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Washington's Crossing (Pivotal Moments in American History) Hardcover – February 12, 2004

4.7 out of 5 stars 316 customer reviews

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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.
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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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Product Details

  • Series: Pivotal Moments in American History
  • Hardcover: 564 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1st edition (February 12, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195170342
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195170344
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 1.6 x 6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (316 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #123,393 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Bruce Trinque VINE VOICE on 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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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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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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