Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Book of the Day: 1776, by David McCullough

Welcome to another new feature I'm starting on this blog: Book of the Day. Okay, so I can't read a book a day, but I will occasionally write some shorter pieces about what I've just finished reading. Today's book is 1776, by David McCullough. As the title no doubt makes clear, this book focuses solely on this defining year of the American Revolution. But McCullough focuses the book even more narrowly than that. Specifically, he follows George Washington and the Continental Army throughout the entire year, as they move from a triumph in Boston to disastrous defeat in New York City, to a final victory at the very end of the year at the battle of Trenton. It's fascinating to read about the challenges Washington faced in such detail. The only thing I don't like about the book is that really no attention is paid to Congress. The writing of the Declaration of Independence is covered in about two pages. So you'll have to go to another book to get more of the story of 1776, which just shows what a momentous year it was.

In reading 1776, one of the things that amazed me was how many times the Continental Army came so close to being utterly destroyed, yet still managed to survive, through Washington's savvy and occasional British ineptness. There are so many times when things could have turned out very differently for the rebels, and one wonders what the fate of this country would have been. 1776 also makes the reader realize how incredibly lucky this country was to have George Washington in charge of the army. Granted, Washington made some huge tactical blunders during the war, which 1776 does not gloss over, but he was ultimately the right man for the job. He was able to inspire his troops at exactly the right time, and he was utterly selfless in his devotion to the revolution. His importance to the founding of this nation really cannot be overstated. For much of his public life, George Washington was America. He was the living, breathing symbol of this country.

As 1776 drew to a close, I found myself thinking, "Okay, at the end everything will be fine." And then I would remember, "Nope, the war goes on for 5 more years!" McCullough is truly a gifted writer, he knows how to tell a story, and he knows how to capture the reader's attention. He relies on a lot of primary sources, which gives the narrative an immediacy, and really paints the picture for the reader. I feel like I know a decent amount about the American Revolution, but I learned many new things by reading about one year in such detail. For anyone who wants to know more about America's struggle for independence, 1776 is a must-read.

1 comment:

Uncle E said...

You need to write more, mate. I always look forward to reading your posts.