loren Eric Swanson: 1776

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


I just finished David McCullough's 1776--the story of America's fight to prevail for independence. The story centers on George Washington and the leadership he provided during this time of great conflict. McCullough is a Pulitzer Prize winner who is (as a friend of mine calls him) "an historian's historian." As with all his books, he typed this book on a conventional typewriter in a small cabin / shed in back of his house, producing roughly four typed pages per day.

1776 fills in many of the gaps in early American history. What was most amazing about the book was the incredible odds that Americans overcame to ultimately prevail in our quest for independence. We lost nearly every conflict, troops were deserting in droves...many defecting to the British, morale was often low and Washinton's leadership was in question. The 350+ page book includes only two American victories in 1776--Boston and Trenton on Christmas night, where the Americans crossed the Delaware to surprise the British and Hessian soldiers. In the end McCullough gives due credit to Washington. He ends this book by writing,

Financial support from France and the Netherlands, and military support from the French army and navy, would play a part in the outcome. But in the last analysis it was Washington and the army that won the war for American independence. The fate of the war and the revolution rested on the army. The Continental Army--not the Hudson River or the posession of New York or Philadelphia--was the key to victory. And it was Whshington who held the army together and gave it "spirit" through the most desperate of times.

He was not a brilliant strategist or tactician, not a gifted orator, not an intellectual. At several crucial moments he had shown marked indeciveness. He had made serious mistakes in judgment. But experience had been his great teacher from boyhood, and in this his greatest test, he learned steadily from experience. Above all, Wahsington never forgot what was at stake and he never gave up.

Again and again, in letters to Congress and to his officers, and in his general orders, he had called for perseverance--for "perseverance and spirit," for "patience and perseveance," for "unremitting courage and perseverance." Soon after the victories of Trenton and Princeton, he had written, "A people unused to restraint must be led, they will not be drove." Without Washington's leadership and unrelenting perseverance, the revolution almost certainly would have failed. As Nathanael Green foresaw as the war went on, "He will be the deliverer of his own country."


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At Wednesday, August 10, 2005 4:12:00 PM, Blogger Andy Wineman said...

I like your blog and the variety of content you have posted. I am in the middle of listening to 1776 and appreciate your observations about Washington as a leader. I have been taken by trying to place myself in the shoes of the Americans as they contemplated, initiated, and fought for their independance. It must have been a fearful and exciting time of change. Much harder for them when the outcome was not known as it is for us today.
Andy Wineman

At Monday, August 15, 2005 7:37:00 AM, Blogger Ned otey said...

Probably one of the best examples of referent power one can find.


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