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1776
by David McCullough

Published: 2005-06-23
Hardcover : 755 pages
9 members reading this now
23 clubs reading this now
7 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 2 of 2 members
A New York Times Bestselling Author
A Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning Author

1776 is the story of the Revolutionary War during the nation's tumultuous beginning, and those who, at great sacrifice, fought for what we assume to be our rightful heritage and precious ideals. This is narrative ...

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Introduction

In this stirring book, David McCullough tells the intensely human story of those who marched with General George 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.

Based on extensive research in both American and British archives, 1776 is a powerful drama written with extraordinary narrative vitality. It is the story of Americans in the ranks, men of every shape, size, and color, farmers, schoolteachers, shoemakers, no-accounts, and mere boys turned soldiers. And it is the story of the King's men, the British commander, William Howe, and his highly disciplined redcoats who looked on their rebel foes with contempt and fought with a valor too little known.

Here also is the Revolution as experienced by American Loyalists, Hessian mercenaries, politicians, preachers, traitors, spies, men and women of all kinds caught in the paths of war.

At the center of the drama, with Washington, are two young American patriots, who, at first, knew no more of war than what they had read in books -- Nathanael Greene, a Quaker who was made a general at thirty-three, and Henry Knox, a twenty-five-year-old bookseller who had the preposterous idea of hauling the guns of Fort Ticonderoga overland to Boston in the dead of winter.

But it is the American commander-in-chief who stands foremost -- Washington, who had never before led an army in battle.

The book begins in London on October 26, 1775, when His Majesty King George III went before Parliament to declare America in rebellion and to affirm his resolve to crush it. From there the story moves to the Siege of Boston and its astonishing outcome, then to New York, where British ships and British troops appear in numbers never imagined and the newly proclaimed Continental Army confronts the enemy for the first time. David McCullough's vivid rendering of the Battle of Brooklyn and the daring American escape that followed is a part of the book few readers will ever forget.

As the crucial weeks pass, defeat follows defeat, and in the long retreat across New Jersey, all hope seems gone, until Washington launches the "brilliant stroke" that will change history.

The darkest hours of that tumultuous year were as dark as any Americans have known. Especially in our own tumultuous time, 1776 is powerful testimony to how much is owed to a rare few in that brave founding epoch, and what a miracle it was that things turned out as they did.

Written as a companion work to his celebrated biography of John Adams, David McCullough's 1776 is another landmark in the literature of American history.

Esteemed historian David McCullough covers the military side of the momentous year of 1776 with characteristic insight and a gripping narrative, adding new scholarship and a fresh perspective to the beginning of the American Revolution. It was a turbulent and confusing time. As British and American politicians struggled to reach a compromise, events on the ground escalated until war was inevitable. McCullough writes vividly about the dismal conditions that troops on both sides had to endure, including an unusually harsh winter, and the role that luck and the whims of the weather played in helping the colonial forces hold off the world's greatest army. He also effectively explores the importance of motivation and troop morale--a tie was as good as a win to the Americans, while anything short of overwhelming victory was disheartening to the British, who expected a swift end to the war. The redcoat retreat from Boston, for example, was particularly humiliating for the British, while the minor American victory at Trenton was magnified despite its limited strategic importance.

Some of the strongest passages in 1776 are the revealing and well-rounded portraits of the Georges on both sides of the Atlantic. King George III, so often portrayed as a bumbling, arrogant fool, is given a more thoughtful treatment by McCullough, who shows that the king considered the colonists to be petulant subjects without legitimate grievances--an attitude that led him to underestimate the will and capabilities of the Americans. At times he seems shocked that war was even necessary. The great Washington lives up to his considerable reputation in these pages, and McCullough relies on private correspondence to balance the man and the myth, revealing how deeply concerned Washington was about the Americans' chances for victory, despite his public optimism. Perhaps more than any other man, he realized how fortunate they were to merely survive the year, and he willingly lays the responsibility for their good fortune in the hands of God rather than his own. Enthralling and superbly written, 1776 is the work of a master historian. --Shawn Carkonen

The Other 1776

With his riveting, enlightening accounts of subjects from Johnstown Flood to John Adams, David McCullough has become the historian that Americans look to most to tell us our own story. In his Amazon.com interview, McCullough explains why he turned in his new book from the political battles of the Revolution to the battles on the ground, and he marvels at some of his favorite young citizen soldiers who fought alongside the remarkable General Washington.

The Essential David McCullough


John Adams

Truman

Mornings on Horseback

The Path Between the Seas

The Great Bridge

The Johnstown Flood

More Reading on the Revolution


The Great Improvisation by Stacy Schiff

Washington's Crossing by David Hackett Fischer

His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis

Washington's General by Terry Golway

Iron Tears by Stanley Weintraub

Victory at Yorktown by Richard M. Ketchum


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Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
  "Required reading"by SusieCumbie (see profile) 03/31/11

This should be at the very least, required reading for all high school students and every citizen of the USA. McCullough brings to life the very story of this country's existence and how it came to be.... (read more)

 
  "1776"by bchktty (see profile) 01/31/11

Educational but book was a little slow but made you appreciate how much our founding fathers also had to wait for action.

 
  "very vivid account of the unfolding of the Revolutionary War"by EruditeElizabeth (see profile) 04/26/06

 
  "Book for those interested in history"by sklewis (see profile) 04/21/06

May appeal to those with a strong interest in history.

 
  "Interesting"by wirtzv (see profile) 04/21/06

Interesting material. I had problems following all the details, probably because I was listening to it and was not always a captive audience. May try listening to it again.

 
  "Readable, informative, and moving account of a key year in American history"by beckys (see profile) 04/20/06

David McCullough has a talent for writing history that is readable by historians, history buffs, and those who don't ordinarily pick up a history book. I especially liked the way he used primary resources,... (read more)

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