George Washington’s Secret Spy War By John A. Nagy
(Note – The cover illustration pictured is pending approval and may not match final copy)
Published By St. Martin’s Press September 20, 2016
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
George Washington was America’s first spymaster, and his skill as a spymaster won the war for independence.
George Washington’s Secret Spy War is the untold story of how George Washington took a disorderly, ill-equipped rabble and defeated the best trained and best equipped army of its day. Author John A. Nagy has become the nation’s leading expert on the subject, discovering hundreds of spies who went behind enemy lines to gather intelligence during the American Revolution, many of whom are completely unknown to most historians.
Using George Washington’s diary as the primary source, Nagy tells the story of Washington’s experiences during the French and Indian War and his first steps in the field of espionage. Despite what many believe, Washington did not come to the American Revolution completely unskilled in this area of warfare. Espionage was a skill he honed during the French and Indian war and upon which he heavily depended during the Revolutionary War. He used espionage to level the playing field and then exploited it on to final victory.
Filled with thrilling and never-before-told stories from the battlefield and behind enemy lines, this is the story of how Washington out-spied the British. For the first time, readers will discover how espionage played a major part in the American Revolution and why Washington was a master at orchestrating it.
John A. Nagy’s newly released historical book on George Washington competes well with modern spy novels and his accuracy when it comes to facts is what lends this book truth in its thrilling absoluteness.
There have been many books written on the subjects of the Revolutionary War and, indeed of George Washington himself, but this is the first I have read that truly described George Washington’s cunning and determination to win the War for his fellow countrymen. Mr. Nagy begins at an appropriate place, describing how Washington became the brilliant strategist he was – Washington was first employed as a surveyor under a professional hired by his brother Lawrence. This trade taught him how to be observant and would serve him well when on reconnaissance for Governor Dinwiddie during the French and Indian War and as commander during the Revolutionary War. Mr. Nagy also included Washington’s failures in his early military career as he was outsmarted by the Indians and the French who had employed deception for many years to stay out of sight of the British. That Mr. Nagy did not gloss over these failures was very helpful in allowing me to see how Washington was not perfect in his military career and learned continually throughout his time as a commander. Washington would soon learn to best the French and Indians at their game and use it to his advantage throughout the rest of his military campaign. Mr. Nagy made a good point in saying that although there is a legend surrounding Washington that says that “he couldn’t tell a lie”, Washington became one of the best commanders to employ deception and diversionary tactics that have also been used in more recent years by American soldiers in World War II and Desert Storm. The Revolutionary War is one of my favorite periods of history to study and Mr. Nagy’s book gave me better insight into the hard work and dedication Washington put into making victory over the British a reality. It was interesting to learn further that although Washington encourage smuggling of British contraband, he was very tough on those who would try to take advantage of the colonists who were in need of food and other materials. He was also extremely tough on those who were double spy agents, agents for the British alone, or militia deserters. He had no sympathy or patience for those who would seek to hurt others in exchange for fiscal compensation. And further, I found it even more interesting to read about how Washington and his fellow commanders hid messages with “sympathetic ink” and successfully employed fishermen to ensure messages and spies made it through enemy lines. Mr. Nagy has written an excellent book full of danger, secrets and intrigue – enough to keep even the most avid spy fan engaged.
There were only two small issues I had with this book – the formatting of the writing and inclusion of more modern topics. As to the formatting, for one who enjoys history books the multitudinous details included would be fine, however, I did notice that the sheer volume of dates and details would be somewhat overwhelming for a casual reader. I found myself re-reading passages to make sure I had everything straight and would have liked to have had all the details spread out a little more to make the story more easily readable. I realize this e-book is an advanced copy and will contain errors, but I do believe much of the data needed to be spread out a little more for more readers to enjoy fully. The inclusion of more modern topics was also a little distracting when reading. I realize that they were included to give the reader a sense of how Washington’s spy strategies have been used in more recent years, but the segue-way into these inclusions was a little abrupt and distracting. Perhaps the formatting will be smoother in the actual printed book but if not some readers will find these sharp turns to be a bit off-putting.
I truly enjoyed this journey into the life and war-strategies of George Washington despite those two small issues. I would also like to see further works by Mr. Nagy whenever they are published and will certainly recommend this book to others who are history-minded.
I received this e-book free of charge from St. Martins Press and Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.