What happens in the book 1776 by David McCullough?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In the book 1776, author David McCullough gives us a fresh and rich account of the start of the American Revolution in 1776 and the war's progress.

One way in which his account is fresh concerns the fact that he strives to show the perspectives of both the British and the colonialists. His book opens in England with the issue being discussed among King George III of England and Parliament. The general perspective was that liberation of the colonies would ruin England's current empire and that peace could easily be gained.

He particularly sets out to debunk any myths concerning King George III. For example, he depicts him as a very sensible man, a man who preferred "puttering about his farms at Windsor dressed in farmer's clothes" and being faithful to his wife to flaunting mistresses. He also relays, contrary to myth that King George III was an "unattractive, dim-witted man," King George was actually "tall and rather handsome, with clear blue eyes and a generally cheerful expression" (p. 5). He also debunks the myth that the king was illiterate and mad, explaining that he was quite literate and that the madness did not come about until later in life and was probably the inherited illness today known as porphyria.

After depicting the British stance and characters, he then sets out to describe America's key players, such as General Washington, Henry Knox, and William Howe. Particularly noteworthy are the very young ages of those in command of the revolution, ranging in ages from 32 to 43, George Washington being the eldest at 43.

Events in the book include the "miracle of Dorchester," in which the revolutionaries surrounded British troops in Boston; the Battle of Long Island, in which Washington was miserably defeated; Washington's retreat into New Jersey, after which Washington came face to face with the British on opposing sides of the Delaware River and marched his men across the river in a blizzard, successfully surrounding the British troops; and the battle near Princeton, as well as many other Revolutionary War events.

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