Book review on book 1776 by David McCullough

This is a book review on 1776 by David McCullough. This author’s main thesis is the undying spirit of Washington and his followers that caused them not to falter in temporary defeats but although these may have created some doubts and  caused some Americans to lose their loyalties, an inspired leader that is with supported by willing follower could do a lot to choose the battle for which they could attain small victories that would keep them to sustain the war and eventually gain their independence when the treaty of Paris was signed in 1783.

The book  envelops a series of events that would start from the declaration of war against the American colonies by Britain’s King George the III in 1775 and which would end to  the great American victory at Battle of  Trenton in 1776.[1]  The title therefore paints an important part of American history where it has the person of great general by the name George Washington, who latter become the American President.  The name of Washington is forever etched in the hearts of freedom loving Americans that he was able to lead an army of Americans from various backgrounds and ages and with the colorful fact that most of these his followers were inexperienced and had had no training. The book included the names of Henry Knox, a bookseller at the age of thirty five and Nathaniel Green, who was a quaker at an age even younger than Knox, at twenty five who were both inexperienced generals to join and form the army of then General Washington as their commander-in-chief. [2]     Such situation of Americans then in 1775 was very much in contrast to the British Redcoats who were well equipped and experienced as they were being commanded by general William Howe.

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The period from 1775, when the announcement of war was made by the King George of England, started with the battle of Bunker Hill , where one could find the Americans suffering a defeat by the British, although there were thousands of British casualties. The Americans recuperate and attempts an attack on a strategic place called Boston where the British found themselves unprepared by the attack causing the latter’ surrender and retreat back to England on their ships.[3] What could have explained the emotions that the Americans felt with said victory? Their spirits could not be higher at this point when after a defeat they could breath and wider space to make their advancement more strategic. Washington’s name at that point could only have greatest of honors.
.    As the books was not made to chronicle a straight victory but intermittent ones, it was found indeed that victory in Boston would not last long since the British was able to counter with an even larger army after returning from England. The British this time had with them a great number of navies that would surprise the Americans with their eyes wide open on where the troops came from.  As a result, the Americans had  retreat, to New York and thereby losing Boston very easily. Again nobody could have been more proud as the British who were very confident about themselves, as they saw the Americans as never a threat to them and the said British people at that time were expecting to defeat the Americans by a landslide.

With battles continuing,  the Americans being forced to retreat all the way down to New Jersey, after giving up precious territories along the way, their leadership was to find that their army had full of traitors who restored their loyalties to the British to the King of Great Britain, thus these people were branded “loyalists”.[4] Thus, given these factors including inexperienced men of American army, it was not surprising to have the Americans suffer defeats and retreats in the hands of General Washington. There were most crucial factors that could have led to the defeats and one of them was the fact that the British controlled the seas with a navy of powerful ships. It was for this reason that Washington suffered from losses at many places including Brooklyn, New Jersey and Fort Washington.  It was not surprising to see this in the light of the strength of the British navy given the fact that the British has outnumbered the Americans in which almost double in terms of number of soldiers.
Although causing Washington’s biggest nightmare, temporary defeats did not last long as Washington was able to keep his army together even though he doubted himself during several occasions. Thus turning point came with Washington having commanded his army to cross the Delaware River and afterwards begin the Battle of Trenton. This was therefore the first battle that gave the Americans a great hope for the cause of the war after the British evacuation of Boston in 1775. Washington called the “Brilliant Strike” as it was a surprising attack on the British who were defeated at Trenton and his caused Washington to become a legendary figure. It was in this battle that he led the defeat of the British and would further push them back out of Trenton. And so that continued for another six and a half years until the Paris peace treaty was signed in 1783[5], when e America finally achieved their de jure independence.

Comment and assessment of author’s main point

I agree with the author’s main point about the almost unrivalled power of the British forces since they are the colonizers compared to the Americans.  It could only be by strong belief in what they can do may the revolution led by George Washington to win the Revolutionary war against the British forces.

With the first defeat of the Americans against the American forces, one could only see how powerful they are in conquering the physical prowess and spirit of the Americans but the latter also displayed a rather insurmountable spirit as shown by the successful attack in Boston where the British was in fact caught by surprise.  For the British to surrender and retreat back to England on their ships must be a sign of advancing American who are ready to give up everything in the name of freedom and democracy.

The story saw a big reality of war as in games where victory could come and go.  What caused the American to lose their temporary victory and would push them to retreat are attributable to two factors the presence of traitors and their being outnumbered.  One could wonder how some would lose their loyalties. Does it mean that some were not convinced to go to war against the British forces?

War is a great psychological game and does not only need mental power but also strength of the spirit.  When on loses some part, the leadership is set up and it creates great doubts in the minds of the soldiers but every small victory is a psychological advantage.

As in any other game there are turning points when after certain losses a time of victory will have to come as long as the fighting spirit was there. The Americans led by Washington must be very strategic in Washington’s order to his soldiers to cross Delaware River and after wards could begin the Battle of Trenton.  For a general to be able to choose his battle so that some victory could be attained must be a wise decision.

America is proud to have gained its independence since it fought for it.  It had all the reasons to celebrate its independence since its people under Washington did not waiver with small defeats. They persevered until they gained their independence

Final assessment on the strengths and weaknesses of the assessment

I would like to believe that my assessment of the author’s main point is strong as far as the truth of the author’s assertions are concerned since the presentation of the author could corroborated with other evidence. The strength of my assessment lies therefore on the fact that it could be corroborated by other references. Using the rules of evidence, corroborating evidence would do much to strengthen the weight of evidence; hence the credibility of the story could confirm the credibility of the author. Its weakness may lie in whether all the other authors that I might read on American history of the war could have copied from one another.  I mean it could be only be coincidental.  The fact that at least two authors are talking of circumstance which corroborates each other is a proof of a good work and therefore a credible author.


It may be concluded that independence has a price to pay and to be proud about it one may need to go to war no matter how difficult it may be as what the American did in finally defeating their enemies. What could have been more glorious?