1777 (Magill's Literary Annual 1978)
The central theme and title of this well-written and soundly researched work is announced in John Adams’ sarcastic words of November, 1777, “that year which the Tories said had three gallows in it, meaning the three sevens.” And well they might. By late 1776 the American cause was desperate. Though Boston had fallen to Washington in April, his campaign around New York City had ended disastrously. Extricating his meager forces from that Tory-minded city, Washington had led a “strategic withdrawal” down the length of New Jersey and into Pennsylvania. By December Tories were chortling, while Patriots gloomily anticipated military defeat and political collapse. Beset with an ineffective Congress, limited by a mere trickle of sub rosa French aid, Washington could maintain but a flicker of rebellion.
Two small actions saved the Revolution. Washington’s raid on Trenton nurtured optimism in the colonies and at Versailles, and the January, 1777, skirmish at Princeton cheered even the fatalists. John Pancake suggests that this brace of victories provided sufficient impetus to sustain the cause into the summer of 1777. Americans have frequently exaggerated small successes with paeans of triumph, from Concord and New Orleans to Bull Run and Midway. The psychopropagandistic utility of a victory is frequently more significant than its military value.
Pancake devotes nearly a third of 1777 to a review of the war in 1775 and...
(The entire section is 2095 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!