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 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.
At the center of the drama, with Washington, are two young American patriots, who, at first, knew no more of war than what they had read in books -- Nathanael Greene, a Quaker who was made a general at thirty-three, and Henry Knox, a twenty-five-year-old bookseller who had the preposterous idea of hauling the guns of Fort Ticonderoga overland to Boston in the dead of winter.
But it is the American commander-in-chief who stands foremost -- Washington, who had never before led an army in battle. Written as a companion work to his celebrated biography of John Adams, David McCullough's 1776 is another landmark in the literature of American history.
Esteemed historian David McCullough covers the military side of the momentous year of 1776 with characteristic insight and a gripping narrative, adding new scholarship and a fresh perspective to the beginning of the American Revolution. It was a turbulent and confusing time. As British and American politicians struggled to reach a compromise, events on the ground escalated until war was inevitable. McCullough writes vividly about the dismal conditions that troops on both sides had to endure, including an unusually harsh winter, and the role that luck and the whims of the weather played in helping the colonial forces hold off the world's greatest army. He also effectively explores the importance of motivation and troop morale--a tie was as good as a win to the Americans, while anything short of overwhelming victory was disheartening to the British, who expected a swift end to the war. The redcoat retreat from Boston, for example, was particularly humiliating for the British, while the minor American victory at Trenton was magnified despite its limited strategic importance.
Some of the strongest passages in 1776 are the revealing and well-rounded portraits of the Georges on both sides of the Atlantic. King George III, so often portrayed as a bumbling, arrogant fool, is given a more thoughtful treatment by McCullough, who shows that the king considered the colonists to be petulant subjects without legitimate grievances--an attitude that led him to underestimate the will and capabilities of the Americans. At times he seems shocked that war was even necessary. The great Washington lives up to his considerable reputation in these pages, and McCullough relies on private correspondence to balance the man and the myth, revealing how deeply concerned Washington was about the Americans' chances for victory, despite his public optimism. Perhaps more than any other man, he realized how fortunate they were to merely survive the year, and he willingly lays the responsibility for their good fortune in the hands of God rather than his own. Enthralling and superbly written, 1776 is the work of a master historian.
From Publishers Weekly
In the Pulitzer Prize–winning John Adams, McCullough provided an in-depth look at the life of America's second president; here, the author shifts his focus to the other major players of the American Revolution, providing a detailed account of the life and times of the generals and soldiers who fought for and won America's independence. In this top-notch audio production, McCullough proves that he is as equally adept at reading prose as he is at writing it. At no time does it feel like listening to a lecturing professor; instead, McCullough narrates in a sonorous, grandfatherly voice, keeping his speech vibrant and engaging, as if he were simply telling a story. Unabridged sections of prose are read by the author, while portions of the book not fully explored in this abridgment are summarized by auxiliary narrator Twomey, whose performance is serviceable and pleasant. Though the abridgement is effective, the subject matter will leave discerning listeners hungry for more. While casual fans will be satisfied, serious history aficionados will want to listen to McCullough's unabridged recording (12 hours, 10 CDs, $49.95 ISBN 0-7435-4423-4).
From School Library Journal
Adult/High School–McCullough concentrates on George Washington's role in the creation of the Continental Army, starting with his appointment in 1775 to lead the rather amorphous army of the united colonies and continuing through his successes with that army at Trenton and Princeton as 1776 turned into 1777. He introduces readers to the 1776 that Washington experienced: one of continual struggle both to create a working army and to defeat the British. The victories that he met outside Boston were soon followed by defeat and near ruin around New York and gave rise to the realization that 1776 might easily have become the worst year in the history of America. McCullough not only provides readers with some of his best work yet, but also presents an important look at one of the most crucial moments in the history of the United States. Black-and-white and color photos are included
–Ted Westervelt, Library of Congress, Washington, DC
Starred Review As the year 1776 began, hostilities between American forces and British regulars, which had begun the preceding April, continued. Yet a full-fledged war for independence was not inevitable. In Parliament, such conciliators as Edmund Burke and Charles Fox attacked government policy as needlessly provocative. In America, many members of the Continental Congress also sought compromise. But the rush of events, especially the ongoing bloodletting, soon drowned out calls for moderation. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian McCullough has provided a stirring account of the year that began with the humiliating British abandonment of Boston and ended with Washington's small but symbolically important triumph at Trenton. In between, McCullough recounts the American disaster at Brooklyn and the demoralizing retreat across New Jersey. He is a gifted writer who enriches his story with ample use of the diaries and correspondence of ordinary soldiers on both sides. Yet it is his portrayals of the two principal antagonists in this struggle that makes this account both engrossing and poignant. George Washington, as expected, is seen here as iron-willed and ambitious, but McCullough also shows him as prone to self-doubt and occasionally in despair over the string of setbacks. George III, contrary to American prejudice and propaganda, is honorable, reasonably intelligent, and sincerely outraged at the ingratitude of some of his American subjects. This is a first-rate historical account, which should appeal to both scholars and general readers.
David McCullough brings his wise and gentle style once again to the American Revolution. Having focused on one of the Founding Fathers in his 2001 book JOHN ADAMS, the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner reports on a single momentous year in the history of America in which George Washington of Virginia leads the fight for sovereignty against George III of England and his military commander, Lord Howe. McCullough's reading style is journalistic without being dry. With an even and engaging tone, he presents the geography, weather conditions, technology, and diplomacy of the time, at the same time describing the individual personalities who affected the war, drawing from personal correspondences, journals, memoirs, and transcripts of British Parliament and the Continental Congress. S.E.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award
From Bookmarks Magazine
McCullough’s reputation for telling a riveting story stands out in his latest work. The encounters that he examines and details he includes cut to the heart of what made 1776 a pivotal year in world history. His portrait of King George, although brief, goes beyond the superficial sketch of a clueless monarch that many historians usually offer. The author occasionally shows a frustrated and privately doubting Washington somewhat at odds with accepted mythology, but nonetheless burnishes the general’s heroic stature. Using Washington to drive the narrative may give some readers an unrealistically narrow view of the Revolution, but critics agree: this is history at its best.
"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. Written as a companion work to his celebrated biography of John Adams, David McCullough's 1776 is another landmark in the literature of American history. "
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