1776 by David McCullough

1776

In this masterful book, David McCullough tells the intensely human story of those who marched with General George Washington in the year of the Declaration of Independence - when the whole American cause was riding on their success, without which all hope for independence would have been dashed and the noble ideals of the Declaration would have amounted to little more than...

Title:1776
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0743226720
Edition Language:English
Number of Pages:386 pages

1776 Reviews

  • Nate Cooley

    David McCullough has again exceeded all expectations in his latest book, "1776." Like most historical narratives, the reader often knows the ending well in advance. In "1776", every reader had to have expected that McCullough would close his book describing Washington's daring yet gallant crossing of the Delaware and the Continental Army's subsequent triumph at Trenton. Nevertheless, as I approached the end of the book I found myself anxiously awaiting that moment ... I literally read-on with ba

    David McCullough has again exceeded all expectations in his latest book, "1776." Like most historical narratives, the reader often knows the ending well in advance. In "1776", every reader had to have expected that McCullough would close his book describing Washington's daring yet gallant crossing of the Delaware and the Continental Army's subsequent triumph at Trenton. Nevertheless, as I approached the end of the book I found myself anxiously awaiting that moment ... I literally read-on with bated breath.

    David McCullough does a masterful job of describing with ease the events as they unfolded chronologically. Though as he does so, he more importantly provides acute analysis into the psyches of the main players. As much as this book was a narrative about the Continental Army from Bunker Hill, to Dorchester Heights, to Long Island and the Battle of Brooklyn, down through New Jersey and ulitmately victory at Trenton, the book could have as easily been a biography of sorts about

    , George Washington.

    McCullough's portrait of Washington is not unlike others that have been popularly written. Expectedly, the book portrays our first president as a man of faith and stellar, quasi-consecrated leadership. At the same time though, McCullough is careful not to deify the General and provides keen insights into Washington's probable feelings of self-doubt and diffidence, especially after the nearly catastrophic and ego-piercing defeats at Brooklyn and Fort Washington. Furthermore, McCullough exposes the fact that those close to Washington, General Charles Lee and Joseph Reed, lost much confidence in the General after the Continental Army's retreat across the Hudson and down through New Jersey.

    With all of this provided as a backdrop though, a true picture of George Washington - his character, his dominion, his authority - is brought into sharp focus through McCullough's description of the Army's treacherous but euphoric victory over the Hessians at Trenton. I could literally picture Washington's animation and feel his exuberance when in the face of a potential call to retreat, he exclaimed to those under his command, "It's a fine fox chase, my boys!" One can only imagine the scene of chaos that filled the streets on that early winter morning; yet it is easy to picture General Washington sitting atop his horse, jubilantly inciting his troops to action. At the same time, because of McCullough's adroit description of the sometimes lackadaisical and even distracted British Commander, William Howe, one can only imagine Howe's consternation when learning of the defeat of the hired Hessian helpers.

    Having mentioned Commander Howe, I also appreciated McCullough's determination in devoting a large portion of the book to characterizing British personalities and actions. Too few authors of the Revolutionary Period spend enough time measuring what was going through the minds of the British, the "enemy" at the time. Considering the fact that many living in the colonies during this period considered themselves loyal subjects of the King, it seems logical that a book describing the events of 1776 would adequately delve into British sentiment regarding the "rebels'" declaration of independence and the skirmishes and all-out war that followed. After all, the foot soldiers in the Continental Army were closely related, literally, to loyalists throughout the colonies.

    In illustrating the overall British ethos, especially that of the King's Army, McCullough repeatedly denotes periods during the war where the Continental Army was and should have been on the cusp of ruin but for the seemingly high-minded haughtiness of the British leaders; most notably the aforementioned Commander Howe. Howe is painted as a somewhat apathetic and listless commander, severely lacking the killer instinct possessed by so many other leaders of the time on both sides. McCullough interestingly notes the stark difference between Commander William Howe and both his brother, Admiral Lord Richard Howe, and General Henry Clinton. Had General Clinton's thinking been adopted, the Continental Army probably never would have reached Dorchester Heights in the dead of night and thus would probably never have made it out of Boston.

    In "1776", David McCullough has closely matched the superiority "John Adams" and his numerous other historical works. David McCullough truly is a "master of the art of narrative history." Like both of the late Stephen Ambrose and the late David Halberstam, David McCullough has become, in my mind, a national treasure.

  • Will Byrnes

    This is an interesting book that describes in personal detail the battles of the early revolution. We see George and company in Boston, New York City, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. McCullough paints portraits of the military leaders of those campaigns, Howe primarily, and Clinton for the Brits, Greene, Knox, GW and a handful of others for the Yanks. He shows us some of GW’s correspondence and we learn of his disaffection for New Englanders. The troops were a rag tag bunch and George was constantl

    This is an interesting book that describes in personal detail the battles of the early revolution. We see George and company in Boston, New York City, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. McCullough paints portraits of the military leaders of those campaigns, Howe primarily, and Clinton for the Brits, Greene, Knox, GW and a handful of others for the Yanks. He shows us some of GW’s correspondence and we learn of his disaffection for New Englanders. The troops were a rag tag bunch and George was constantly strained to keep them from running away, serving out their enlistments and going home, dying of various diseases. I did not have much of a sense of how much Tory sympathy there was until reading this. If Edward R. Murrow was still about I suppose it would have made a pretty fair episode of “You are There.” It was an entertaining as well as informative read.

  • Jason Koivu

    In

    David McCullough captures the importance of that year's quintessential struggle for our country.

    By focusing on this single year, as opposed to the entire war, McCullough is able to dissect more minutely the individual battles, turning points, specific leaders, and the result is one of the most humanistic depictions of George Washington I've ever read. Here he becomes more than mythic god of the American past, but rather a living, breathing, flawed man.

    Telescoping in on actions like The

    In

    David McCullough captures the importance of that year's quintessential struggle for our country.

    By focusing on this single year, as opposed to the entire war, McCullough is able to dissect more minutely the individual battles, turning points, specific leaders, and the result is one of the most humanistic depictions of George Washington I've ever read. Here he becomes more than mythic god of the American past, but rather a living, breathing, flawed man.

    Telescoping in on actions like The Battle of Long Island, oft overlooked in American Revolution text with a broader view, gives the reader a chance to appreciate the ebb and flow of the war, as the retreating Patriots fled the rushing sweep of the oncoming British force and turned what might have been their ultimate defeat into an amazing escape during the almost magical midnight evacuation of New York. Conjuring up such exciting scenes is McCullough's bread and butter.

    While the American Revolution was not fought entirely on moralistic principles about freedom (many a "founding father" had a financial stake in this idea of independence), in view of the trials and deprivations suffered by those who fought in 1776, who's valor helped coin the phrase "The Spirit of '76", who can deny their pure motives? Even if you can't stomach such patriotism, you can at least admire the courage it must of taken to face such odds.

    I've read McCullough before. His

    swept me away. Thus far he has impressed and entertained, so much so that by the end of

    I was yearning for 1777.

  • Lyn

    Pulitzer prizes are sexy!

    This chronicles Washington's army from just after Bunker Hill to the dramatic crossing of the Delaware and his Christmas attack of the Hessians at Trenton. Well researched and superbly written, very entertaining.

    McCullough paints a vivid portrait of legendary time.

  • Diane

    There are several reasons why I think this book is important, and it has a lot to do with the state of our schools. You've probably heard that public education in America is becoming more of a shambles each decade. I work at a college and often feel like I'm on the front lines of this battle. While we have a number of good students, we also have a fair number 18- and 19-year-olds who simply aren't prepared for higher education and who, if the economy weren't so degree-oriented, probably wouldn't

    There are several reasons why I think this book is important, and it has a lot to do with the state of our schools. You've probably heard that public education in America is becoming more of a shambles each decade. I work at a college and often feel like I'm on the front lines of this battle. While we have a number of good students, we also have a fair number 18- and 19-year-olds who simply aren't prepared for higher education and who, if the economy weren't so degree-oriented, probably wouldn't choose to go to college at all. A number of factors have been blamed for the decline of American schools, but one of the biggest culprits

    is the overemphasis on standardized testing, especially as codified by the dreadful No Child Left Behind Act.

    Both students and teachers have complained that high schools place so much emphasis on memorizing facts for the annual tests that it leaves little room for critical thinking, or interesting stories of history and literature, or anything else that makes learning fun and inspiring. I think this is a travesty, and it's not just the students who are being cheated — it is all of society, because without an educated citizenry we are lost.

    We. Are. Lost.

    Every time I see the title of McCullough's book,

    , it reminds me of this issue because of an incident in a colleague's classroom. An English professor was making a point about how people today rely so much on their smartphones and the Internet that no one bothers to remember anything anymore because they assume they can just Google it. The professor pointed out that this lack of internal knowledge can hinder understanding and complex thinking. As an example he asked his students when America was founded.

    Dead silence.

    There were about 30 students in the class, and none of them knew. The professor said, "Seriously? You don't know when our country was founded?" After a few more moments of silence a student meekly raised his hand and said, "If we didn't have to memorize it for the test, we probably don't know it."

    Big sigh.

    OK, boys and girls, America was founded on July 4, 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress. This event happened in the midst of the American Revolutionary War, which is the focus of McCullough's book.

    I wanted to read

    for several reasons. First, I had loved McCullough's biography on President Harry Truman and was eager to read more of his books. Second, it has been almost 20 years since I was in an American history class, and I wanted to revisit the details of how my country was founded. The stories, myths and legends about each nation are passed through the generations and become part of someone's culture and identity. I don't think these stories should be forgotten.

    The book focuses on battles with the British between 1775 and 1777. It opens with a quote from a letter written by General George Washington in January 1776: "The reflection upon my situation and that of this army produces many an uneasy hour when all around me are wrapped in sleep. Few people know the predicament we are in."

    Reading this book reminded me of how fragile America's independence was. Few of the "rebels" had military experience. Weapons and gun powder were in short supply. Because the colonial men had volunteered to fight, some resisted following military orders and didn't understand army discipline. Plus, the Brits controlled the sea. But for a few lucky turns of fate, the British might have won the war. McCullough concluded the book with this summation: "Especially for those who had been with Washington and who knew what a close call it was at the beginning — how often circumstance, storms, contrary winds, the oddities or strengths of individual character had made the difference — the outcome seemed little short of a miracle."

    My favorite stories in the book were of the fortification of Dorchester Heights during the Siege of Boston, the Battle of Long Island and how the colonialists managed to retreat the entire Army in one night, and Washington's crossing of the Delaware. McCullough weaves a pleasant narrative and makes long-ago events seem very real. I liked his inclusion of quotes from letters, and the details of each military strategy, including how the weather was that day. And his description of Washington made me want to read a good biography about him.

    I listened to this on audio CD, and McCullough is an excellent narrator. I highly recommend it to fans of history. Hooray for lifelong learning!

  • Josh

    McCullough’s ‘1776’ is a book about discovery: the force within oneself, one body of people, to be free without the anxiety of what it means to govern themselves independently.

    Democracy was what they yearned for. The majority of the American people wanted to unite and unite they did. McCullough discusses the trials and tribulations of the first full year of the American Revolutionary War in the north to northeastern part of the colonies with clear and concise language. He uses many quotes and p

    McCullough’s ‘1776’ is a book about discovery: the force within oneself, one body of people, to be free without the anxiety of what it means to govern themselves independently.

    Democracy was what they yearned for. The majority of the American people wanted to unite and unite they did. McCullough discusses the trials and tribulations of the first full year of the American Revolutionary War in the north to northeastern part of the colonies with clear and concise language. He uses many quotes and phrases from a myriad of source material and in a way that puts the reader in the streets of Boston, on the battlefields of Trenton and Princeton and in the heart of the early Patriot; that rag-tag farmer, blacksmith, carpenter and other highly inexperienced soldiers that fought and died for

    .

    As this book speaks about 1776 in general, it also discusses George Washington, the General of the Continental Army (the name of the American army) and later, founding father and first President of the United States. McCullough isn’t biased, by any means. He shows Washington’s ability to lead an army with his optimism towards the campaign and his uplifting oratory on topics of freedom, but also shows him to be indecisive in matters (as with giving up Fort Washington and Fort Lee, along with not covering the Jamaica Pass in the Battle of Long Island which was a decisive victory for the British) due to his inexperience at leading any army, much less a battalion.

    At times, it feels like a biography of Washington and that year of his life rather than about the battles and the importance of what they signified, but it was still an interesting and engaging read. I personally hadn’t read up on the ‘Revolution’ since my early years in school and it was nice to revisit things that I had forgotten and learned a few things as well.


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