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1776 by David McCullough February 14, 2008

Posted by a Wristfister in Books, History, Nonfiction, war.

Published by Simon & Schuster [2006], paperback, 386 pages. Reviewed by Bowie.

Synopsis: In this stirring 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 words on paper. Based on extensive research in both American and British archives, 1776 is a powerful drama written with extraordinary narrative vitality. It is the story of Americans in the ranks, men of every shape, size, and color, farmers, schoolteachers, shoemakers, no-accounts, and mere boys turned soldiers. And it is the story of the King’s men, the British commander, William Howe, and his highly disciplined redcoats who looked on their rebel foes with contempt and fought with a valor too little known.

Review: As the title clearly states, this book is about the birth-year of the United States of America. But you would be very mistaken to think it is a boring account of events in the colonies at the time. You may have already read several glowing reviews about this bestseller and I can attest that they are not off-base. This is riveting stuff, not just from an historic perspective, but as simply a great story. McCullough succeeds in making the trials of the first year of the First Continental Army engaging and thoroughly enlightening. My main interest in this particular time period was jump-started by Joseph Ellis’ book American Creation. 1776 is even more exciting as it not only brings the story of the Revolution to a more human level (with first-hand accounts) but with McCullough’s decision to keep to the narrative focused on the military expeditions of George Washington and his generals. What particularly captured my attention was that a good portion of the story takes place in New York and New Jersey (places I am very familiar with). Fort Lee, Brooklyn, Kips Bay, the Palisades Heights, Trenton. The list can go on, but suddenly these places in the two states I spend the most time in have become immensely more interesting after reading about the historic battles that were fought here. I couldn’t put this book down and I can not recommend it any more highly.

Below is an excerpt:

Dr. Benjamin Rush, who had arrived with Calwalader’s brigades to help establish a field hospital, wrote later of this his first direct encounter with war. Indeed, Rush was one of the very few signers of the Declaration of Independence yet to see the reality of the war firsthand.

“The American army retired and left the British in possession of Trenton. The scene which accompanied and followed this combat was new to me. The first wounded man that came off the field was a New England soldier. His right hand hung a little above his wrist by nothing but a piece of skin. It had been broken by a cannon ball.”



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