In a companion volume to his best-selling biography John Adams (2001), David McCullough closely examines a year of near-mythic status in the American collective memory: 1776. It was the year that the Continental Congress, meeting in steamy Philadelphia, decided, “these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states.” It was also the year that the American Revolution began in earnest and was nearly lost. With his strong sense of narrative and his gift for capturing the humanity of his subjects, McCullough leads readers through a well-known story with both style and grace.
McCullough structures the book into three large subdivisions. The story opens in England, October 26, 1775, with King George III of England addressing the British Parliament on the war in the North American colonies. McCullough takes issue with the commonly held notions of the king, often more known for the madness of his later years (thought to have been brought about by porphyria triggered by arsenic ingestion) than for his intelligence and hardworking leadership of his country. McCullough offers the British perspective on the events in faraway North America first, re-creating the debate in Parliament over the king’s decision to quash the rebellion.
From his description of the situation in Britain at the end of 1775, McCullough turns to the situation in Boston. After the opening Battles of Lexington and Concord in April, 1775, the colonials had engaged the British in what was commonly known as the Battle of Bunker Hill. Although technically a British victory, there were one thousand British casualties in the skirmish. In July, 1775, when George Washington arrived to take charge of the colonial troops, the British soldiers were under siege in the city, with supplies and food running dangerously low.
McCullough uses his opening chapters to summarize the state of the opposing armies and to introduce some of his major characters: Washington, Nathanael Greene, Henry Knox, and William Howe. Washington, a Tidewater planter, was also an experienced soldier and surveyor, serving with distinction under Edward Braddock in the French and Indian War. McCullough reminds readers of Washington’s background: “Like other planters of the Tidewater, Washington embraced a life very like that of the English gentry. English by ancestry, he was, in dress, manner, and his favorite pastimes, as close to being an English country gentleman as was possible for an American of his day, and intentionally.” That Washington would risk so much to take command of what appeared to be no more than a “rabble in arms” speaks to his deep commitment to the American cause.
Greene, according to McCullough, was an unlikely candidate as a general: he was a Quaker, had a limp, and had never been in a battle. He was just thirty-three years old. Although he had little formal schooling, he educated himself through reading. His correspondence is rich with description of Washington, the war, and the meaning of life. Some of McCullough’s most memorable passages in 1776 are from Greene’s pen. Likewise, Greene’s friend Knox, a well-known Boston bookseller, had a damaged hand, a Loyalist wife, and no experience as a soldier. Yet Knox proved to be one of the most ingenious and intrepid among Washington’s force, bringing cannons from the captured Fort Ticonderoga in upstate New York across many miles and in terrible weather to the battle at Boston.
McCullough is not content to focus solely on the Americans, however. He writes evenhandedly about the British generals Howe, Henry Clinton, John Burgoyne, and Charles Cornwallis. Howe had served under General James Wolfe, who called him “the best officer in the King’s service.” As commander of the British troops in Boston, he showed great courage. As McCullough writes, “At Bunker Hill, assuring his troops he would not ask them...
(The entire section is 1600 words.)
Essay on 1776 Book Review 1
1153 WordsJun 29th, 20125 Pages
April 1st 2012
McCullough, David. 1776. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005, 386 pp.
Word Count- 1157
David McCullough’s novel 1776 is a compelling story of America’s war for independence. We have all read chapters and heard the related history of the war of 1776, but David McCullough takes the epic story even further. The book covers the entire year of 1776 from the beginning of the war until the end. The author provides an extremely detailed description of both sides of the conflict both American and British. David McCullough is a renowned author and historian and has twice won the Pulitzer Prize for two of his novels; John Adams and Truman, and with reading 1776 you can see exactly why he is so celebrated. His…show more content…
The King was content on defeating the American rebellion and because of his loyalty to Britain and the crown; there was no one that would change his mind. Several people stood up for America and warned of the consequences if Britain actually lost.
The introduction of George Washington and the explanation of how much of an unorganized, unruly bunch of soldiers he was stuck with in the Continental Army was definitely one of the most interesting parts of the book. I realized in reading this, how little I actually knew about Washington. The author describes him in such a way that gives you the understanding of why people were drawn to follow him. Nathaniel Green and Henry Knox were just as important as Washington throughout the war, Knox especially in the in the success of removing the British from Boston. His heroic effort of bring cannons and munitions form Fort Ticonderoga to Boston was a tremendous achievement. It’s hard to imagine the difficulty in successfully being able to achieve something like that. Both Knox and Greene were almost entirely self educated. Knox owned a book store and was married to a woman named Lucy Flucker whose father was royal secretary of the province and even arranged for Knox to be commissioned in the British army, but he declined, which to me, showed how incredibly loyal he was to his country .