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Washington's Crossing by David Hackett…
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Fischer is my favorite writer of history, though this book held fewer surprises (events unknown to me) than my all-time favorite non-fiction work, [Albion's Seed], also by Fischer.

Using untold journals and diaries, plus pensioner's narratives housed in the National Archives, Fischer brings to life events and people that shaped the war, and without too great an exaggeration, our lives today. I will be a bit political here, and add that, in my opinion, Washington and the Continental Congress would be appalled and ashamed of American conduct in the Iraq war.

Although Nelson Runger did a much better job in narrating this book than he did in [The Path Between the Seas] by David McCullough, there must be a better history reader available. Only once during this long book did I feel like he was speaking through a mouth full of saliva. Don't audio books use directors? ( )
1 vote kaulsu | Aug 16, 2013 |
Military history of the key early portions of the American War of Independence, emphasizing both generalship and reliance on groups of soldiers. Fischer gives biographies of the key men (and a couple of women) in what was essentially, from both sides’ perspectives, a civil war, and concentrates on what began as a very bad year for the rebels, with constant losses, and ended with momentum on the American side after key New Jersey battles. One thing that stood out was that some things haven’t changed at all: if you rape/plunder/kill the locals, you lose their support; small unorganized forces can inflict disproportionate damage on even well-trained organized troops far from home. ( )
1 vote rivkat | May 21, 2013 |
Less than two weeks ago I read David McCullough's 1776, a history of the first year of the Continental Army under George Washington, its mixed success in Boston and disaster in New York City and culminating--after a night crossing of the Delaware River--in their victory in the Battle of Trenton. It was an engaging, well-told story of such suffering and such blunders I left that book amazed the American Revolution, the army and cause survived to triumph. This book covers much of the same territory, with a particular focus on the crossing of the Delaware on Christmas of 1776, the ensuing Battle of Trenton and the Battle of Princeton less than a week later. The Editor's Note claims that: "No single day in history was more decisive for the creation of the United States than Christmas 1776. On that night a ragged army of 2,400 colonials crossed the ice-choked Delaware River from Pennsylvania to New York in the teeth of a nor'easter that lashed their boats and bodies with sleet and snow."

Given the overlap in material I thought this book was likely to suffer in comparison. That 1776 would likely make the stronger impression having been read first. McCullough is arguably the more engaging, more concise writer--but not only did Fischer have a different read, emphasis and details, but in the end Washington's Crossing is the stronger, more scholarly book, packed with notes, maps and illustrations. Although you'd have to enjoy not just history but military history. Fischer paints the crucial battles in a much more detailed way than McCullough did, not simply in terms of grand strategy but the more personal tragedies and individual casualties. And if McCullough's book arguably throws George Washington in sharper relief, Fischer is superb in depicting the various armies, their soldiers and officers. Fischer tells you of their training, their discipline, even about their drum calls. The British commanders, the brothers General and Admiral Howe, come across in a more complex, human way--the same is true of the Hessians and their officers. For one, Fischer explained that even in contemporary times, a British officer could say there was no British army--only a collection of "tribes" which is why the British army could never bring off a coup. You understand what that meant when Fischer details the very different customs and cultures of various regiments--the Scottish Highlanders going into battle in their kilts and determined not to let down their kin and clan fighting beside them. The Americans were varied as well. I had known blacks had served in the Revolutionary War--I hadn't known that in at least one Massachusetts regiment they served in integrated units--and that there were black officers, one of whom rose to the rank of colonel. The various folk ways of the different American regions, and the need to wield them together into a unified force that didn't conflict with the revolutionary ideals were a big part of the story.

I really liked 1776, and I'd recommend both books really. And probably 1776 with the more sweeping, less detailed overview is the one to read first. But if I were forced to choose only one book to read or keep on the bookshelf, it would be Washington's Crossing. I'd certainly be interested in reading more of Fischer in the future. ( )
2 vote LisaMaria_C | Jan 12, 2013 |
The book begins with a short narrative about the picture of Washington crossing the Delaware on the way to the Battle of Trenton. The author explains that the picture is correct and Washington did stand up in the boat. It was either stand up or sit down in freezing water and ice.
The book was a very good narrative of the Battles of Trenton and Princeton at the end of 1776 and the first week of 1777. The defeat at New York begins the book but the primary focus is on those two battles.
1776 was a bad year for Washington's army. The troops did not fight well and the generals made a lot of mistakes. After the defeat at New York and the retreat into New Jersey many of the British were thinking that the war would soon be over.
Washington refused to quit and although the Battle of Trenton was not a big battle it was a victory.
The preparations for the battle did not portend a smashing success. Washington's affection for complicated battle plans did not work well with the low level of training of his troops. He sent them across the river in four groups and two did not make it to the battle because of the ice.
This author disagrees with other narratives of the battle. According to him the Hessians at Trenton were not drunk and unprepared. The commander had his troops sleeping in uniform and they were on patrol constantly. The Americans caught them unaware because they were hidden by a snow storm as they came into Trenton. Knox had managed to drag some artillery across the river which also made a big difference. James Monroe had a valuable role in the victory. The death of the Hessian commander was the turning point of the battle. The troops found themselves surrounded and surrendered. In a short battle the Americans had a complete victory.
News of the victory spread quickly throughout the countryside. It was a great way to end what had been a year of endless defeats. The Battle of Princeton on January 3 provided another small victory for Washington's army.
The author does a good job portraying the action of the battle from the time Washington's troops reach Trenton until the surrender of the Hessians. He also provides some vivid memories of the people involved. The bull moose voice of Henry Knox as he guided the troops across the river and Colonel Rall rolling out of bed to meet the attack.
Prior to the battle there is a very poignant scene where Washington practically begs some of the men whose term has expired to stay for just one more week. His moving speech and the offer of $10 cash preserves enough of the army to accomplish the victory.
Reading this book has increased my interest in the Revolutionary War. I look forward to reading several other books I have on this topic. ( )
  wildbill | Sep 3, 2012 |
2005 Pulitzer /History ( )
  sj | Feb 10, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
Fischer has devised a storytelling technique that combines old and new methods in a winning way.
At the core of an impeccably researched, brilliantly executed military history is an analysis of George Washington's crossing of the Delaware River in December 1776 and the resulting destruction of the Hessian garrison of Trenton and defeat of a British brigade at Princeton.
added by readysetgo | editPublishers Weekly (Jan 12, 2004)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 019518159X, Paperback)

Six months after the Declaration of Independence, the American Revolution was all but lost. A powerful British force had routed the Americans at New York, occupied three colonies, and advanced within sight of Philadelphia.

Yet, as David Hackett Fischer recounts in this riveting history, George Washington--and many other Americans--refused to let the Revolution die. On Christmas night, as a howling nor'easter struck the Delaware Valley, he led his men across the river and attacked the exhausted Hessian garrison at Trenton, killing or capturing nearly a thousand men. A second battle of Trenton followed within days. The Americans held off a counterattack by Lord Cornwallis's best troops, then were almost trapped by the British force. Under cover of night, Washington's men stole behind the enemy and struck them again, defeating a brigade at Princeton. The British were badly shaken. In twelve weeks of winter fighting, their army suffered severe damage, their hold on New Jersey was broken, and their strategy was ruined.

Fischer's richly textured narrative reveals the crucial role of contingency in these events. We see how the campaign unfolded in a sequence of difficult choices by many actors, from generals to civilians, on both sides. While British and German forces remained rigid and hierarchical, Americans evolved an open and flexible system that was fundamental to their success. The startling success of Washington and his compatriots not only saved the faltering American Revolution, but helped to give it new meaning.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:05:28 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Six months after the Declaration of Independence, America was nearly defeated. Then on Christmas night, George Washington led his men across the Delaware River to destroy the Hessians at Trenton. A week later Americans held off a counterattack, and in a brilliant tactical move, Washington crept behind the British army to win another victory. The momentum had reversed.… (more)

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