Wednesday, December 5, 2007

1776 by David McCullough

I finished 1776 by David McCullough over Thanksgiving weekend. It was my Kewaunee library book club pick for November. Our November meeting isn't until tomorrow though. We are a bit off due to not being able to get last month's book until late.

I like reading history books. This wasn't one of the top ones that I've read, but it was pretty good. It told the story of America's fight for Independence against the British focusing on the year 1776. It gave gripping portrayels of both George Washington and King George as leaders in a two-dimensional light. The parts I liked best though were the stories of the common men that fought the war and the women they left behind.

I had forgotten how much of the Revolutionary War was sitting around waiting for things to happen - and how much our victories were because of good luck. Interesting things I learned included the fact that there were a large number of African and Native Americans who fought the war on the American side. You don't see or hear about that at all really. Why didn't we think about granting them the equality and freedom that they were helping to fight for? I also had never thought about the problem of Loyalists. When the British fled Boston, they had to take a vast number of Loyalists with them, some of whom were third or more generation Americans. I think they later settled in Canada or moved back to England. New York City was something like 2/3 Loyalist, which made for great difficulty holding the city in rebel hands. I also didn't realize that American soldiers only signed up for one year and then would leave at the end or when they felt like it. Poor George Washington really had his hands full trying to keep things together!

As an environmental engineer, I was interested in how the British Army largely avoided sickness by following protocols for sewage disposal and clean drinking water versus the American Army that basically went to the bathroom everywhere and was largely sick most of the time. Very interesting. The British army had great engineers that helped with such problems, but these men were large unable to advance because they were not aristocrats. On the American side however, capable men were able to advance when they were young based on abilities. Therefore the Americans were able to get some of the best leaders of the war.

Another interesting tidbit was that the German and English soldiers were confused when they got to American on why the Americans were rebelling as they had it so good. I didn't realize that even in the 1700s, the American standard of living was much higher than the rest of the worlds.

This book was very interesting and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning about American History or the Revolutionary War.

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