- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster (October 2, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1416542108
- ISBN-13: 978-1416542100
- Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 1.8 x 11.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 1,764 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #387,661 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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1776: The Illustrated Edition Hardcover – October 2, 2007
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Amazon Best of the Month, October 2007: With apologies to local museums, it's hard to imagine an interactive look at the birth of American independence that exceeds 1776: The Illustrated Edition. Packed with striking replicas of letters, maps, and portraits, this updated version of David McCullough's 2005 bestseller provides readers with unedited first-hand accounts of America's initial steps toward sovereignty. Its engaging narrative blends beautifully with personal notes from iconic leaders and reveals the determination, bravery, and good ol' blind luck that founded our country. --Dave Callanan
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. This handsome new version of McCullough's blockbuster (2.6 million copies of the original edition in print) is a visual feast. The text is abridged, but McCullough illustrates his riveting account of the most important year in the war that made America with maps, portraits and reproductions of broadsides and newspaper ads. Many famous paintings are included—Washington Crossing the Delaware (which, McCullough notes, captures the drama of the moment, even though many of the details are inaccurate); Charles Wilson Peale's portraits of Alexander Hamilton and Gen. Nathanael Greene; John Singleton Copley's portrait of Mercy Otis Warren, who wrote an early history of the revolution. McCullough also introduces less well-known images, such as a satiric print poking fun at the British prime minister, Lord North. Scattered throughout are vellum envelopes that hold facsimile reproductions of 37 primary sources—letters from George Washington to Martha, an ambrotype of Continental soldier Ralph Farnham as a centenarian, the text of a vow of allegiance to the king taken by Loyalists in New Jersey. By including these documents, McCullough has recreated not just the excitement of 1776, but the thrill of an archival research trip as well. From start to finish, this volume is a delight. (Oct.)
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"The war was a longer, far more arduous, and more painful struggle than later generations would understand or sufficiently appreciate. By the time it ended, it had taken the lives of an estimated 25,000 Americans, or roughly 1 percent of the population. In percentage of lives lost, it was the most costly war in American history, except for the Civil War"(Loc 4798)
The year 1775 closed with the British barricaded in Boston with the Colonists bottling them up. But King George had promised a new influx of troops and got help from Prussia. The invaders packed up from Boston and headed first north, then south to New York. The Colonists got there first but found it was indefensible given the enormous strength of the British fleet that dominated the waterways. The Americans lost battle throughout the year and eventually fled Long Island, then Manhattan and retreat through New Jersey to Delaware. It was on Christmas night 1776 that Washington took his army back across the Delaware River to win two battles and give the new country hope. But it would take another 7 or 8 years for war to end through a treaty in Paris after the victory in Yorktown.
Having read a few war histories now, I'm struck by how important it is for the leading generals to be so calm and resolute in the face of enormous pressures. The revolutionary army had to put up with low enlistments, poorly trained soldiers, lack of ammunition and other supplies; in short it was "a year of all-too-few victoreis, of sustained suffering, disease, huner, desertion, cowardice, disillusionment, defeat, terrible discouragement, and fear,... but also of phenomenal courage and bedrock devotion to country" (Location 4800). I can barely imagine how George Washington handled all this.
War in the age of sails was a world apart from that of steam and engines. The British needed wind and tides in order to bring their ships up the waterways of New York. Certainly, there were weather conditions for D-Day in WWII; but machinery and other advances in technology changed the face of war. Also, the establishment of West Point, Annapolis, and the other military universities have been essential to America's abilities to fight and win wars.
A terrific read of this pivotal year in our country's history. I'm going to read the Oxford history of this period in the not too distant future. It is essential, I think, for us to know "what a close call it was at the beginning-how often circumstance, storms, contrary winds, the oddities or strengths of individual character had made the difference - the outcome seemed little short of a miracle." (Loc 4808)
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.
Part of McCullough's problem with 1776 is that the scope is so very short. It begins in late 1775 with the siege of Boston, and ends in early 1777 with the Battle of Princeton. It is primarily a story about George Washington and the Continental Army, and military engagements between the Americans, British and Hessians. The political events of this time period, including the Continental Congress and the Declaration of Independence, are given just a cursory mention.
Still, this is a fascinating period in our early history, and it's a wonder that the American's were able to survive. George Washington was largely untested, and many of those men he placed in leadership positions (especially Nathanael Greene and Henry Knox) were well read in military history but very short on military experience. At first, Washington was often indecisive, and it cost him bitterly-especially in New York. But the victories at Trenton and Princeton gave the army a much-needed boost, and lifted the flagging spirits of the young Americans.
1776 proved to be a year of unbelievable contrasts. The Americans suffered some crushing blows (Brooklyn, Long Island, White Plains, Fort Washington), while pulling off some major victories (the British departure from Boston, Trenton and Princeton). Some of their successes bordered on miracles including the retrieving of cannon from Fort Ticonderoga, the taking of Dorchester Heights, and the successful and secret retreat from Brooklyn. Both sides were at the mercy of the weather, but it often times seemed that the hand of God was at work for the Americans. A three-day nor'easter kept the British from attacking Boston. No wind often kept British ships from sailing at will, and a bizarre fog aided in their retreat from Brooklyn. Still, conditions were harsh and most soldiers were ill prepared. Enlistments were only for one year, and desertions were common. But every time the Americans were at their lowest point, the British would pull back for one reason or another, instead of bringing a quick end to the battle for independence.
McCullough's research is prodigious, and the journal entries and letters from "regular" soldiers were rather interesting. Unfortunately, the Revolution continued for another 6-1/2 years, so 1776 is merely an introduction. Also, it would have been nice if McCullough provided us with a brief epilogue. I had to search the Internet to discover that the British eventually traded the vain, jealous and power-hungry Major General Charles Lee for one of their officers. He finally got what was coming to him when he was court martialed for refusing to follow orders and the disrespect shown to Washington during the Battle of Monmouth.
So, while 1776 is an engaging book, I just expected a little more.