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1776: The Birth of America

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Tarah Lawitzke


1776: The Birth of America

        When people hear of the year 1776, many automatically envision the Revolutionary War, that painting of George Washington and others crossing the Delaware River, Paul Revere on a horse shouting “The British are coming!”, and the Declaration of Independence.  Most of these thoughts would be accurate but the story is far more colorful.  David McCullough did a fine job assessing the military aspects of the year 1776.  The author describes the events as they transpire but ultimately leaves it up to the reader to form opinions.  David McCullough transported the reader back in time and painted vivid picture of 1776.  

        The book starts out in England.  McCullough describes the state of England prior to the British troops being deployed to Boston.  King George III is addressing the British parliament about the rebellions in North America.  He is slowly developing a disdain towards America.  I noticed here how King George III is vastly similar to the commoners than to other royalty.  Shifting sides, we learn the condition of America and the state of rebellion.  The American army was nothing more than a group of disorganized “farmers”.  Their leaders were incompetent of leading an army but soon displayed their worth.  After the battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775, the “colonials” fight the British at Bunker Hill.  McCullough points out that this is technically a British victory but there were over one thousand British casualties.  After this is when George Washington really takes the role of Commander-in-Chief.  In the early chapters we also learn about the main characters, George Washington, Nathanael Greene, Henry Knox, and William Howe.  McCullough gives background on these men and how even though their ordinary backgrounds, they become iconic in the Revolutionary War.   McCullough does not focus solely on the Americans. He shifts to the British generals Howe, Henry Clinton, John Burgoyne, and Charles Cornwallis.  This evenhanded writing enables us to understand both sides of the war.  McCullough follows Washington, the Continental Army, and the British Army through the Battles of Boston, Brooklyn, New York, Fort Washington, and finally the Battle of Trenton in 1776.  The book focuses more on the military components of each battle more so than the political events that are also taking place.  Through the book, I got to envision a different side of the leaders of both armies and what warfare was like.  The book was slightly difficult to comprehend but the overall story of America’s fight for independence was intriguing.

        How America came to defeat the most powerful country in the world at the time is a story for generations.  People argue that America should have won for logical reasons or England should have conquered due to an overwhelming amount of advantages.  I believe that America had every right to win; my bias slightly inspiring that thought.  America won from overwhelming aid of the French and with good ole’ fashioned patriotism.  The Continental Army hit a few low points of starvation, minimal weapons, lack of experience, and sickness due to horrible hygiene.  Through these hardships, they persevered with sheer will.   The colonial’s cause for war is talked about on both the American side and the British side.  They wanted their liberty, their freedom, and their rights.  George Washington and his comrades play a significant role to keep this cause alive.  In the beginning, they were deemed incompetent but their intelligence aided their warfare strategies.  Washington, after every blunder, reminds himself and his troops of what they are fighting for.  Their great cause was not the only advantage they had.  If the French did not fight with the Continental Army, they would not have won.  The French lost territory and battles against the British in previous years.  This defeat, I believe, is what led the French to come to America’s rescue.  The French Army paired with independence-hungry Americans was a match for success.  This is what ultimately defeated the British.

        The Americans won the war against overwhelming odds but that did not mean the British did not have their own weaknesses to contend with.  The British had an extremely difficult objective. They had to persuade the Americans to give up their claims of independence. As long as the war continued, the colonists' claim continued to gain validity.  The British parliament commented about the Americans cause and if it was valid or invalid.  They considered it more when it was clear that the Continental Congress was not going to give up.  Their perseverance was driving the cost of war up and the British had to debate its necessity. The expense was not the only thing King George was dealing with.  It was not easy for the British parliament to rule a people that were a world away.  It took months to send communication and transport goods to North America.  Altogether, it seems logical that the Colonies won and Britain was defeated.

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