"A meticulous and brilliantly colored account of the period surrounding George Washington's famous sally across the Delaware river in 1776." Wall Street Journal
"Fisher's thoughtful account describes how Washington, in a frantic, desparate month, turned his collection of troops into a professional force, not by emulating Europeans but by coming up with a model that was distinctly American." The New Yorker
"History at its best, fascinating in its details, magisterial in its sweep." Boston Globe
"Perhaps most valuable is Fischer's portrait of Washington. Instead of presenting the Napoleonic hero of the painting, he shows a proud youth who evolved into a humble democratic leader." Newsweek
"Fischer...describes in moving detail the military campaign of 1776-1777 and the British, German and American soldiers who fought it. As in the familiar 1850 painting by Emmanuel Leutze that inspired Fischer's title, Washington stands firmly at the book's center. His actions as commander of the American army were pivotal for both his future and that of the fledgling American republic." Washington Post Book World
"A model of modern historical writing." National Review
"A highly realistic and wonderfully readable narrative... Fischer's ability to combine the panoramic with the palpable is unparalleled in giving us a glimpse of what warfare back then was really like." The New York Times Book Review
"A tale told with gusto, punctuated by finely rendered accounts of battles and tactics... Helps us understand anew a great American icon." Los Angeles Times Book Review
On December 22, 1776, Washington’s adjutant wrote him that their affairs “were hasting fast to ruin.” Two weeks later, after a harrowing nighttime crossing of the ice-choked Delaware River, Washington’s victories at Trenton and Princeton so shocked the British that the price of government securities fell. Fischer’s thoughtful account describes how Washington, in a frantic, desperate month, turned his collection of troops into a professional force, not by emulating the Europeans but by coming up with a model that was distinctly American. The army Washington fielded had innovative artillery, moved with startling speed, and even, in one of the first recorded instances, synchronized its watches. Trenton convinced many Britons that they were caught in a quagmire, and Americans that they could win. “A few days ago they had given up the cause for lost,” a British businessman wrote. “Now they are all liberty mad again.”
Leutze's ''Washington Crossing the Delaware'' is a highly romanticized rendition of a pivotal moment in American history, Christmas night of 1776, painted 75 years after the event. David Hackett Fischer's new book, Washington's Crossing, is a highly realistic and wonderfully readable narrative of the same moment that corrects all the inaccuracies in the Leutze painting but preserves the overarching sense of drama.
Joseph J. Ellis
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. (Feb.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Brandeis historian Fischer won a large and devoted following with Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in North America. His reading of the early settler communities' attitudes toward questions of liberty and government has influenced a generation of writers seeking to understand the differences between "red" and "blue" America today. In Washington's Crossing, Fischer looks at the darkest months of the American Revolution, when, following devastating defeats in New York and White Plains, Washington's tatterdemalion army, and the American cause, teetered on the brink of collapse. For Fischer, the story of how Washington rallied colonial opinion and rebuilt the army's spirit explains why the Americans were able to win their independence. Unlike the Howes (leading British aristocrats who commanded the formidably equipped British naval and land forces), Washington had to cajole, persuade, and win over a multicultural mob of colonial politicians, officers, and soldiers. Washington, Fischer argues, was doing more than winning a war in these months; he was inventing a style of leadership and a form of politics well suited to American realities.
Most Americans still know the famous painting Washington Crossing the Delaware but fewer recall the significance of the event it depicts. Fischer (history, Brandeis; Albion's Seed) puts this pivotal event back into context 5the course of world history. The 1776 campaign was a disaster for the Continental Army. The Howe brothers' organized and successful strategy had roundly defeated the Americans in New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. Compounding this was disarray among American commanders, a lack of discipline among the troops, and most enlistments expiring. Many on both sides felt that the rebellion was broken. Washington's bold offensive across the Delaware arguably saved the American cause. The Hessian defeat at Trenton and later at Princeton rejuvenated American hopes and saved Washington's command. In this well-written and -documented history, the author relies on an impressive mix of primary and secondary sources. The firsthand accounts and personal stories of major players from both sides add color to the narrative. The book features copious illustrations; maps; numerous appendixes including troop strength, casualties, weather, and Battle Order; and an excellent historiography of the event. Scholarly but very readable, it is recommended for libraries with an interest in early American history.-Robert Flatley, Kutztown Univ., PA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Adult/High School-Another stirring effort by the author of Paul Revere's Ride (Oxford, 1994). Readers will again cheer American perseverance, inventiveness, and improvisation as Washington, his officers, and their men turn the early military defeats of Long Island and New York City into victory at Trenton and Princeton. The opening chapter is devoted to the painting Washington Crossing the Delaware. Then the author discusses the British, Hessian, and American military units that were involved in these campaigns and gives background on their officers. This is Fischer's strong suit: he tells stories and gives details that bring history alive. He makes the point that decisions made for varying reasons by converging sets of people determine history. In the hands of such a thorough researcher and talented writer, this is powerful stuff. The bulk of the book deals with the battles and their aftermath. The text is enriched by small reproductions of portraits, many by Charles Willson Peale, of the major players. The last chapter summarizes Fischer's points and would make a good teaching tool by itself.-Judy McAloon, Potomac Library, Prince William County, VA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
A lively reconstruction of the Continental Army's finest strategic hour. Textbook accounts of Washington's Christmas crossing of the Delaware River are fine as they go. But why did Washington brave the ice-clogged tide in the first place, especially when he would face a supposedly much superior force of British and Hessian troops on the other side? Well, historian Fischer (Paul Revere's Ride, 1994, etc.) answers, the British and Hessians had been beaten up pretty badly in New Jersey throughout the fall of 1776 by American guerrillas, who defied military convention and fought in plain clothes, believing "that they had a natural right to take up arms in defense of their laws and liberties." This uprising, Fischer continues, "created an opportunity for George Washington," who "made the most of it, in a battle that was itself a war of contingencies." The Hessians weren't drunk on Christmas cheer, as the legend has it, when Washington surprised them at dawn (in truth, well past dawn); they were exhausted, having been dogged into near-submission by those guerrillas-women and men-and virtually imprisoned behind the fences and stone walls of Trenton. Washington receives due credit in Fischer's account for seizing the initiative in the face of near-rebellion on the part of supposed comrades such as General Horatio Gates, who declined to take part in operations; his soldiers receive credit too, and so do the British, and so even do the Hessians, each in their turn. Fischer's rendering of the battle and the events leading up to and following it is richly detailed and full of surprises. Who knew that the roads to Trenton were full on that sleety, pitch-black night with farmers and woodcutters, withyoung men out courting, with ministers tending to their flocks? Who knew, against the legend, that the "American attackers had twice as many guns in proportion to infantry than did the Hessian garrison"? A superb addition to the literature of the Revolution, by one of the best chroniclers in the business.