Monday, May 31, 2010

1776



On this Memorial Day, I had the privilege of finishing David McCullough's masterpiece 1776, a stirring and thorough account of the Revolutionary War through the battles at Trenton and Princeton. I recently finished American Creation, by Joseph Ellis, which tells the story of our country's independence from England more from the political perspective. It too, was an informative, lively account that read like a novel and I'm happy I read it first before digging into 1776's account of the military actions and movements during the war for independence.

I didn't plan to finish this book during Memorial Day weekend. I just happened to have more free time on my hands due to the lengthy weekend, but, it certainly gave me an even greater (probably greater than I've ever felt) appreciation for the freedom we have in this country and it puts me in awe of the fact that we ever gained it. That we were able to defeat an army and navy so substantially larger and more powerful than us, with many of our own countrymen turning us in and betraying us to the British, speaks to the fortitude, determination, and to me, the previously undefinable "American spirit" than any other action in our history.

From a pure writing perspective, McCullough's prose is almost poetic at times. From the beginning of chapter four:

For two weeks and more, the army was on the move, its long, irregular columns winding through the untroubled countryside of lower Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, where open fields and low-lying wooded hills were only now showing the first faint signs of spring.

In scores of market towns and crossroad hamlets the local citizenry came out to cheer and offer food and drink, or just to stand at gateposts and kitchen doorways taking in the spectacle of so many of their countrymen armed and on the march, whole regiments passing for hours at a time.


1776 reads like fast-moving novel that attempts to provide multiple perspectives on the war, including the British Parliament, our infant Congress, the generals of our foundling nation, the experienced generals, admirals and lords of the British military, the "guns-for-hire" Hessians, and soldiers (inexperienced and experienced) from both sides. When a colleague of mine saw I was reading the book, he remarked that he'd been up until three in the morning finishing it, even though he knew the outcome. It is that good.

As a side note, and as an abolitionist, I appreciated McCullough's pointing out the following about George Washington: "There were, to be sure, those in the ranks and among the local populace who had little fondness for Virginia planters and their high-and-mighty airs, or who saw stunning incongruity in the cause of liberty being led by a slavemaster."

Washington has always been portrayed to me as sort of a superhero who was untouchable and "above it all." This book's honest portrayal of Washington's positives AND opportunities was a breath of fresh air and frankly gave me more respect for the man, though I can't tolerate the fact that he built his wealth and property on the backs of slaves.

As a final note, Dorman T. Shindler from The Denver Post, wrote, "Should be required reading in living rooms from coast to coast." I cannot agree more.

5 comments:

  1. Dude wants to know!June 4, 2010 at 10:08 AM

    Dude, when are you going to post again? I've checked this thing like 11 times already!

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  2. Dude? Who's Dude? I'm Erwin Rasselhoff!

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  3. Sorry for the lack of posts lately, Dude wants to know! I'll be more on top of it this weekend.

    Anonymous - Maid to Order baby!

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  4. I will probably need to borrow that book seeing as I am a history teacher and all....sheesh, Karin, make me feel obligated. :)

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  5. :) You won't feel obligated reading it, Ky---it's soooo good and reads so quickly! Mom read it, so she might have a copy for you before I can get you mine!

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