13 July 2005

1776 and all that

I am helping a client in Southern Georgia at the moment who are about a six hour drive from home. To make the trip easier I always listen to a book (or two) on our iPod. I have just finished 1776 by David McCullough covering the crucial time of the War of Independence. It is read by the author and is a riveting account of how the whole American Revolution was close to abject and absolute failure in late 1776.
The audio book lasts for almost 12 hours, which should have been enough for the return trip, but it was so compelling and fascinating that I listened to it back in my hotel room!
Did you know that after forcing the British to retreat from Boston in early 1776, Washington almost lost everything in New York in Mid 1776? From a force of almost 20,000 men at July 4, 1776, he ended up on the very cold banks of the Delaware in December 1776 with only 3,500 wet, miserable, underfed and underwhelmed troops.
I found it especially interesting picturing New York, Long Island and the retreat to Pennsylvania as we had driven over that very area in our recent trip. Many of the names were familiar - although the population is much higher than it was then!
Be warned - some of the narrations are not for younger ones, detailing some of the terrible things armies do to civilian populations - especially the women and defenceless. As a read aloud, dutifully skipping those bits which only total a few pages - at most - out of the 750 page book, 1776 makes an excellent history lesson. The greatest risk the Continental Army faced wasn't the British and German troops, but lack of resolve of the Congress and the people.
Even then, as exhibited in the volumous letters written by all ranks in the army, everyone knew the reason they were fighting - for Independence and freedom.

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