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Washington's Crossing (Pivotal Moments in American History) Hardcover – February 12, 2004
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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.
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Top Customer Reviews
Perhaps the best way I can describe it is that Mr Fischer has written this book in such a manner that avid readers who dream they will get their hands on that rare kind of book(s) that "take you there", well, they will have their dream fulfilled here......& if it could be made into a movie and made exactly the way this story is told, it would be a blockbuster never forgotten...and be a great contribution to our history. I have bought and given out copies of this book and I had to go back and re-read it a few months later for it stuck so in my mind. I simple cannot say enough about this story of the times when things were so bad for us, it appearing that General Howe would soon be wrapping up a victory for King George...but all at once, in the dead of winter, an exceptionally horribly cold winters night in December of 1776, Fischer tells in detail the whole story and paints a picture in the minds eye of all that transpired in the preparation and the step by step of these amazing men who slogged through the cold, across the Deleware in those huge cumbersome boats with animals and weaponry while ice flows begin to make it near impossible for them to ever get across....and then nearly impossible for any reader to conceive of this happening...they do get across, unload, every minute so crucial before daylight or there will be no surprise attack...then they surprise the Hessians and capture all the men, the big stores of food, ammunition, weapons, etc. So effectively is this whole story told from first to last that I "felt the cold,"
I am with the men and can imagine what they felt as best as I could...they are cold, bone tired, some with rags wrapped around their feet for often they did not have proper clothing and their weapons were wet and unable to fire if needed.
Comrades in arms would try and keep their fellow soldiers awake, some were so tired and just for a few minutes of rest some did lie down, only to never get up...exhausted they died in the cold.
The book has near exhausted me at this point, especially "going with the soldiers over the river, mentally it is so moving and one feels as if you even want to have been there and be awake and alert and help that soldier who needed rest but death was the consequence of not staying awake....for in a while they will be where it is warm, there is food, drink, rest!
I should be better prepared for this review, I am not a writer though I wished I would have been, esp one like Mr David Hacket Fischer. All I can say is get a copy of this book that reads similar to Philbricks "Mayflower" story or Captain Cooks stories of exploration. You will NOT be disappointed with this book, one of the very best I ever read.
There is so much you will think of re our country then just after declaring independence from the "mother country."
You will think of something that was happening back in the 18th century that is lost now, ie, people helping people, more then than now I think, a lot of hard work and people happy to be just safe, have a decent place for family to live in, food and clothing, a few good books (or more books so to learn and have some education.) I am sure that after Teddy Roosevelts time is when the real push of greed and big business and the rich/poor gap came on and now has built up so much that the ones you read of...leaders and/or the common man then...if here now seeing how America is, they would be shocked to say the least and some sort of revolution would come I suppose.
Even before Teddy R, things were getting bad...always the wealthy cannot be wealthy enough and many who have much do not even give thought of the common person, the poor or middle class person. This book, after reading all that it is about has a lot more to say to us because of who we are reading about and how they treated one another...so this is not just the best and most exciting and enlightening thing I ever read on Washinton's crossing the Deleware alone......it is about what Americans were like and what they were about...I hope, pray that our greed and power will not take us down one day and that when we see what America was back then, all they held dear and strived for (decent and fair shake, etc)...I hope it is not too late and now that we are for some time the "American Empire" just as the U.K. once was and we the ones working with (or at times alone as well) to dominate or take over other nations...that it is not too late to stop that course we are on.
I simply end by saying there is the main story here but whether on purpose or not, Mr Fischer has given me much knowledge of how different America was then in all her ways and the goals to build a nation for all the people was held by most...we have deviated from that now by both national parties. In the 1970's or late 70's I believe is when the Democratic Party merged with the Republicans and the current Democrats are in a moderate to right place and the Republicans are gone...or simply off the map to the right...soon the small amount of moderates will be gone unless true Progressives can ban together and change things....it is not anywhere near David H Fischer's America, nothing like it at all.
One of the complaints we hear about history books is that they are hard to read and many are. Fischer has written enough books to develop a good writing style and has learned to write so that the general public can read the works. This is a major defining point for historians who often are not understood by the public. Some are not able to move beyond academic writing styles, but as this book proves, Fischer has moved past that point and that is a very good thing.
Normally, I do not read too much military history, but this book is the exception to my policy. The narrative sets up the battles that took place at New York, Trenton, and Princeton as well as covers what took place afterword. Instead of being nothing but military history, Fischer takes pains to include the political and human aspect of the events in question. The analysis is heavily dependent upon primary sources, specifically personal correspondence. I kept noticing what was being used as evidence throughout the book and it was plainly obvious that personal correspondence drove Fischer’s interpretations.
I was very happy to see that he also did not bring up John Adams’ phantom list of Americans to be executed when he was mentioning the events in the New York City campaign. To me, that showed Fischer was not using secondary sources as his inspiration, but instead using the primary sources almost exclusively. (I am pretty sure that the list was a figment of John Adams’ vanity as no one else ever mentioned it). It is also plain to see that Fischer actually walked the grounds he was describing in the book. I noticed his maps reflected both the modern and past details.
This is definitely a must read book for anyone who studies the American Revolution. Fischer’s work answers some questions I had about this particular event as well as reveals what is legend and what is factual. History is often seen through the legendary lens which results in severe distortions, but not in this book.
Fischer is also able to convey the pickle the British found themselves in. Their viewpoints and ideology are critical to understanding how the Revolution came about and why the Americans won.
Excellent in every way. Easy to read, comprehensive in scope, excellent in research. The maps are valuable as well. Very highly recommended.