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Book Report

1295 words - 6 pages

1. Introduction. In 1776, David McCullough gives a vivid portrayal of the Continental Army from October 1775 through January 1777, with sharp focus on the leadership of America’s greatest hero, George Washington. McCullough’s thesis is that had not the right man (George Washington) been leading the Continental Army in 1776, the American Revolution would have resulted in a vastly different outcome. He supports his argument with a critical analysis of Washington’s leadership during the period from the Siege of Boston, through the disastrous defense of New York City, the desperate yet, well ordered retreat through New Jersey against overwhelming odds, and concludes with the inspiring victories of Trenton and Princeton. By keeping his army intact and persevering through 1776, Washington demonstrated to the British Army that the Continental Army was not simply a gang of rabble, but a viable fighting force. Additionally, Mr. McCullough supports his premise that the key to the survival of the American Revolution was not in the defense of Boston, New York City, or any other vital terrain, but rather the survival of the Continental Army itself. A masterful piece of history, 1776 is not a dry retelling of the Revolutionary War, but a compelling character study of George Washington, as well as his key lieutenants, and his British adversaries, the most powerful Army in the 18th Century world. When I read this book, I went from a casual understanding of the hero George Washington to a more specific understanding of why Washington was quite literally the exact right man at the exact right place and time to enable the birth of the United States.
2. Summary. 1776 discussed the military campaign from Washington’s arrival in Boston in October 1775 through January 1, 1777. It studies how Washington was not the right man because he made perfect decisions, but rather because he had the courage, judgment and the perseverance necessary to lead the largely untrained and untested Continental Army in the face of huge odds through a series of dramatic encounters with the British. Throughout the book, Mr. McCullough sites Washington’s coolness under fire, keeping himself under control in spite of apparent disasters at every turn. He also focuses on George Washington’s ability to identify sound young leaders from the largely untested army such as Nathaniel Greene and Henry Knox. These young leaders not only show loyalty and affection for Washington, but demonstrate leadership under extremely adverse circumstances. Even when they failed such as Nathaniel Greene’s errors in the defense of New York, Washington demonstrated trust and confidence in them, which was rewarded later in the war. The author also analyses Washington’s British counterparts, particularly General Henry Clinton, as well as General William Howe, and his brother Lord Admiral Richard Howe. McCullough uses letters and orders to describe how each officer affected the campaign, and how had the British...

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