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)
This is an excellent book for both the military historian and Revolutionary War buff. The author does an excellent job telling the untold story of the events of late 1776 through 1777, shattering popular beliefs about what happened leading up to, and immediately following the attack at Trenton. If you're interested in New Jersey history you will find this work particularly appealing, as it chronicles most of the engagements fought here during the revolution.
The author in this book does a great job of making the individual soldiers and leaders of the time come to life. The anecdotes the author uses, mostly or all from primary sources, make the people involved in the military campaign in New Jersey seem frighteningly like people you might meet today. It's a remarkable story, made all the more so by the author's narrative style, which is easy to follow, and doesn't assume much about your background knowledge of the era. This is far, far better than the hackneyed stuff of grade school textbooks.
"Washington's Crossing" is a great narrative and has plenty of surprises. I'm no expert on the American Revolution, but I've read three or four books on the subject, as well as a couple of biographies of George Washington; and I don't remember any that laid out the action of this part of the war, or the stakes for the colonies, as clearly as this book.
I knew in broad outlines how disastrous the summer and fall campaign of 1776 was for the Continentals. Washington lost Brooklyn, Manhattan, and most of New Jersey in one long, nearly continuous, retreat. But I didn't know a lot of the details: the atrocities committed by the British and Hessian soldiers in New Jersey; the activities of New Jerseyites in fighting back; the second battle of Trenton, with Washington facing off against Cornwallis (and making a brilliant night march around his flank to attack the garrison at Princeton). I never thought about the vast difference in the way British generals and Washington held councils of war, and what that meant for the future of the republic. It never occurred to me that the very different way British and Americans treated their prisoners was a key to what the Americans were fighting for, and a reason why they were successful. (Americans gave quarter. British and Hessians did not. In both cases it was a matter of principle.)
Fischer also does a remarkable job clarifying what made Washington such a good leader. He learned from his mistakes, and he learned fast; and he valued the opinions of his subordinates, and fought tirelessly for the comfort of his men. He may not have always led from the front - sometimes his subordinates refused to let him do so - but he would never have been caught miles behind the lines in the arms of a mistress.
The problem with the famous painting of Washington crossing the Delaware, says Fischer, is that it makes Washington look Napoleonic; and there was never a general who led - not commanded - his army in a less Napoleonic manner.
Good narration from Nelson Runger. Enjoyed it thoroughly. Includes an interview of author by narrator that talks about a lot of the surprises Fischer himself encountered when researching the book.
This is a great book for anyone interested in the Revolutionary Era. It's well written and well read. I also agree with the earlier reviewer that head-to-head this book is better than 1776. However, the 2 books work very well together, since 1776 covers the Boston and NY campaigns in much greater depth. If you only read one, read Washington's Crossing. If you read both, start with 1776.
I grew up in northern NJ and from my early elementary years have had an interest in the Revolution. I've visited the site of the Crossing, read about it numerous times, etc., but this well-researched book fascinated me from beginning to end. The enjoyment of the book was enhanced because of my present living near Philadephia and being well-acquainted with the places mentioned. The author relies heavily on journal accounts and letters of soldiers of both sides and provides a compelling look at a series of battles that changed the course of the War.
When you order this book, don't get discouraged by the slow pace and tedious details the author uses in the first third of the book to set up the last 2/3 of the book. It will be worth your investment in time. The action picks up and keeps going strong. You won't believe how close we came to losing our whole revolution until one man, George Washington, took a desperate situation by the horns and changed the entire future of our country in this one week in our history. The interview with the author at the end is very interesting too, although you will be glad he didn't choose to read his own book. The narrator lays on the accents a little thick, but otherwise does a passable job. Invest a few hours in a story that is better than any fiction from around this time.
Audible Member Since 2003
I cannot add much to what the other reviewers have written, except to cast my vote for a very well researched, perfectly narrated and extremely readable book. The author explains that while today we celebrate the glory of the year 1776, the Americans who lived it thought of it as terrible and anything BUT glorious. Listening transported me to that time.
I highly recommend this book. One of the best accounts of American history I have experienced.
I read a lot of historical fiction and since discovering audio books, I have time to listen to historical nonfiction. Now I'll be able to compare fact with fiction! Fischer manages to write a riveting account of Washington crossing the Delaware, and the narrator is superb. The crossing and the ensuing Battle of Trenton take up the middle portion of the book. The first part provides interesting background about the American and English armies, and the Hessian mercenaries (did you know that Germans made up about one-third of the English army? I didn't). In the last part, Fischer describes the game of cat and mouse immediately following the small but important American victory. Fischer's analysis and comments on Leutze's famous painting are also fascinating and informative - Washington was likely standing in the boat!
It's true. Some of the events are covered in both books. This one is simply better. I had a mental picture of all that was happening. The detail is precise. The book will stay with you for a long time and you will find you actually have some understanding of the campaign at Trenton and Princeton. You will not be disappointed.
As an audiobooks history buff, I will say that Fischer's Washington's Crossing is one of the best listens I have encountered. In fact, I believe that this book is better heard than read, because some of the detailed asides might make for laborious reading, but are easily digested in the listening mode. This book dispels many myths about this event: the Hessians were not partying and drunk - they were on extreme alert and exhausted from it; the battle did not occur at night - but during the next day. The desperate situation of the Continental Army put the very survival of the revolution at great risk and we owe a lot to George Washington and a few thousand men who underwent extreme, unbelievable hardship to challenge British and Hessians troops that winter and spring. This is on of those books that can have a profound impact on the way you think about the United States and the legacy that we must live up to.
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