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Washington's Crossing (Pivotal Moments in American History) [Kindle Edition]

David Hackett Fischer
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (241 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Six months after the Declaration of Independence, the American Revolution was all but lost. A powerful British force had routed the Americans at New York, occupied three colonies, and advanced within sight of Philadelphia.
Yet, as David Hackett Fischer recounts in this riveting history, George Washington--and many other Americans--refused to let the Revolution die. On Christmas night, as a howling nor'easter struck the Delaware Valley, he led his men across the river and attacked the exhausted Hessian garrison at Trenton, killing or capturing nearly a thousand men. A second battle of Trenton followed within days. The Americans held off a counterattack by Lord Cornwallis's best troops, then were almost trapped by the British force. Under cover of night, Washington's men stole behind the enemy and struck them again, defeating a brigade at Princeton. The British were badly shaken. In twelve weeks of winter fighting, their army suffered severe damage, their hold on New Jersey was broken, and their strategy was ruined.
Fischer's richly textured narrative reveals the crucial role of contingency in these events. We see how the campaign unfolded in a sequence of difficult choices by many actors, from generals to civilians, on both sides. While British and German forces remained rigid and hierarchical, Americans evolved an open and flexible system that was fundamental to their success. The startling success of Washington and his compatriots not only saved the faltering American Revolution, but helped to give it new meaning.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

At the core of an impeccably researched, brilliantly executed military history is an analysis of George Washington's crossing of the Delaware River in December 1776 and the resulting destruction of the Hessian garrison of Trenton and defeat of a British brigade at Princeton. Fischer's perceptive discussion of the strategic, operational and tactical factors involved is by itself worth the book's purchase. He demonstrates Washington's insight into the revolution's desperate political circumstances, shows how that influenced the idea of a riposte against an enemy grown overconfident with success and presents Washington's skillful use of what his army could do well. Even more useful is Fischer's analysis of the internal dynamics of the combatants. He demonstrates mastery of the character of the American, British and Hessian armies, highlighting that British troops, too, fought for ideals, sacred to them, of loyalty and service. Above all, Brandeis historian Fischer (Albion's Seed) uses the Trenton campaign to reveal the existence, even in the revolution's early stage, of a distinctively American way of war, much of it based on a single fact: civil and military leaders were accountable to a citizenry through their representatives. From Washington down, Fischer shows, military leaders acknowledged civil supremacy and worked with civil officials. Washington used firepower and intelligence as force multipliers to speed the war for a practical people who wanted to win quickly in order to return to their ordinary lives. Tempo, initiative and speed marked the Trenton campaign from first to last. And Washington fought humanely, extending quarter in battle and insisting on decent treatment of prisoners. The crossing of the Delaware, Fischer teaches, should be seen as emblematic of more than a turning of the war's tide. 91 halftone, 15 maps. 3-city author tour.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-Another stirring effort by the author of Paul Revere's Ride (Oxford, 1994). Readers will again cheer American perseverance, inventiveness, and improvisation as Washington, his officers, and their men turn the early military defeats of Long Island and New York City into victory at Trenton and Princeton. The opening chapter is devoted to the painting Washington Crossing the Delaware. Then the author discusses the British, Hessian, and American military units that were involved in these campaigns and gives background on their officers. This is Fischer's strong suit: he tells stories and gives details that bring history alive. He makes the point that decisions made for varying reasons by converging sets of people determine history. In the hands of such a thorough researcher and talented writer, this is powerful stuff. The bulk of the book deals with the battles and their aftermath. The text is enriched by small reproductions of portraits, many by Charles Willson Peale, of the major players. The last chapter summarizes Fischer's points and would make a good teaching tool by itself.
Judy McAloon, Potomac Library, Prince William County, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 6976 KB
  • Print Length: 576 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0195224108
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; Reprint edition (December 23, 2003)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000SEOQOE
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,151 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
269 of 275 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, perceptive history at its best February 1, 2004
Format:Hardcover
On a number of occasions I have recommended David Hackett Fischer's "Paul Revere's Ride" as one of the finest American history books I have ever read, a display of deep research, perceptive analysis, and a highly compelling prose narrative. With "Washington's Crossing" Fischer has matched his earlier book. Just as the title incident in "Paul Revere's Ride" served to signify Fischer's broader study of the earliest days of the American Revolution and the battles at Lexington and Concord, here Emmanuel Leutze's 1851 painting "Washington Crossing the Delaware" is the emblem chosen to represent the most crucial days at the end of 1776 when that Revolution seemed on the edge of collapse, but George Washington and his army in battles at Trenton and Princeton and in the little-known actions afterwards reversed the course of the war and set the British on the path to ultimate defeat.
Although most Americans probably have at least a passing familiarity with Washington's surprise victory over the Hessians at Trenton on the day after Christmas, 1776, Fischer's account highlights an equally crucial, yet barely remembered, battle at Trenton a week later when the American forces withstood a counterattack by Lord Cornwallis's forces, setting the stage for a daring overnight march by Washington around the British army to win another victory at Princeton. Over the next several weeks, the British and Hessian occupation of central New Jersey collapsed as the Americans, heartened by the events at Trenton and Princeton, struck repeatedly and successfully at detachments of foragers who discovered that the supposedly pacified countryside was suddenly hostile territory.
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64 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Essential & Eminently Readable January 10, 2005
Format:Hardcover
Washington's Crossing is at once both rich with detail and eminently readable, scholarly, yet approachable. In it, the author covers the period from which Washington took control of the Colonial army, through the disastrous, nearly fatal campaign in New York, to the Battles of Trenton, Princeton, and finally the forage war skirmishes that rage through the end of the winter of 1776-77. He illustrates how this winter campaign of Washington's was much more than the small, symbolic victory that it has often been characterized as; that it in fact had a major impact on the war by destroying the Howe brother's strategy of ending the Revolution through conciliation, and reviving the spirits of the Americans to fight on.
Fischer begins with an examination of the make up of the Colonial army, with its wide sectional and cultural differences, and examines the daunting task Washington had in forging it into an effective fighting force capable of fighting the world's most professional and successful army. He then goes into some detail describing the make up and culture of the British army and the Hessian forces that the Americans faced, giving a context to the challenge. Washington emerges from his pages as a genius simply for being able to adapt to the situation at hand and create and lead what became the Continental Army.
Fischer is vividly descriptive in his portraits of Washington and his officers, the Howe brothers and their principle officers, and the commanders of the Hessian forces. In addition, he provides the perspectives of common soldiers from all the armies, private citizens, members of the Continental Congress, and Tom Paine, the Revolution's propagandist who was pivotal in the success of the winter campaign.
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55 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another oustanding book from D H Fischer March 7, 2004
Format:Hardcover
There are a number of authors whose books you pick up to read despite the purported subject matter. David Hackett Fischer is one of those authors. Having read Albion's Seed, which I thought was a truly outstanding book, I was not thrilled to see that he had written a book titled Paul Revere's Ride. What could someone have to say that would make this overworked piece of historical minutia worth reading? Wrong! Hiding behind the bland title was another gem about colonial American culture. All this is background to explain why I wasn't surprised by Washington's Crossing. Once again, he has produced an amazingly informative and well-written book book and disguised it with a pablum title.
I thought I knew this part of Revolutionary history very well. However, Washington's Crossing not only brought out details about Trenton and Princeton that I had never known before, it presented a lot of very germane background material that I had never seen before, and most importantly, it explained why these were really significant engagements. They were not minor skirmishes, or as one historian had described them "Washington beating up Howe's outposts". True, the numbers of men involved were small, but then so were the armies, and for that matter so was the population of the colonies. As important as the physical beating the British took in these battles was the psychological damage. These were not minor skirmishes that were blown up as propaganda victories, they inflicted real losses on the British and showed that under the right circumstances, the Americans could stand up to both the Hessians and the British.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars good to deal with
arrived on time and as described, good to deal with
Published 3 days ago by roger f richert
4.0 out of 5 stars A really good book to learn about the history of the American ...
Well written. A really good book to learn about the history of the American Revolution. Highly recommended.
Published 5 days ago by HECTOR L GONZALEZ
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great, unbelievable and learned so much of early US history, well written
Published 8 days ago by George Mikus
5.0 out of 5 stars David Hackett Fischer's Book fills in the gaps in the ...
David Hackett Fischer's Book fills in the gaps in the history we were taught in school. It is written in a style that makes it hard to put down..
Published 20 days ago by oldviking
4.0 out of 5 stars Washingtons Crossing
Very good read about a period I never before covered in my reading. The author puts together a good historical story line that's hold the reader's attention. I really enjoyed it.
Published 20 days ago by D. Lewis
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read
I first caught notice of this book while reading a review of a book with similar subject matter. The level of detail here was great, and I found I could follow most battles... Read more
Published 21 days ago by John A Suire
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Extremely well written and well researched. I will be reading more from this author.
Published 25 days ago by Paul Furlong
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
as described
Published 1 month ago by Dennis Miller
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent writing with awesome detail in describing the crossing
Excellent writing with awesome detail in describing the crossing. This author is a great scholar and gives us not only a good story of Washington but the politics behind the war.
Published 1 month ago by Mr. Bubles
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine read!
A thorough, detailed account of this pivotal time in early American history. The supporting illustrations and appendices are invaluable to a greater understanding of the narrative. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mark Davis
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More About the Author

David Hackett Fischer is University Professor and Warren Professor of History at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. The recipient of many prizes and awards for his teaching and writing, he is the author of numerous books, including Washington's Crossing, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in history.

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