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1776 (Book Review)
David McCullough’s 1776 is an exceptional historical book that highlights the significance of the 1776 as an important phase during the American Revolution. The major focus of McCullough’s book is the revolution’s various military aspects during 1776 such as the battles at Trenton, Long Island, and Dorchester Heights. Although the author has mentioned the political aspects of that time in his book too, those areas are not much elaborated and discussed.
As far as my opinion is concerned, the most appealing feature of this book is the way McCullough has delivered the historical events in a story-like manner. I have a good interest in history and have knowledge of American Revolution, its history and situations, etc. I have read a lot of history books and know that most of them sound extremely boring due to straightforward description of events and uninteresting analysis of historical figures. However, reading 1776 was like a breath of fresh air as the author has made it interesting through the deliverance of events like storytelling.
McCullough has been successful in keeping a flow as he moves through every incident and battle with ease. Another great thing about this book is that the author has not dragged the information with needless and unexciting details. He has embellished historical events by using actual accounts and letters written during that era. In this way, McCullough has been successful in bringing the year 1776 to life. He has described everything from the weather conditions to the sky’s color.
In my opinion, the book is a great read due to the fact that it includes the personal details and information concerning men who supervised all the military aspects. George Washington’s name is not new to people who know America. Although the author has given intricate details about Washington’s character, personality, and leadership, what I really liked about the book is that it does not particularly revolve around him. The author does not present George Washington as a larger than life personality who was infallible and could not make mistakes. This is a significant feature I liked about this book as it present the great President as a human being instead of a super natural being as he is usually presented in other history books.
McCullough has also given a detailed account of Britain’s General Cornwallis, Henry Knox, Nathanael Green, General Howe and other commanders. I specifically liked how McCullough has provided information about every man’s background and circumstances that led them to arrive at their respective stations. Reading this book has actually made me better understand the inspirations, rationale, and motivations of the mentioned men as they advanced through the battles.
I must also mention that McCullough has given a fair account of the war by portraying the war from both sides. It is particularly praise-worthy as most authors try to present opponents in a negative way and endeavor to make the facts vague to readers. I realized this aspect by observing that McCullough did not present George Washington as an efficient, competent, and perfect field general as compared to General Howe. Instead, he has included a fair comparison of the two generals by recalling a number of events when the indecisive attitude of George Washington proved disadvantageous for the Continental Army. In this way, McCullough has not only demonstrated the brilliance and vividness of the American forces; he has also given straightforward accounts and details concerning their luck, brutality as human beings, and unfairness.
Similarly, he has also presented the negative and positive aspects of the British. This book is a great example of unbiased history of the American Revolution. However, I must mention that the only time I thought that McCullough has shown biasness was when he mentioned the American army as the irregular, tattered, shabby ‘loser’ army while comparing it with the more advanced, well-trained, and experienced British army.
McCullough states, “There are no people on earth in whom a spirit of enthusiastic zeal is so readily kindled, and burns so remarkably, as Americans” (McCullough 291). This statement clearly shows that McCullough is also among those people who consider Americans as underdogs who can come out of any situation through zeal and zest.
There were a number of individuals mentioned in the book whose life history and achievements inspired me a lot. One of them is Nathanael Greene who, according to the author, was not suitable as a candidate for generalship of the army. He was the offspring of a Quaker farmer, had a limp, and never participated in any battle. He had not acquired any formal school education but did self-educating through reading. What inspired me most about this personality was that his endeavors won him to serve as the Major General of the American army in the American Revolutionary War. George Washington considered him as his most reliable and trustworthy General. As mentioned, he had not been involved in any battle as a soldier but served as a General for 8 years to serve the cause of the Patriots. Thus, he was a remarkable self-made individual who educated himself and went on to become one of the most important figures in the American Revolution. I also admire the fact that he did not let his limping prevent him from leading the army.
In the similar connection, I also liked the personality of Henry Knox. Before entering into war, he used to be a renowned bookseller in Boston. Just like Greene, he also suffered a physical disability i.e. a damaged hand. He also had no experience to fight in a war. However, Knox turned out to be one of the most inventive, clever, and fearless individual in the force of George Washington. He also became a Major General of the American army later.
There is no doubt that the author has written a great history book and has validated his opinions through actual facts and figures. However, there are certain things that are missing in McCullough’s 1776. It does not give details regarding the causes of the Revolution. In addition, it does not also give any idea about what happened after 1776.
I believe that McCullough should have given some background in order to make the reader acquire some knowledge of the context. Even though the title of the book suggests that the author has specifically covered a particular year, I think that he should have given some pre-1776 and post-1776 information as well. Also, the military operations described by McCullough lack informative maps that are needed to understand the military historiography. This void has not been filled with the insertion of three period maps’ reproductions.
Still, I believe that this book by the great American historian of the modern times is a must read for every individual who loves history, particularly American history. Before reading this book, I had no idea about the tyrannical experiences and hardships underwent by the ordinary people to achieve their liberation and freedom rights. I am sure it is one of those exceptional historical books that make people think about the difficulties endured by our forefathers to achieve their goals of autonomy. David McCullough has done a great job by describing the people, incidents, battles, and action and reactions during that time.
It can be easily concluded that this book is an excellent milestone that may help the reader understand the causes and consequences of the American Revolution in an interesting way. The author has completed his purpose of presenting both sides of the war to the reader and this aspect of the book makes it stand out. The good thing is that McCullough has enhanced the particular details by using historical evidence that support his arguments and opinions. It would not be incorrect to state that McCullough has made use of his masterful writing skills in publishing this book. Any keen history reader can observe the beautiful manner in which McCullough has balanced the personal, cultural, political, and military forces to give a lively feeling to the historical events.
McCullough, David G. 1776. USA: Simon & Schuster, 2006. Print.