1776 | David McCullough | 400 pages | 2006
McCullough, perhaps the closest thing there’s ever been to a historian rock star, delivers in 1776 a fascinating and accessible look at that pivotal year for our republic when, it seems, hope was never more lost for America than during those terrible twelve months. McCullough takes us through the trying year through the lens of personality profiles of some of the Revolutionary War’s greatest heroes and most compelling villains. We learn of American Henry Knox, who led a winter expedition 300 miles each way over frozen terrain to bring 120,000 pounds of artillery from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston, enabling the Americans to seize Dorchester Heights and capture the entire city. Among many others, we also get to know British commander Lord General Howe, whose crushing error was his simpleminded underestimation of American ingenuity and tolerance for despair.
Of course no history of the year 1776 would hold much water without a large dose of General George Washington, and McCullough’s work is no exception. Washington is present throughout the book as an initially reluctant, continually tried and ultimately victorious [though not in 1776; in fact not for the better part of the next seven years] leader with as keen an eye for the politics of the war as for the battlefield.
You don’t have to be any sort of history buff to enjoy a McCullough book, including this one. Grab 1776 and take some time to learn about how our nation was birthed under the most trying of circumstances. It’s really something to read about the true cause of ‘liberty,’ aterm that is so cavalierly and irresponsibly thrown around in our politics today as an empty rallying cry for small, pandering parochial priorities and what the term really meant to the men who crossed their swords with demise in its honest pursuit.