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AFRH Book Club on “In The Hurricane's Eye” by Nathaniel Philbrick

Just recently I sent to you, my thoughts about Nathaniel Philbrick's, "In The Hurricane's Eye, The Genius of George Washington and the Victory at Yorktown." I thought the book to be well researched and well written. The title itself might infer there would be more weather-related presentations; however, the analogy could imply a symbol of the Revolutionary War stalling out for quite a while before coming to an action-packed conclusion. Myself, having experienced the "personalities" of many hurricanes during my growing up years in South Florida, I can clearly understand Philbrick's title choice, "In The Hurricane's Eye."

For years, I have been learning about George Washington...learning and teaching students of all ages about Washington's boyhood days, and about the genius and leadership skills of Washington, the man. Nathaniel Philbrick's book, "In The Hurricane's Eye, The Genius of George Washington and the Victory at Yorktown," delves a great deal into the personality of George Washington.

At a young age, George Washington had become an experienced navigator under his brother Lawrence's influence and his tutelage. Washington more than likely would have had a promising career in the British Navy, until his mother prevented him from fulfilling his commission with the Royal Navy. Showing his strengths, his flexibility, and his perseverance, young George quickly adhered to a successful career as a surveyor and then years later displayed these very same outstanding personal qualities with his role in the French and Indian War.

Throughout his book Nathaniel Philbrick very skillfully weaves quotes from letters, journals, memoirs, and nautical logs into the text, to demonstrate and illustrate the personalities of the characters that were a part of his story. Countless times I learned and relearned of Washington's extraordinary leadership skills-his ability to see the big picture, recognizing the diverse talents of those individuals surrounding him, and more often than not I was reminded of how Washington put aside his personal desires for the benefit of the country.

In the Battle of the Chesapeake in 1781, called the most important naval engagement in the history of the world, the French Admiral's, de Grasse and Bougainville, foiled British attempts to rescue the army led by General Cornwallis. By making the subsequent victory at Yorktown possible, this naval battle masterminded by Washington but waged without a single American ship, was largely responsible for the independence of The United States. In Philbrick's book, "In The Hurricane's Eye," he teaches his readers that the fate of the American Revolution depended in the end, on Washington and the sea.

And now my friends, we move forward to our next read..."The Innocents Abroad," by Mark Twain. Happy reading!

All the best…



From Christine Baldwin (Librarian, AFRH): On to our next read, with the background history of George Washington and in this part, Benedict Arnold. In chapter 2, I was reminded of the James Michener books, when it talked about the forming of the Chesapeake Bay. The author has done much research and follows step by step the successes and failures of the French and British forces in America, especially in regards to naval strategy. He even includes Martha Washington's illness at New Windsor, NY. As the French follow Cornwallis to Williamsburg, VA, the war will be coming to an end at Yorktown. How many of you have been to Williamsburg and Yorktown? I was fortunate to have a guided tour of Yorktown (along with a busload of Army personnel) by the Chief Historian at Ft. Lee, VA. What an experience! I discovered in this second part of the book how the weather effects military fighting. First the British had the upper hand, but then a wind shift lets the French take charge. There is the American Army having the rain mask their movements around Yorktown. Plus, as Cornwallis tries to escape, the wind picks up and several boats capsize. Would things have been different if the weather cooperated with the British? Nathaniel Philbrick has done other works dealing with the Revolution; Bunker Hill, and Valiant Ambition (Washington and Benedict Arnold). He also seems to delve into nautical themes. Remember In the Heart of the Sea, dealing with the whaleship ‘Essex’? He is quite a remarkable author and knows how to weave a non-fiction tale! Here is our next book, Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad. We’ll be reading through Chapter 22.


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