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Saturday, August 20, 2011

1776 by David McCullough



Another great history from McCullough

David McCullough's 1776 is yet another well-written history from David McCullough, the two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize and two-time winner of the National Book Award.

David McCullough
Many academic historians discount McCullough's work as being too "popular" - a complaint that I think is pure bunk. McCullough's works are popular because he is a good writer, not because he is chasing popular topics. He is not skimping on these topics or slanting them a particular way. 1776 is a perfect example of this. McCullough does not paint a picture of George Washington, the perfect general. Rather, Washington is portrayed as the man who is quite a bit over his head, but still the best man for the job because he understands the larger goals of the colonies and is finally beginning to understand the tactics and strategies required for a ragtag army supplemented with local militia to take on a British army with superior training, superior discipline, superior supplies and the freedom to roam the Atlantic Seaboard at will.

As its name implies, 1776 is the story of the American Revolution in 1776, specifically the story of Washington and the brand new Continental Army. The story begins with the American siege of Boston, moves on to the poorly handled defense of New York City and ends with the Battle of Trenton, a battle that McCullough clearly sees as a turning point of the war, the battle that vindicates Washington as a leader after his very poor showing in New York.

Henry Knox (1750-1806)
This is an easy to read history - it flows nicely. It flows so well that at times I felt like I was reading a novel. McCullough does an especially good job of relating the story of the challenges faced by young bookseller Henry Knox and his men when they brought the cannons from Ticonderoga to Boston. This move surprised the British so thoroughly that they soon left Boston rather than face those cannon in their new locations since they threatened the ships that were supplying the city.

I really have only one serious complaint about the book and that is a simple lack of maps. There is a photograph of a map of Boston made during the siege and another of a map of New York just prior to the invasion, but these were inadequate. This book just screamed for maps and lots of them.

Despite the issue with maps, this is a very fine history.

I rate this book 4 stars out of 5.

This book cab be found on Amazon.com here: 1776 by David McCullough.

Reviewed on August 20, 2011.

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