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A book by David McCullough

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How the hell did we ever win this war?

  • Mar 11, 2009
  • by
I should tell you that I'm a voracious reader – when I have time to read. So don't misunderstand me when I call 1776 the "page-turner that took me three months to read."
Written by the brilliant David McCullough, 1776 chronicles the birth of our nation, from late 1775 and Mad King George to the Treaty of Paris in 1783, with, obviously, the vast majority of the text covering its namesake year. McCullough is nothing if not excrucuatingly detailed and meticulous about his sourcing – 71 pages of Source Notes! – and by the time you reach the end, you'll wonder exactly how we pulled this gamble off.

My copy is well-worn and warped from hours at the pool, where I could crack it open at water breaks, and I often found myself re-reading sections to re-familiarize myself with the myriad of characters brought to life in this book. It wasn't just George, John, Paul and Ringo, you know – Henry Knox, Joseph Reed, Nathanael Greene – just a handful of the patriots who took up the cause. George Washington does figure prominently, of course. He just wasn't the only one sticking it to The Man.

Obviously, there were victories - the British did finally give up on Boston – and we won, right? But it's McCullough's richly detailed tale of the losses – Brooklyn, Fort Washington, Fort Lee – that are so poignant. Quotes from Washington in letters to friends and family, occasionally dripping in despair, that left me wondering just what would have happened if he had hung it up.

And what of the thousands of men who thought "Far out! Let's go kick some ass!" only to face an enemy fiercer than they thought they were. I'm sure more than a few of them thought twice about the disease and death surrounding them, thinking that pushing that mule through the Back 40 wasn't so bad after all.

This is a must read for history geeks who get their kicks watching History Channel programming and dig those re-enactments, and for anyone who was left wanting after their junior year A.P. History class.

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March 12, 2009
If someone hunkered down with it for a weekend, they'd put a serious dent in it. I suppose it's possible - I think history lovers would find it very engaging. That said, the reader is introduced to what feels like hundreds of characters (probably more like 10 or so) right up front, so I found it challenging to keep everything straight. If you haven't read "The Wordy Shipmates" yet, my guess is you would LOVE it.
March 12, 2009
I'd completely forgotten about this book 'til you wrote this! I've been teaching an AP US History and SAT II US History class and have recently rediscovered my passion for this era in our country's history. You wrote that it took you several months to read, but do you think someone could finish it in a weekend's time if they sat down and tried?
More 1776 reviews
Quick Tip by . June 04, 2011
Outstanding, narratively lined book about the first year of the American Revolution. We learn in school that America was the underdog against the United Kingdom, but after reading 1776, you realize that we weren't just the underdog; we had no business whatsoever winning that war, especially in 1776, when the French weren't yet involved and the weight of the British Empire should have completely crushed us within a couple of weeks. Maybe a month, tops, to make room for traveling time.
review by . April 01, 2010
1776 is a wonderful book for many reasons, but one of my main reasons for loving it, is its portrait of a flawed, worried, and brave George Washington. For generations readers have studied a George Washington who was as cold as he was godlike. This is undoubtably because Martha Washington destroyed so many of Washington's papers.    From what I understand, recent compiling of the various scattered Washington collections has made studying the letters and other documents that were …
review by . March 15, 2009
David McCullough is a masterful storyteller and really brings history to life. This work follows the first year of The Revolutionary War, paying particular attention to Washington's movements and his relationship with his key generals. Also interspersed throughout are thoughts from common soldiers, enemy British generals, and the British Parliament.     This well written account of the year 1776, a seminal one in our nation's history, is written in a very assessable writing style …
review by . January 02, 2006
1776 is not the story of a year--not even a year of the American Revolution--but is rather a military history of the Continental Army from late 1775 until early 1777 with an emphasis on the development of George Washington as an effective commander. McCullough appropriately stresses Washington's indecisiveness during the disastrous campaign for New York City but then demonstrates how this failing only made Washington's victories at Trenton and Princeton all the more impressive.     As …
review by . January 20, 2006
David McCullough is a masterful storyteller and really brings history to life. This work follows the first year of The Revolutionary War, paying particular attention to Washington's movements and his relationship with his key generals. Also interspersed throughout are thoughts from common soldiers, enemy British generals, and the British Parliament.    This well written account of the year 1776, a seminal one in our nation's history, is written in a very assessable writing style …
review by . October 13, 2005
Being a big David McCullough fan, it did not take much prodding for me to purchase this book. I was not sorry I did, from the first page to the last. I am a very strong believer that everyone should learn their countries history, from the beginning to the present. Mr. McCullough certainly gives us an enjoyable way of learning a small, but important part of ours! The year 1776 was the lowest point of our war for independence for the men and women who struggled against seemingly insurmountable odds. …
review by . June 29, 2005
Those schoolroom portraits of George Washington standing on the prow of a boat crossing the Delaware, or a trio of gritty Revolutionary soldiers marching with Old Glory, are so ingrained in the American consciousness to be in danger of losing their meaning. David McCullough's "1776" does a lot to redress that.    Taking as his focus the first full year of the American Revolution, and then pushing to the background the one event of the Revolution most commonly associated with …
review by . June 24, 2005
David McCullough is a fine historian as his many books demonstrate. In "1776" McCullough paints a compelling, moving portrait of George Washington and the few other leaders who had the courage to face a superior enemy through numerous defeats and few victories.     Washington is shown as a determined man, suffering betrayals from his closest confidants, forever worried about the quality of his army, which the British and Hessians dismissed as rabble.     Washington, …
review by . June 09, 2005
I have read, and thoroughly enjoyed, all of Mr. McCullough's previos books, and this latest one is no exception. He takes just one year of the American Revolution, and examines it in detail. It was a year of defeats for the American forces, bracketed by victories at its beginning and end. This was a trying time for the Glorious Cause, as was so aptly expressed by Thomes Paine in "The Crisis". This book is also a character study of George Washington, and his growth as a leader and military man. Were …
review by . June 01, 2005
Pulitzer prize-winning historian David McCullough, who focused on one man (John Adams) in his last work, now focuses on one year in "1776." In "John Adams," he revealed not only the external situations, but more importantly, he allowed his readers to revel in the internal dynamics. The same fascinating combination of thorough historical facts with compelling psychological insight shines forth in "1776."    What explains McCullough's ability to provide fresh perspective on familiar …
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Kelly Konrad ()
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I'm a freelance writer, mom to three and wife - and the order of importance changes depending on my mood, the weather or if there's a nut on a reality TV show that I'm just dying to talk about. ("Sorry, … more
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About this book


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 ...

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ISBN-10: 0743226712
ISBN-13: 978-0743226714
Author: David McCullough
Genre: History
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
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