12 February 2010

Finally Finished It!

Hehehe... so it's only four months behind schedule (besides, I think we decided not to officially finish with our book club anyway), but I have FINALLY finished David McCullough's 1776. Yay!

It was a little rougher read than I expected; I had a rough time keeping track of who was who and what they were doing where. However, I do think the author did an excellent job juggling all the different peoples' stories and actions while keeping the story moving. (if i'd been more familiar with the people involved before, keeping tabs wouldn't have been nearly as tough as it was) But in addition to that challenge, previous to reading this, I had no real notion of how difficult a struggle it was for those early Americans. As I kept reading, things seemed more and more hopeless and I found myself commenting to my husband, repeatedly, that it's hard to believe the Americans actually won the war!

In the final page of his book, Mr. McCullough sums it up quite nicely:

The war was a longer, far more arduous, and more painful struggle than later generations would understand or sufficiently appreciate. By the time it ended, it had taken the lives of an estimated 25,000 Americans, or roughly 1 percent of the population. In percentage of lives lost, it was the most costly war in American history, except for the Civil War.

The year 1776, celebrated as the birth year of the nation and for the signing of the Declaration of Independence, was for those who carried the fight for independence forward a year of all-too-few victories, of sustained suffering, disease, hunger, desertion, cowardice, disillusionment, defeat, terrible discouragement, and fear, as they would never forget, but also of phenomenal courage and bedrock devotion to country, and that, too they would never forget.

Especially for those who had been with Washington and who knew what a close call it was at the beginning-- how often circumstance, storms, contrary winds, the oddities or strengths of individual character had made the difference -- the outcome seemed little short of a miracle.

And while I don't come away from this book an immediate Revolutionary War Scholar, I am definitely more familiar with the major players: Washington, General Howe, Henry Knox, Nathanael Greene. Also, that painting of Washington crossing the Delaware River has greater significance for me now. And, undoubtedly, I have greater appreciation for the beginnings of this country and all those who struggled to make it happen. And that was exactly what I had hoped to gain from reading this book.

All that being said, this one is definitely worth a re-read.