1776 Book Report

896 words | 3 page(s)

David McCullough’s book 1776 is the author’s jaunt into non-fiction, and it serves as an historically accurate and significant review of the American Revolution. The author relies on a number of different sources in order to provide an overview of some of the most significant battles of the war. By focusing on a small number of battles, he is able to relay intimate details while also providing an overview of what it was like to be a soldier during that period. His work covers everything from the famed Battle of Bunker Hill to the Battle of Trenton in 1776.

The author describes the way, in 1775, the British crown declared war against the colonists, creating a dire situation in which the colonists had to scramble to come up with the forces necessary to wage war. He discusses how, in the early going, the battle looked like it would be between David and Goliath. Great Britain had its Redcoats, a formidable, well-equipped, and well-trained army that understood how to fight and was willing to die to do so. The colonists, led by George Washington, were a bunch of most inexperienced soldiers who came from varying backgrounds, but Washington and the colonists cobbled together enough forces to put up a fight.

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The author recalls one of the most important sequences in the war, a sequence that began at Bunker Hill. There, the Americans fought hard, but their lack of experience and their lack of numbers cost them one of the first chances of victory in the war. The British overwhelmed the Americans, as the two sides fought in the traditional manner. Because of the nature of war during that time, though, there was no good way for the British to avoid significant casualties. The colonists went down fighting, for sure, as they were able to kill a huge number of British soldiers, weakening the British forces and showing the colonists that it might be possible to compete.

One of the important parts of this battle, as the author notes, is that it gave Washington the momentum that he needed in order to take on the British in another battle shortly thereafter. Washington rallied the troops quickly, and they decided to ambush Boston. The British were used to traditional fighting, where battles were almost predictable and arranged ahead of time. In Boston, though, the colonists utilized their own brand of warfare, using their small size and mobility to surprise the British in a way that few could have predicted. After a short period of fighting, the British there were sent scurrying back to England on their warships, giving the Americans a significant win. It was significant both for strategic purposes and because, with a big win in hand, the colonists were able to recruit more men into their ranks.

The author notes that the return was not positive for the colonists. The British came back with many more men, and they quickly dispatched an overmatched colonial force in Boston, forcing a colonial retreat back to New York. The author describes how American colonists tended to be very fickle about the war. As colonists had to retreat into New Jersey, they lost tremendous amounts of valuable land, but worse, they lost some of their soldiers, who defected back to the crown in the wake of what seemed to be an impending loss.

After losing again at Brooklyn and seeing national morale dropping, Washington doubted himself to some extent. This was one of the things that could not happen if America was going to win the war, as the numbers already favored the British. More people defecting to the crown would surely mean an American loss. What Washington realized at this time was that he had about one more opportunity to secure a victory in order to galvanize his ranks. The author describes the way that the Battle of Trenton was a turning point in the war. Washington took his troops across the frozen Delaware River, a feat that few suspected was possible. Because the cold Delaware sat between the British and colonists, the British were not prepared for a fight.

They had been caught off guard and surprised once again. Washington was somehow able to motivate his men to fight despite the fact that they had taken such heavy losses in the previous months. The Battle of Trenton, though, reminded some of the Battle of Boston, and the colonists were able to secure the most important victory of the war. Washington became something of a hero and a legend. This was important not just for his legacy, but for the war effort overall. All of a sudden, with news of Washington’s victory in Trenton, young men were signing up to join the effort, and Ben Franklin was able to go abroad and convince the French to join in helping the colonists.

The author describes how the war would go on to last many more years, with the official end not coming until 1783. He notes, however, that the events of the war she described set the playing field for the years to come. After the colonists were able to win their surprising victory at Trenton, Washington and company rode the momentum all the way to a victory in the war at large. Without that victory, though, hope may have been lost and the colonists may have struggled to win the war.

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