Curmudgeonalia
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January 7, 2008

1776

David McCullough – ISBN – 9780743226721

This masterful book is by McCullough. What more needs be said? It chronicles the year 1776, detailing the initiation of the American Revolution with his expected, colorfully accurate and riveting descriptions of the times, the people and the events.

He deals adroitly with the principals: Washington, Greene, Knox, etal, as well as the British commanders. The drama unfolds with descriptions of the combatants: farmers, schoolteachers, shoemakers, ne’er-do-wells, and the “Red Coats,” of course. The events are graphically depicted, from the (sort of) battle for Fort Ticonderoga and subsequent movement of the cannon over impossible terrain, thru the evacuation of New York, to the brilliant battle for Trenton--the paramount victory of that year.

Trevelyan, a British Statesman, later wrote of the small band of men and their leader (at Trenton): “It may be doubted whether so small a number of men ever employed so short a space of time with greater and more lasting effects upon the history of the world.” In the end, while support from the French and the Dutch played a part in the outcome, it was Washington and the army that won the war for American independence.

His descriptions of George Washington are inspiring, and make the case that the battle could not have been enjoined, forget won, without this most important man of the era: first, best, and justifiably worshipped patriot; General, first President, . . . and honorable gentleman! What he and his followers endured is all but unimaginable. Yet they did, and they prevailed. Because of that we have a country!

Writes McCullough: “The Continental Army was the key to victory, and it was Washington who held the army together and gave it ‘spirit’ through the most desperate times. . . . Washington never forgot what was at stake, and he never gave up.”

I was especially struck by report of the handling of Lord Howe, commander of British forces. He had been dispatched by King George III to--and only to--grant pardons. Washington’s retorted that he had come to the wrong place. He had no faith in any peace overtures made by the British. And there is this memorable quote of July 2nd, 1776: “The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army.” Ahoy there unattached secularists and members of the ACLU, note and ponder that “under God” part!

The conundrum for the British is marvelously elaborated, with the factions detailed and explained: those who supported a separate peace and those who favored humiliating the Americans by defeating them. Recall that Ben Franklin wanted to be a part of the empire; he did not, initially, favor independence.

Even then, as with the world in modern times, the English were struck by the affluence of the colonies, which achievement they attributed to America’s parasitic existence at the expense of Great Britain. The old zero sum game has quite a lineage!

Fellow citizens, I encourage you to reflect upon that revolutionary time, inasmuch as it is unapparent for just how long we will have this wonderful country if we do not--and soon--seriously consider our present situation, its gravity, and our approach to it. As was WWII, this is another war for survival . . . and the independence we claim to value.

Posted by respeto at January 7, 2008 3:08 PM