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Washington's Crossing (2004)

por David Hackett Fischer

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1,825229,277 (4.35)83
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.… (mais)
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Mostrando 1-5 de 21 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
Washington's Crossing focuses in on what the author believes is the key turning point in the Revolutionary War. We start in 1776, after Lexington & Concord, and follow the fate of the Continental Army as they are routed in New York, retreat through New Jersey in the Fall, and escape across the Delaware to Pennsylvania. At this point, things look bleak for the rebels, and Washington has to find a way to take the initiative. So he orders a daring Christmas night re-crossing of the Delaware and surprise of the Hessian garrison in Trenton. Then we're taken through the next week, including more Delaware crossings and the Battle of Princeton.

The Americans were undermanned and undertrained, but had some advantages too- a committed citizenry, New Jersey residents angry about British military rule, and the vast spaces of American, impossible to fully garrison, along with some lucky breaks with the weather. But fundamentally, George Washington was a highly effective leader and an excellent military strategist and tactician, who knew how to spot an opportunity and seize it.

Good history, well written, and fun. ( )
  DanTarlin | Mar 23, 2024 |
I just finished reading Washington's Crossing by David Hackett Fischer. This book was definitely worthwhile. I am giving it "Five Stars." I confess to reading it fast, slower than a skim but much faster than I usually read a book. The reason is that much of the material concerning the famous crossing of the Delaware that stormy Christmas night and the surprise attack on the British and the Hessians at Trentown (now Trenton, New Jersey) was described in detail in Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow and 1776 by David McCullough, which I previously read.

A major distinction is that Chernow and McCullough are primarily writers, whereas Fischer is primarily a professor.

Fischer posits convincingly that the revival of the Revolution, almost sundered in the loss of New York City during the summer and fall of 1776 started before the Crossing of the Delaware and the Battle of Trenton, and that revival made those victories possible. A brief excerpt from what I think was the most stirring chapter, "The Great Revival":
There is an old American folk tale about George Washington and the Crossing of the Delaware. It tells us that the new American republics nearly failed in the winter of 1776, that George Washington crossed the Delaware on Christmas night, and that his victory at 1renton revived the Revolution. All of this story is true, but it is not the whole truth. There was more to it. The great revival did not follow the battles of Trenton and Princeton, important as they were. It preceded them, and made those events possible (though not inevitable).
*****
This great revival grew from defeat, not from victory. The awakening was a response to a disaster. Doctor Benjamin Rush, who had a major role in the event, believed that this was the way a free republic would always work, and the American republic in particular. He thought it was a national habit of the American people (maybe all free people) not to deal with a difficult problem until it was nearly impossible.

That view of the best of America being brought forth by crisis is true to this day.

Another focus of Washington's Crossing is in part on the uniquely American system that Washington and Continental Congress helped pioneer of placing elected representatives in overall charge, but delegating to experts a major amount of discretion in how they discharge their duties. Washington was given overall charge of the conduct of the Revolutionary War, for example. Fischer takes this analogy further, to having boards of directors of corporation selecting operating officers, and Boards of Education selecting superintendents operating independently but under supervision.

He also retells the thrilling stories of Washington's flexible and then-unique war strategy of avoiding pitched battles, but making the British and Hessians die the proverbial "death of a thousand cuts" though he does not use that phrase.

One quibble; I was constantly looking up words. One was "celerity" which turns out to mean "rapidity of motion." Another was "anabasis" which means "a military advance." And another jarring reference was his reference to "the Jamestown and Sagadahoc Colonies of 1607." The latter was a short-lived colony in Maine. This book may be more for history buffs, but it makes great reading. ( )
  JBGUSA | Jan 2, 2023 |
nonfiction (history--Revolutionary War). Great narrative reading. I still have trouble absorbing all of the battle/tactical information, but it is getting easier, and DHF does a nice job with incorporating the humanity of the soldiers and officers through inclusion of their personal letters and writings--I especially remember and appreciate the intro (about the famous painting and its history, as well as how it may or may not be inaccurate) or the concluding chapter. ( )
  reader1009 | Jul 3, 2021 |
This was good, even very good, but not "fantastic" in the way it seemed to be hyped up. There's a bit of "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" to the whole thing that I find a bit off-putting, but maybe that's just me. ( )
  dmmjlllt | Nov 10, 2018 |
Great story telling ( )
  ibkennedy | May 13, 2017 |
Mostrando 1-5 de 21 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
Fischer has devised a storytelling technique that combines old and new methods in a winning way.
adicionada por readysetgo | editarNew York Times, Joseph J. Ellis (Feb 15, 2004)
 
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.
adicionada por readysetgo | editarPublishers Weekly (Jan 12, 2004)
 
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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.

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