Starred Review. Bestselling historian and two-time Pulitzer winner McCullough follows up John Adams
by staying with America's founding, focusing on a year rather than an individual: a momentous 12 months in the fight for independence. How did a group of ragtag farmers defeat the world's greatest empire? As McCullough vividly shows, they did it with a great deal of suffering, determination, ingenuity—and, the author notes, luck.Although brief by McCullough's standards, this is a narrative tour de force, exhibiting all the hallmarks the author is known for: fascinating subject matter, expert research and detailed, graceful prose. Throughout, McCullough deftly captures both sides of the conflict. The British commander, Lord General Howe, perhaps not fully accepting that the rebellion could succeed, underestimated the Americans' ingenuity. In turn, the outclassed Americans used the cover of night, surprise and an abiding hunger for victory to astonishing effect. Henry Knox, for example, trekked 300 miles each way over harsh winter terrain to bring 120,000 pounds of artillery from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston, enabling the Americans, in a stealthy nighttime advance, to seize Dorchester Heights, thus winning the whole city.Luck, McCullough writes, also played into the American cause—a vicious winter storm, for example, stalled a British counterattack at Boston, and twice Washington staged improbable, daring escapes when the war could have been lost. Similarly, McCullough says, the cruel northeaster in which Washington's troops famously crossed the Delaware was both "a blessing and a curse." McCullough keenly renders the harshness of the elements, the rampant disease and the constant supply shortfalls, from gunpowder to food, that affected morale on both sides—and it certainly didn't help the British that it took six weeks to relay news to and from London. Simply put, this is history writing at its best from one of its top practitioners.
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More About the Author
David McCullough has twice received the Pulitzer Prize, for Truman and John Adams, and twice received the National Book Award, for The Path Between the Seas and Mornings on Horseback; His other widely praised books are 1776, Brave Companions, The Great Bridge, and The Johnstown Flood. He has been honored with the National Book Foundation Distinguished Contribution to American Letters Award, the National Humanities Medal, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.