $14.95 paper. ISBN: 1611214939

Valley Forge and the Professionalization of the Continental Army

In The Winter that Won the War Greenwalt examines the experience of the Continental Army at Valley Forge over the winter of 1777-1778 and how that helped turn it into an effective fighting force. He brings to this most crucial time in the Revolutionary War the same well-researched analysis that he has offered in his earlier works.

Greenwalt does an excellent job of explaining how the Winter Encampment of Washington’s army helped win the war, and why Valley Forge still matters today, citing, as an example, President Reagan’s statement that that the image of Washington praying in the snow at Valley Forge is the “most sublime image in American history", an incident for which, as Greenwalt notes there exists no contemporary evidence. He also notes that there are many such stories and myths about Washington and the Continental Army.

This is a compelling and important story, in a wonderfully written book. Readers will come away better understanding the challenging duties, hardships, and stubbornness that transformed the army of these common soldiers of different ethnicities and immigrant groups, with African Americans and Native Americans among them, into a capable fighting force which would ultimately win independence for the colonists.

Greenwalt’s appendices, written with two other historians, cover the defense of the Delaware River, the winter encampment at Wilmington, Delaware, the conditions which the Continental troops survived and, my favorite, Valley Forge in American memory.

Greenwalt explores the reason Valley Forge is still important to us today, while explaining how and why so many stories and myths were created or embellished about the Continental Army and George Washington. This work can help us reach a better understanding of how people like Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette, Baron von Steuben, Alexander Hamilton, Charles Lee, Anthony Wayne, and Nathanael Greene built a professional army that ultimately defeated the British.

As with the volumes in the “Emerging Civil War” series, there are directions for a driving tour of Valley Forge and adjacent sites of importance.

Greenwalt has written a tightly woven account of these critical events that can help people learn more about the experience and rebirth of the Continental Army over the winter of 1777-1778.

The Winter that Won the War is an invaluable read, and highly recommended.


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Our Reviewer: David Marshall has been a high school American history teacher in the Miami-Dade School district for more than three decades. A life-long Civil War enthusiast, David is president of the Miami Civil War Round Table Book Club. In addition to numerous reviews in Civil War News and other publications, he has given presentations to Civil War Round Tables on Joshua Chamberlain, Ulysses S. Grant, Abraham Lincoln, the Battle of Gettysburg, and the common soldier. His previous reviews include The Petersburg Regiment in the Civil War, Civil War Places, The Union Assaults at Vicksburg: Grant Attacks Pemberton, May 17–22, 1863, America’s Buried History: Landmines in the Civil War, The Women's Fight: The Civil War's Battles for Home Freedom, and Nation, A Republic in the Ranks, An Environmental History of the Civil War, Civil War Monuments and the Militarization of America, Arguing until Doomsday, Armies of Deliverance: A New History of the Civil War, “The Devil’s to Pay”: John Buford at Gettysburg. A History and Walking Tour, Spies, Scouts, and Secrets in the Gettysburg Campaign, Defending the Arteries of Rebellion, A Contest of Civilizations: Exposing the Crisis of American Exceptionalism in the Civil War Era, Unlike Anything That Ever Floated, Meade at Gettysburg, A Mortal Blow to the Confederacy: The Fall of New Orleans, and Grant's Left Hook.




Note: A volume in the Savas series “Emerging Revolutionary War”, The Winter that Won the War is also available in several e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium (

Reviewer: David Marshall   

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