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1776 Hardcover – 2006
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Pulitzer Prize winning account of the pivotal year in the war of independence. Volume and dust jacket in great condition
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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.
What I would have liked to have seen in this book was was more details about the actions in Canada and the South. Also lacking, and extremely important, was the heavy emphasis George Washington placed on Divine Providence and his unwavering faith in God. This is, more than anything, where George Washington found his strength and courage, and he was very outspoken about this fact.
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.