Pulitzer Prize, History, 2005
This New York Times best seller is a thrilling account of one of the most pivotal moments in United States history. Six months after the Declaration of Independence, America was nearly defeated. Then on Christmas night, George Washington led his men across the Delaware River to destroy the Hessians at Trenton. A week later Americans held off a counterattack, and in a brilliant tactical move, Washington crept behind the British army to win another victory. The momentum had reversed.
The “Pivotal Moments in American History” series seeks to unite the old and the new history, combining the insights and techniques of recent historiography with the power of traditional narrative. Each title has a strong narrative arc with drama, irony, suspense, and – most importantly – great characters who embody the human dimension of historical events. The general editors of “Pivotal Moments” are not just historians; they are popular writers themselves, and, in two cases, Pulitzer Prize winners: David Hackett Fischer, James M. McPherson, and David Greenberg. We hope you like your American History served up with verve, wit, and an eye for the telling detail!
©2004 David Hackett Fischer; (P)2004 Recorded Books, LLC
"An impeccably researched, brilliantly executed military history." (Publishers Weekly)
"An eminent, readable historian, Fischer here delivers an outstanding analytical narrative....Fischer's exhaustive research, right down to the Americans' collection of supplies, captures the utter precariousness of the Americans' situation. A must-read for military history fans." (Booklist)
I got this title because I found the author's earlier Albion's Seed one of the most interesting books I ever read. This one is also very interesting, and brings out unique information. The author obviously read the "normal" source materials, and went to previously unpublished contemporary letters as well.
I think this would be better on a printed page than as an audio book, despite the reader's excellent job. Maps would definitely help. Living in the area that is the focal point (central NJ) makes the information especially interesting, as I regularly drive through the sites where the soldiers slogged through slush to save the Revolution. The progress of the battles could be hard to follow to someone unfamiliar with the area, and without a simple map.
The author's points are "earned" by supplying appropriate detail. It is fascinating to see him build the case that the lessons learned and applied in NJ in many ways fixed both the Colonial victory and the British defeat. Contemporary political analogies are available, and thankfully the author does NOT lay them on.
The author gives credit to both sides throughout. Shades of grey abound, like in real life. It celebrates the genius of George Washington, but also celebrates many other people of integrity and determination, including the army of the "little man" (that he learned to treat with a new respect, unlike that traditional in contemporary Europe). Without being over-simplified, it is clear. The author gives credit also to his readers; some intelligence is assumed. It is less "preachy" than many contemporary books, which is greatly appreciated.
I grew up in Trenton. Growing up there, I played at many of the battle sites. I learned the history through my school years, went on school field trips, and had a comfortable understanding of the Battle of Trenton. I've returned many times and taught the history to my children. Reading this book was like watching a small plant suddenly grow in fast motion. I knew the routes the columns took from the Crossing to the Battle, but now I know what happened along the way, what they faced and overcame, what they felt along the way. I knew there was a storm that night, but David Hackett Fischer made me feel the weather. I crossed Jacob's Creek countless times, but now I can imagine Washington's horse losing his footing in the icy ravine while Washington grabs his mane and pulls his head up by brute force, enabling the horse to catch himself and stay up. I can hear the men who watched it happen, and understand how that small story spread and instilled faith in Washington and the Cause. That was one small anecdote in a book that is filled with them from beginning to end. Don't miss the conclusion and the lesson to us all, we Americans who were shaped by all that happened back then. Thank you, Mr. Fischer.
“Washington's Crossing” by David Hackett Fischer is certainly one of the best books I have read this year. Originally, I had planned to read McCullough’s “1776” when a fellow reviewer put me on to this book. I am pleased to say that this book enjoys both excellent writing and fine narration.
Fischer has an uncanny ability to make his sources (many historical documents, letters, and journals) come alive as living stories. The writing is measured and without embellishment, nevertheless, I felt as if I were present during this crucial period in history. Fischer, who has walked the ground at Delaware and New Jersey, provides a sense of how the landscape played a role in the pivotal battles during the winder of 1776-77. I got a sense for the privations and many setbacks that the Continental Army faced and how the generals and foot soldiers pushed themselves to their limits (and beyond) for a cause they believed in.
Fischer, writing during 2003-04 provides perceptive examples regarding ruinous British behavior as occupiers of the Colonies. Stories of British infantry knocking down doors and thus making additional enemies of several neutral citizens provide eerie parallels to that of another occupying force. British Whigs devoted much energy to steering Britain towards reconciliation with the “insurgents,” while Loyalists felt that a campaign of “shock and awe” would cow the colonies back into line.
In the end, it was a reviving spirit of the importance of liberty that may have saved Washington’s army from disappearing completely after so many setbacks. The brilliant daring of Washington’s crossing into Trenton and the sweeping words of Thomas Paine brought out a vigorous militia during those most trying times. David Hackett Fischer deserves kudos for a fine work that not only describes the events, but helps us to better understand why they remain so important to us here and now.
I listened to this book after enjoying David McCullough's "John Adams," and I highly recommend this audio book to any fan of that fine work. This recording is read by Nelson Runger, whose pace and tone is perfect for the 18th century. It's an vivid story that is an excellent companion to McCullough's "1776." If George Washington seemed only an icon, this book will revive him as a living, breathing, and inspiring man.
I began this book knowing virtually nothing about the American revolution. This book was a very good introduction. At times it read like a novel. While providing excellent historic information, it did not get bogged down with the minutia; having said that, neither was it simplistic.
I thought this book was great. One of the best I've listened to - period. If you like history this book will provide you with lots of interesting details about George Washington and the people surrounding him. Not only did I learn a lot about this period in American history, it is very entertaining. Can't go wrong with this one.
You can't make this stuff up! Washington was fearless! A real life super-hero who's commanding presence, physical prowess, inspired leadership, unwavering belief in his ability to succeed, and his commitment to independence make this a great listen. Don't forget to come to NYC to see the colossal painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and while you're here take a ride to NJ across the George Washington Bridge while listening to the part about the retreat from Fort Washington. I promise it will be a ride you will never forget.
Max Fisher of Rushmore Academy
This was among the best works of military history I've encountered. The story unfolded in a focused, intuitive way, with plenty of the sidebar-type extras that add so much enjoyable texture to this sort of work. My only complaint was the Conclusion, which could have been 75% shorter.
This well researched and well documented account of a critical juncture in the Revolutionary War is a masterpiece of historical research and a faithful, detailed recreation of an era that deserves more attention than our current educational system affords it. The heavy reliance on readings of original source material brings the stories to life, but some of the details get repetitive in that format. The reader is great and brings the various voices to life without charicaturing them. This was not as interesting as the psychological portrait of Washington depicted in Joseph Ellis' "His Excellency" but it is an enlightening analysis of a turning point in the struggle for American independence.
I found the narrator very distracting and almost didn't finish the book. Nearly everything about the narration is overdone; words are overemphasized, tonality is overused. The overall effect is somewhere between sing-song and the voice one might use when reading to unruly kindergardeners. Having said that, the narrator's accents are fantastic; quotations are read in regional accents that match the original authors'
The scholarship however is deceptively strong. I didn't realize until more than halfway through just how much I'd learned. I listened to this back to back with two other audiobooks and a hardback about the same period. There are unavoidable overlaps of evidence, but Dr. Fischer brings in considerable depth and context (plus some new primary source evidence) to ensure that this book will educate.
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