Book: 1776

Author: David McCullough

Cover Designer: Wendell Minor

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Paperbacks, republished 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0743226714 Hardcover

ISBN-10: 0743226712 Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0743226721 Paperback

ISBN-10: 0743226720 Paperback

Language level: 1

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Ages 14 and above

Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

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McCullough, David.  1776 (published in 2005 by Simon and Schuster, Rockefeller Center, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York City, NY  10020).  Quick—what happened in the year 1776?  Most Americans would probably say that the Declaration of Independence was signed.  Yes, but the war to gain our independence had already been going on for a year.  Distinguished historian and author David McCullough, who has twice received the Pulitzer Prize for biographies of Harry Truman and John Adams, and twice received the National Book Award for The Path Between the Seas and Mornings on Horseback, covers a very important year in the American Revolution, beginning with the successful siege of Boston and Battle of Dorchester Heights, through the disastrous attempt to defend New York City and the Battle of Long Island, to the triumphant Battles of Trenton and Princeton.  This stirring but intensely human story of the year of our nation’s birth interweaves, on both sides of the Atlantic, the actions and decisions that led Great Britain to undertake a war against her rebellious colonial subjects and that placed America’s survival in the hands of George Washington.

Based on extensive research in both American and British archives, 1776, considered a companion piece to McCullough’s earlier work John Adams, tells with breathtaking excitement, drama, and narrative force the chronicles of those who marched with General Washington in the year of the Declaration of Independence when the whole American cause was riding on their success, without which all hope for independence would have been dashed and the noble ideals of the Declaration would have amounted to little more than words on paper.  They were men of every shape, size, and color,  a ragtag group of farmers, schoolteachers, shoemakers, no-accounts, and mere boys turned soldiers. While revolving mostly around the leadership and sometimes the indecisiveness of Washington, there is also considerable attention given to King George III, British commander General William Howe, Colonel Henry Knox, and General Nathanael Greene.  Some have complained that the actual signing of the Declaration of Independence is treated as a somewhat minor detail, but the main focus of the book is on military rather than political events.

I like McCullough’s work because he presents history in an interesting narrative fashion and does so as it really happened rather than revising it to satisfy political correctness.  He doesn’t gloss over warts, but neither does he magnify them out of proportion.  In short, he is fair.  Of Washington he wrote, “He was not a brilliant strategist or tactician, not a gifted orator, not an intellectual.  At several crucial moments he had shown marked indecisiveness.  He had made serious mistakes in judgment.  But experience had been his great teacher since boyhood, and in this his greatest test, he learned steadily from experience.  Above all, Washington never forgot what was at stake and he never gave up.” The book includes multiple pages of full color illustrations, including portraits and historical battlefield maps made by British engineers at the time, along with extensive source notes, a bibliography, and a complete index.  It would make an excellent resource to accompany a study of our nation’s war for independence.

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