Washington's Crossing Summary and Reviews

Washington's Crossing

Pivotal Moments in American History

by David Hackett Fischer

Washington's Crossing

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Book Summary

Six 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.

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Book Awards

  • award image Pulitzer Prize for Letters, Drama and Music, 2005

Reviews

Media Reviews

"[A]n impeccably researched, brilliantly executed military history." - PW

"In the hands of such a thorough researcher and talented writer, this is powerful stuff." - School Library Journal

"A superb addition to the literature of the Revolution, by one of the best chroniclers in the business." - Kirkus

"A must-read for military-history fans, Fischer's work will also draw those who want to know more about the historical reality behind a celebrated image." - Booklist

"In Fischer's narrative, the reader...cannot help but be caught up by the spirit of these events. Washington's Crossing is history at its best, fascinating in its details, magisterial in its sweep....superb features... add depth and insight to Fischer's narrative."--Boston Globe

"A vivid, fast-paced narrative that is further characterized by impressive research and new interpretations.... Washington's crossing that stormy night has never been told with more clarity or stirring detail."--Chicago Tribune

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