America's First Military Professional: General George Washington at Valley Forge, 1777-1778
[Technical Report, Monograph]
U.S. Army School for Advanced Military Studies
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General George Washington served at a time inconceivable to the modern American military officer. Washingtons civilian leadership, the Second Continental Congress, was highly skeptical if not completely distrustful of his regular Army. By the winter of 1777-1778, as his depleted soldiers marched into quarters at Valley Forge, Washingtons already tense relationship with the Congress neared critical mass. His recent tactical defeats, a lousy supply system, and a few ambitious generals brought his leadership into question. Nevertheless, Washington persevered, deliberately choosing to trust Congress and to build their trust in him. Washingtons behavior at Valley Forge can be analyzed through the theoretical frameworks of Samuel Huntington and Don Snider. In Huntingtons The Soldier and the State, he introduces his theory of objective control, where military officers submit to the legitimate civilian government in exchange for warfighting autonomy. Don Snider builds on Huntingtons theory, identifying trust as the bedrock of civilian-military relations. In other words, for Huntingtons theory of objective control to work, there must be absolute trust between the civilian government and the military commander. Nearly two centuries prior to Huntington and Sniders writing, George Washington demonstrated how to build trust and earn warfighting autonomy from Congress. Though he used the entire Revolution to build trust with Congress, the Valley Forge winter can be seen as a microcosm for the entire war. Washingtons behavioral patterns at Valley Forge generated trust with Congress, set the Continental Army on a path to ultimate success, and thus set the foundation for modern military professionalism.
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