1776

I finished ready David McCullough's 1776 earlier this week. I don't get a chance to read as much as I would like, so it took me a couple of weeks to finish this rather small historical book. I enjoyed the book. It didn't strike me as on the same level as McCullough's "John Adams", but I thought it was a good narrative on the events of the year 1776, and a good sketch of certain revolutionary personalities, particularly George Washington and Nathanael Greene. I don't think I learned any new "primary" information (of course, I always learn at least something new when I read anything.) However, I was reminded how precarious a situation the (pre) nation was actually in at the time. In fact, Washington nearly lost the confidence of the "powers that were", and in fact did lose the confidence of some of his closest aides. It's breathtaking to think of how many factors Washington had to overcome in order to win the war (short list: untrained army, unexperienced officers, regionalism within the ranks, poor equipment, very limited resources, insubordination, conspiracy, expiring enlistments and weather.) Not many people could have pulled off what he was barely able to pull off himself.

A few other thoughts:
  • I wonder, if I had lived through this period, would I have been a Loyalist or a Patriot? Romantically, I like to think that I would have been a Patriot. However, the Loyalists were being obedient to the law that they knew, and in which they did not see sufficient injustice to take up arms. It's an enduring question: when is it acceptable to martially rebel against authority? Who's the arbiter--history?
  • After reading the entire book, I thought that the first chapter regarding King George's speach to parliament was unnecessary.
  • I would have liked to have seen at least a chapter summary on the major events of the rest of the war. It did, after all, last another five years and include such notable episodes as Valley Forge, the British taking Philadelphia and Benedict Arnold's treason.
  • I used to be a huge Civil War buff, but I have increasingly taken more of an interest in the Revolutionary War. Jeff Shaara has some excellent historical novels covering both, as well as WWI and the Spanish-American War. He is now working on a WWII trilogy. I can't wait.
  • Washington got the hell beat out of him in New York.
  • Washington was desperate when he finally got the victory at Trenton. Had that gone badly, it could have been the end of the war. I would love to have a print of "Washington Crossing the Delaware" hanging on my wall. I think it is one of the most defining pieces of art in American history.

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