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Crossing (Pivotal Moments
in American History)by
David Hackett Fischer
is the hardcover edition. No other
editions are available at this
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.
George Washington lost ninety percent of
his army and was driven across the Delaware
River. Panic and despair spread through
the states. Yet, as David Hackett Fischer
recounts in this riveting history, Washington--and
many other Americans--refused to let the
Revolution die. Even as the British and
Germans spread their troops across New
Jersey, the people of the colony began
to rise against them. George Washington
saw his opportunity and seized it. 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. At the same time, they developed an American ethic
of warfare that John Adams called 'the policy of humanity,' and showed that moral
victories could have powerful material effects. The startling success of Washington
and his compatriots not only saved the faltering American Revolution, but helped
to give it new meaning, in a pivotal moment for American history.
United Colonies: the American
War of Independence - a HistoryWiz
At the core of an impeccably researched, brilliantly executed military history
is an analysis of George Washington's crossing of the Delaware River in December
1776 and the resulting destruction of the Hessian garrison of Trenton and defeat
of a British brigade at Princeton. Fischer's perceptive discussion of the strategic,
operational and tactical factors involved is by itself worth the book's purchase.
He demonstrates Washington's insight into the revolution's desperate political
circumstances, shows how that influenced the idea of a riposte against an enemy
grown overconfident with success and presents Washington's skillful use of what
his army could do well. Even more useful is Fischer's analysis of the internal
dynamics of the combatants. He demonstrates mastery of the character of the American,
British and Hessian armies, highlighting that British troops, too, fought for
ideals, sacred to them, of loyalty and service. Above all, Brandeis historian
Fischer (Albion's Seed) uses the Trenton campaign to reveal the existence, even
in the revolution's early stage, of a distinctively American way of war, much
of it based on a single fact: civil and military leaders were accountable to
a citizenry through their representatives. From Washington down, Fischer shows,
military leaders acknowledged civil supremacy and worked with civil officials.
Washington used firepower and intelligence as force multipliers to speed the
war for a practical people who wanted to win quickly in order to return to their
ordinary lives. Tempo, initiative and speed marked the Trenton campaign from
first to last. And Washington fought humanely, extending quarter in battle and
insisting on decent treatment of prisoners. The crossing of the Delaware, Fischer
teaches, should be seen as emblematic of more than a turning of the war's tide.
91 halftone, 15 maps. 3-city author tour.
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Kirkus, STARRED review
"A superb addition to the literature of the Revolution, by one of the best chroniclers
in the business."