Can We Reproduce Washington's Victory at Yorktown?
Newt Gingrich's Victory at Yorktown is the third novel in a series about the Revolutionary War. It chronicles how General George Washington needed a bold and decisive move to end an impasse; thus, he drew up a risky plan to engage the British at Yorktown with the support of the French navy. To ensure success, Washington struggled with deserters who wanted pay and food and a Congress that appeared to have lost its will. American Thinker had the opportunity to interview Newt Gingrich about his book and how these stories parallel what is happening today.
Gingrich is emphatic that Republicans should take a lesson from two great Americans: George Washington and Ronald Reagan. "Reagan's Farewell Address, where he talked about American history, really makes a point about a disconnect between Americans' pride over their country and how they voted. There are moments in history where you have to draw the line and fight. There are thirty Republican governors, control of the House of Representatives, and a huge number of state legislators that are controlled by Republicans. They need to get a grip and become more creative today."
Gingrich went on to explain that Thomas Paine's The American Crisis, which Washington asked Paine to write, features the famous line "These are the times that try men's souls." Gingrich says, "As I discussed in my book by that title, Washington understood the need to win the argument to win the war. We also need to first win the argument and then win the vote." He is hoping that Republicans take that statement to gather the moral courage to fight for freedom, taking on the education elite, the mass media, and the public-employee unions.
Another lesson to be learned is that embedded in Washington's character was the willingness to learn through listening. In the book, Gingrich tells how, during a Counsel of War meeting, two local farmers showed up who knew of roads used only by locals. They were able to give Washington a route that would allow his troops to pass without British knowledge. "I suggest that just as Washington listened to those farmers, the Republican Party should use that as a good starting point. Conservatives should reach out and challenge every neighborhood. Go into the Asian and Latino communities, visit college campuses, and start a conversation. We need a machine 365 days a year, not starting four days after Labor Day. In the last election we should have pointed out the difference between [liberal states and] states with Republican governors who have lower unemployment, showing how those governors are making an impact, and then pointing out that that is what we would do in Washington, D.C. if elected. We have to really think how we communicate our goals of educating people on what it means to be an American. There is a whole generation under thirty that operates in a different framework. Entertainment media like Leno and The View is important because it is a source of information for young people, but Republicans avoid it."
A powerful quote from the book, which Gingrich hopes Republicans will gather strength from: "Washington knows he must risk all, in one bold stride, to revive the will of Congress, his army, the people, and their allies, the French, to continue the fight." The point Gingrich is making is that Washington did not have advisers to convince him to be timid, and in fact, he was very bold. "Campaign consultants don't understand the power of boldness. I wish they would have understood, as I am sure Washington would have thoroughly understood, Ronald Reagan's 1975 comment that 'we need bold colors, not pastels.'"
The book also goes into great detail about the consequences of war. There is a graphic description of the brutality of the British toward American POWs. British ships held American prisoners on "the prison ships," where thousands died of starvation, disease, and neglect. The atrocities were so outrageous that four out of five men died within a matter of months. Gingrich commented to American Thinker, "It was a horrifying example of inhumanity and something the British could have fixed." Contrast that with the leftist claims of the inhumanity towards the terrorists being held in Guantánamo Bay. Gingrich thinks that "[i]t would be a great study to compare the two. Look at how the British treated the Americans compared to the very good conditions with real concern for humanitarian behavior at Guantánamo Bay."
A quote from the book about Americans' resolve during the Revolutionary War can be directly correlated to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: "After six years, the end was nowhere in sight[.] ... This nation of basically good people has fought itself to exhaustion[.]" Gingrich directly noted, "There are no good long wars. People can tolerate conflict for only a certain period of time. If you get above a certain level, people get very tired of the bloodshed and violence, whether then or now."
Victory at Yorktown is a riveting novel that allows the reader to truly understand American history and relate it to what is happening today. Gingrich has achieved his goal of delving "into the heart and soul of this enigmatic figure and try to bring him to life. People can be re-introduced to American heroism." This is a compelling novel with meticulous detail that people should read to remind themselves how hard and challenging it is to have and maintain freedom.