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The Plot Against General Washington

Mark Edward Lender

Narrated by Bob Neufeld

Available from Audible

Book published by Westholme Publishing

In the spring of 1778, General George Washington wrote to his friend Landon Carter about a rumored “disposition in the Northern Officers to see me superceded in my Command.” This was as candid a statement as the general ever made about the so-called Conway Cabal of patriot officers and politicians critical of his leadership. Most early historians of the Revolution took the threat to Washington seriously, but by the mid-twentieth century interpretations had reversed, with the plot—if one existed—posing no real danger to the commander-in-chief. Yet, as historian Mark Edward Lender reveals in his compelling Cabal! The Plot Against General Washington, clues found in original new research provide a more comprehensive understanding of the personalities and political maneuverings of those involved in the Cabal, and the real nature of the challenge to Washington.

Rather than the “classic Cabal” of Generals Horatio Gates, Thomas Mifflin, and Thomas Conway in a plot to remove Washington quickly, the threat to Washington’s command was a gradual administrative attempt by the Board of War and political allies to take over the war effort. Reorganized in late 1777 under the leadership of Mifflin, with Gates assuming the board presidency in January 1778, the Board of War sought authority to determine military policy and strategic goals, all training, organizational, personnel, and logistical functions, and even the assignment of theater commanders. Had they succeeded, Washington’s title of commander-in-chief would have been utterly hollow. The Cabal tested Washington as few other things did during the war and perhaps tempered him into the man we remember today. Washington adroitly navigated the chal¬lenges to his leadership, meeting and defeating every attempt to curtail his authority. His response revealed a leadership style that saw him safely through the war, and gave him overwhelming support from his fellow citizens to become their first president.

Mark Edward Lender is Professor Emeritus of History at Kean University in Union, New Jersey, and the coauthor of A Respectable Army: The Military Origins of the Republic and Citizen Soldier: The Revolutionary War Journal of Joseph Bloomfield.


“Although Lender works to correct the oversight and omission from the academic history side, the book is engaging and accessible enough to appeal to a wide audience. Students of the Revolution will find this an enjoyable read that adds valuable dimensions and insight into what was happening on the administrative side during the famed winter at Valley Forge.”

Journal of the American Revolution

“A long overdue study of one of the most disputed chapters of the War for Independence. The author’s scholarship is first-rate, his argument convincing, and his writing a pleasure to follow. A fine and significant volume and a must for anyone interested in the Revolution.”

—Frank J. Esposito, Distinguished Professor of History, Kean University

Cabal! makes a compelling case and will be an important addition to scholarship in this area, perhaps the dominant one for years to come.”

—Christian McBurney, author of Kidnapping the Enemy: The Special Operations to Capture Generals Charles Lee and Richard Prescott

“Lucidly written and compelling, Cabal! spells-out the “who, what and why” of the Conway Cabal. This is a genuinely significant book.”

—Wheeler Stone, coauthor of Fatal Sunday: George Washington, the Monmouth Campaign, and the Politics of Battle

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University Press Audiobooks
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University Press Audiobooks