Regarding 1776 by David McCullough
Typically McCullough, in that it was a good book, and well written; however, it sort of raced to the end, at the end. True, there wasn't much to tell after the Continental Army left New York, and before Trenton, but a little more author's insight and day-to-day detail would have been nice. For example, I would have liked to know more about why McCullough thought General Lee's capture by the British was so good for the U.S., and a few more on-the-scene details (a' la Ambrose) would have been nice too. I learned a lot that I didn't know, but overall, this felt like something that grew out of McCullough's research for his John Adams book rather than the result of an independent effort. Well worth the read if only for what one learns about the battles of Boston, New York, and Trenton.
To me, the Campaign of York Island is the meat and bones of the book. The author did an excellent job at dissecting all of its aspects, events and consequences. That being said, there are good nits to pick. I wished McCullough would go into detail on the Quebec Campaign, as it is given only cursory mention in the book. I also agree that the Battles of Trenton and Princeton were very rushed; almost as if McCullough was being rushed to finish the book by his editors.
On Gen. Lee: The Continental Congress had authorized a de facto Bi-umvirate between Washington and Lee. Given Lee's proclivities for selfish self-aggrandizement, it is easy for me to see a scenario for a show-down between Lee and Washington down the road. What turn would our Revolution have taken if Lee would have come up with the upper hand? Would our Revolution taken the cannibalistic course of all so many revolutions around the world? Instead, serendipity dealt Washington with a great hand, in choosing him as the selfless benevolent dictator that he became in the early years of our Republic.
I'm not sure McCullough was being rushed, but I do think this book was not a primary effort. I'd finished John Adams
a short while before I read 1776
, and it was while reading Adams
that I learned McCullough's original intent had been to write about Jefferson, but Adams got his attention. My guess is that in the course of doing the research for Adams
, McCullough accumulated a great deal of peripheral info about Washington and the course of the war, and that all just seemed too good to not use. Truth be told, I'd bet 1776
was a knock-off effort for him, in that it was probably very easy to write and did not require a lot of new research.
Hard to say . . .