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on August 7, 2016
As a proud American who, I'm ashamed to admit, knew next to nothing about the details of the Revolutionary War, McCullough's "1776" was a much-needed history lesson for me. Written lucidly and grippingly throughout, "1776" provides a strong foundation for one's study of this most critical period of our nation's history, and has inspired me to continue my own studies by reading as much as I can about the revolution and its meaning, both then and now. One also comes away with a sense of awe toward General (and later President) George Washington. The extensive bibliography that McCullough has provided is more than enough for a lifetime of study.

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.
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on July 30, 2014
While driving cross country back home from a road trip vacation on July 4 I listened to a rebroadcast of On Point's Tom Ashbrook interview with David McCullough. At one point David noted that many Americans don't really understand the Revolutionary War, that it has been overshadowed by so much other history. He said that our view is often of men in funny shaped hats fighting off the Red Coats in broad sweeping frontal marches. As he told the tale of the year of 1776 I realized he was right on the money in my case. I knew of the shot heard 'round the world at Lexington and Concord; I knew there was a battle at Bunker Hill and later George Washington crossed the Delaware River to defeat the British and the Hessians.

"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)
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on September 9, 2013
I thought this was going to be a political history of 1776, but it is a military history of that all important year. Though I am not usually interested in military history, this was a fascinating read for several reasons. First, McCullough is an excellent writer who tells this history through the individual stories of those who participated, from the leaders (on both sides) to the patriot farmers and American loyalists. These personal histories greatly enlivened the tales of the defeats, victories, and maneuvers. Secondly, McCullough relies on facts culled from legitimate sources: newspapers, letters, pamphlets. He identifies those sources in the text itself and then in his extensive citations at the end of the book. No imaginary conversations are created by McCullough, a superlatively credible historian. Finally, 1776 gave me a new view of the Revolutionary War, that military event often overlooked in studying the founding of our country. The new perspective I gained is to realize how close the rebellious Americans came to failing. This book clearly documents what was necessary to win: great and persistent leaders in Washington and Greene, some mistakes by the enemy, and a bit of good fortune.
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on July 18, 2015
This book is one of the better I have read on the Revolution. The author included the view point of both sides at times. However, this was not a war fought by Americans, but Americans AND British. I would expect more information about British intentions and conversations, also how this war fit in with the entire fabric of the Empire.

I was enjoying this book when it ended very abruptly. At a critical juncture, we know the ending, but why lead us out into an unknown country just to leave us there not knowing our way back.
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on April 23, 2017
This narrative makes my heart swell with pride for General Washington and the ragtag army of volunteers that won our freedom at such a great price. God in His providence was with these valiant men.
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on September 4, 2016
David McCullough is a great writer and historian and I've never been disappointed by any of his books. 1776 is the story of the American army, the men who made it up, from farmers, shoemakers, teachers, ministers, and even the no good. He shows the opposite side, discussing the British army and their leaders and how they fought, won and lost. He introduces the patriots Nathanael Greene, Henry Knox, and of course Washington. Not an in depth look at the war, it tells the story of what happens in 1776, the gathering of the armies, and the battles up to and including Trenton. Its easy to read, very interesting and will appeal to serious students of history as well as those just looking for a good story.
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In honor of Independence Day, I decided to read David McCullough's new book, 1776. McCullough is one of America's foremost writers and historians and has scored major hits with such monumental works as Truman, John Adams and Mornings on Horseback. While enjoyable, I don't feel that 1776 meets the high standards set in his earlier works. David Hackett Fischer's brilliant Washington's Crossing is a much more fascinating look at the same time period and covers most of the same events.

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.
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By now, many readers are familiar with David McCullough's "1776." This book takes a detailed look at once critical year in the Revolutionary War--a year that started off well--with victory in Boston, a year that bottomed out with disaster after disaster in New York, and a year that ended with triumph in Trenton under the worst possible circumstances.

The book starts with the siege of Boston, with George Washington assuming control of the rabble of militia surrounding the British forces. Washington had ideas as to how to defeat the British forces, but wanted the means. However, Henry Knox proposed the visionary prospect of bringing cannons from Fort Ticonderoga, recently captured from the British, to overlook Boston from the heights and, consequently, to drive the British forces from Boston. After desperate hardships, Knox' cannon arrived. And, indeed, the British forces were compelled to vacate Boston in a triumph for the colonial forces.

The drama then shifts to the New York City area. Washington fortified as best he could. When the mighty British Armada arrived, however, they found a weakness in Washington's lines in Long Island and threw the Continental Army into disarray. The Marblehead troops in the colonial army were able to find boats and transport the army across the East River to Manhattan, preventing a possible disaster at the hands of the British army.

Again, on Manhattan, the British forces won out, through their sheer numbers and the professionalism of some of their key officers. Fort Washington was lost with many colonial troops captured, with Nathanael Greene convincing Washington, wrongly as it turns out, to defend the fortification. Thereafter, Fort Lee was lost and a ragtag retreat toward the Delaware River ensued.

With unmitigated disaster looming, George Washington, as we all know, took a desperate gamble to defeat the Hessian troops in Trenton. Again, readers know of the outcome of that long odds battle.

This, in the end, 1776 was a year that lurched from triumph to disaster to triumph again. And with that final triumph, there was hope for the future of the revolution.

Those familiar with McCullough's other works realize his skills as a writer and his sensitivity to historical events. This is a book well worth reading. . . . And it reminds us that George Washington well earned the respect that his country accorded him.
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on March 31, 2017
I enjoyed this and learned a lot about the American Revolution, noting how close it came to ending badly for us. Sent it to my brother who enjoyed it and shared with others in his assisted living facility. He liked it so much he wanted to learn about the events leading to the conclusion of the war. .
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on July 27, 2016
Fantastic work by David McCullough...I bought this to read while on vacation and was worried it might be just a dry recitation of historical facts and footnotes and read more like a history text. But McCullough is masterful in bringing people like George Washington, Nathanael Greene, and Benedict Arnold to life, using correspondence and other documents to give insight to their thinking. He also paints very vivid of pictures of battles, placing the reader in the middle of the action to the point where you can almost hear the cannon or see the British pulling a flanking movement. And not even just battles, even though it happened 200+ years ago and I already know the outcome, McCullough's description of Washington's escape from Brooklyn had me on the edge of my seat.
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