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Washington's Crossingby David Hackett Fischer
2005 Pulitzer Prize for History
Synopses & Reviews
Six months after 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. George Washington lost 90 percent of his army, and was driven across the Delaware River. Panic and despair spread through the states.
As the author recounts in this riveting history, many Americans refused to let the Revolution die. In mid-December, the people of occupied New Jersey began to rise against British and German troops. They created an opportunity for George Washington. On Christmas night, as a howling nor' easter struck the Delaware Valley, Washington 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 a week later. The Americans repelled an attack by Lord Cornwallis, but were nearly trapped. They escaped in the night, marched behind the enemy, and defeated a British brigade at Princeton. Badly shaken, the British retreated to an enclave near the coast. For twelve weeks the Americans kept the initiative in small attacks that took a large toll of Howe's army, and wrecked his strategy. American spirits soared. A new three-year army was recruited, a continental executive was organized, and the states created permanent republican governments. European leaders were quick to take notice. Fischer s richly textured narrative reveals the role of contingency in these events. We see how the campaign developed in a web of hard choices by many actors on both sides. While British and German forces remained rigid and hierarchical, Americans invented an open and flexible systemthat was fundamental to their success. At the same time, Washington and his army developed an American way of war, and also a war-ethic that John Adams called "the policy of humanity." Their conduct of the War for Independence gave new meaning to the Revolution, in a pivotal moment for American history.
"[A] highly realistic and wonderfully readable narrative." The New York Times
"[A]n impeccably researched, brilliantly executed military history." Publishers Weekly
"A superb addition to the literature of the Revolution, by one of the best chroniclers in the business." Kirkus Reviews
"Scholarly but very readable." Library Journal
"A tale told with gusto, punctuated by finely rendered accounts of battles and tactics. If it remains part of the historian's obligation to make scholarly writing accessible beyond the academy, David Hackett Fischer deserves to be recognized for a job well done. Not least because it helps us understand anew a great American icon." Fred Anderson, The Los Angeles Times Book Review
"In Fischer's narrative, the reader...cannot help but be caught up by the spirit of these events. Washington's Crossing is history at its best, fascinating in its details, magisterial in its sweep....superb features... add depth and insight to Fischer's narrative." Boston Globe
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.
In a dramatic and colorful narrative of a pivotal moment in American history, we see how the campaign developed in a web of hard choices by many actors on both sides of the Delaware. 91 halftones,15 maps.
About the Author
David Hackett Fischer is renowned as one of America's most gifted and creative historians. He is University Professor at Brandeis University, and the author of such acclaimed volumes as Albion's Seed, The Great Wave, and Paul Revere's Ride.
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