Washington's Crossing (Pivotal Moments in American History) (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

On of the finest books on the American Revolutionary War in decades, this 2005 Pulitzer Prize winner is a triumph in multiple ways. Perhaps a simple (and brief) way of suggesting its excellence is to say that it may easilly appeal equally to those who have minimal familiarity with the subject as well for those who are thoroughly knowledgable. Really. To start with, the research is prodigious and the carefully supported new discoveries are surprising: yes, George Washington may have been standing up in the boat as it crossed the ice choked Delaware; yes, there were bloddy footprints in the snow; and no, the Hessians were not drunk or hung over when the exhausted Continentals attacked shortly after daybreak on December 26. And speaking of the Hessians, they were anything but the brutish thugs that earlier histories have described. And nearly 25% of them chose to stay in America when the war finally ended. But impressive research, supported by wonderfully informative footnotes and generous appendices, is only for starters. What makes Fischer's work invariably appealing is the quality of his writing, which is accessible without being simplistic and dramatic without being contrived.In fact,reading WASHINGTON's CROSSING may remind many readers of how it feels to read a very good suspense novel. Except in this case the story is desperately and dangerously true. And what a story it was. Less than 6 months after the Declaration of Independence George Washington's army had experienced nothing but overwhelming defeat and had lost close to 70% of its numbers since mid-summer. Just weeks before Christmas 1776 Washington wrote in a private letter that "the game is nearly up." While the British prepared to finish off the dwindling rebel army (with a Springtime offensive or, preferably, with a negotiated surrender or probably both)Washington decided to gamble...and the rest, as they say, is history. David Hackett Fischer has delivered a masterpiece pure and simple. It gets no better than WASHINGTON'S CROSSING. — Bill Lewis


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.

About the Author

David Hackett Fischer is University Professor at Brandeis University, and the author of such acclaimed volumes as Albion's Seed, The Great Wave, Paul Revere's Ride and Liberty and Freedom.

Product Details
ISBN: 9780195181593
ISBN-10: 019518159X
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Publication Date: February 1st, 2006
Pages: 576
Language: English
Series: Pivotal Moments in American History