During the late summer and fall of 1776, George Washington's Continental Army suffered one defeat after another in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Westchester. As John Adams unkindly observed, "In general, our Generals were out-generaled." What went wrong? How did Washington lose New York and nearly lose his army during the first full year of the war? And what lessons did he learn from these comprehensive and humiliating defeats?
Edmund Morgan: "We remember Washington as a commanding presence, massively dignified, preoccupied with his awesome responsibilities, not given to small talk, with agreeable manners but formal in his graciousness, not someone you would feel quite comfortable to spend an evening with at home. Nor, you sense, would he have felt quite comfortable with you. Franklin, on the other hand, we picture as a bit casual in appearance, easygoing, always ready with a joke, clubbable, someone you would feel comfortable with, making small talk and serious talk as well, over a convivial bottle or punch bowl…. Franklin could afford to dress negligently (how the French doted on his 'Quaker' garb and coonskin cap) and keep in the background. Washington had to remain in the foreground and had to look the part of a born commander. His uniforms were gorgeous, and he was always splendidly mounted….
"For both men independence came to mean a demonstration that a people could govern itself without submission to a king, a demonstration that republican government could prosper in a world that scorned it. Hitherto republics had been thought suitable only for small countries, not worth the trouble of annexation by a monarchy, but ineffectual in government because the people could never agree on anything important, least of all on waging war…. But for Washington and Franklin, as for many other leaders of the Revolution, the people who joined in declaring independence were one people. They were creating something new in the world: a great republic a republic on a continental scale. Washington led an American army, a continental army. He took his orders from a Continental Congress. While Washington remained a Virginian and Franklin a Pennsylvanian, both were first of all Americans, engaged in establishing an American republic. In a phrase later used by Alexander Hamilton, both men 'thought continentally.'"
Gordon S. Wood,
The American Revolution: A History,
Simon & Schuster; 1st Edition (May 24, 2005),
1776 is a book written by David McCullough, published by Simon & Schuster on May 24, 2005. The work is a companion to McCullough's earlier biography of John Adams, and focuses on the events surrounding the start of the American Revolutionary War. While revolving mostly around the leadership (and often indecisiveness) of George Washington, there is also considerable attention given to King George III, William Howe, Henry Knox, and Nathanael Greene. Key Revolutionary War battles detailed in the book include the Battle of Dorchester Heights, the Battle of Long Island, and the Battle of Trenton. The activities of the Second Continental Congress and the signing of the Declaration of Independence are treated in less detail, as the focus is on military rather than political events. The book includes multiple pages of full color illustrations, including portraits and historical battlefield maps made by British engineers at the time.
FURTHER READING FOR THE TEN WEEKS
Here is a PDF document you can download and print with Prof. Thompson's reading for the whole quarter.