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The Conway Cabal

Following the American military setbacks at Brandywine and Germantown, some officers and Congressmen began to express reservations about George Washington's leadership. Horatio Gates, recent hero of Saratoga, was thought by some to be a more viable alternative, and figures such as Charles Lee openly touted the superiority of their own skills. Other prominent figures such as John Adams, Samuel Adams and Benjamin Rush also voiced disapproval of Washington. This situation reached its peak when General Thomas Conway, an arrogant soldier-of-fortune, wrote a letter whose tone was critical of the commander to Gates, parts of which came to Washington's attention. Soon Washington, Gates, Conway, the Continental Congress and others were involved in the spat. Washington emerged with his authority and reputation intact. His serene presence at Valley Forge served to heighten the loyalty and admiration of his soldiers. Conway later was shot in the mouth in a duel with a Washington supporter, recovered and left America for France. The Conway Cabal, often mentioned by historians, was a plot that probably never existed.