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1776 Audio CD – Audiobook, CD, Unabridged
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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. --Shawn Carkonen
The Other 1776
Mornings on Horseback
The Path Between the Seas
The Great Bridge
The Johnstown Flood
More Reading on the Revolution
The Great Improvisation by Stacy Schiff
Washington's Crossing by David Hackett Fischer
His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis
Washington's General by Terry Golway
Iron Tears by Stanley Weintraub
Victory at Yorktown by Richard M. Ketchum
From Publishers Weekly
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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top customer reviews
I think that those Americans who read this book will, like me, feel more strongly patriotic and value more greatly the selflessness of those who fought for our country in its infancy. And I think that non-Americans who read it will better understand what it means to be an American, and hopefully see our country in a more favorable light. Yes, I realize that America has its problems, both currently and historically, and that we're certainly not beloved by everyone throughout the world, but it's nonetheless moving to at least try and perceive what we mean when we talk about the "American spirit": that feeling of unbounded liberty that allows us to truly pursue happiness. "1776" offers a path.
It is particularly startling when that rarest of authors has you hanging on every turn of the page while reading about events whose outcome you already know. Mr McCullough is indeed one if these one-in-a-generation historians. In the US, we all read about George Washington, more a caricature than a flesh and bones man. What you don't get (and what McCullough so eloquently conveys), is that he and his rebels, far from being desperate men and women living deprived lives and driven to revolution out of few options, were instead people who were for the most part living very comfortable existences but nonetheless risked absolutely everything in this mad, quixotic venture. The acute awareness of this greater Cause pervaded the thoughts and writings of its leaders, and they thus fought a battle for the posterity of all humanity, not just themselves. It is refreshing in our jaded, post-religious age of the West to see people thoroughly convinced of their Providential role in improving Mankind's lot.
It is also stunning to read how the entire venture might have turned on small events such as freak weather (fog in August shrouding all of Brooklyn as the bulk of the Continental Army retreated across the East River back to Manhattan in daylight but out of sight of the British--living in NY City, I've experienced this perhaps twice in half a century) or the inspiration for an unheard of winter attack across a frozen river against war-hardened professional Hessian mercenaries at Trenton, conceived of as the army was on the brink of collapse but an action which abruptly halted the perpetual retreat against overwhelmingly superior forces. You get a complex picture of Washington who, while expressing terrible misgivings to family back home, never, ever let on about such doubts to those around him. In spite of the back-stabbing amongst his subordinates (always at the worst possible moments), the utter absence of experienced soldiery and perpetual shortages of everything, Washington's cool, undaunting persistence drives others around him. His boldest moves were often conceived of at the darkest hours. He also comes across as a commander who actually learned from errors, sought advice regularly and deferred to it when the compelling argument was made. He seems indifferent to personal dangers; on horseback in the thick of battles, personally reconnoitering the front or with the rear of the column as the enemy is in hot pursuit). Not surprising then is the hagiography arising after his death and despite being possessed of a remote persona (? by design). I recommend it to anyone who needs reminding what exceptional people founded the US on the enduring principles of individual liberty, freedom of conscience, the redeeming virtue of personal merit and inviolability of constitutional rule of Law. And despite its founding flaws, America thus inspired much of humanity across three centuries.