Who are the main characters in the history book 1776 by David McCullough? 

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shaddox5 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The year 1776 is the quintessential year for the American Republic.  That year, the United States was born out of revolutionary spirit with the signing of the Declaration of Independence. In the book 1776, author David McCullough brings to life many of the characters associated with this tumultuous time in American history.

The main character in the book is George Washington. Washington in a sense has become a "marble man" in history, as he is often placed on a pedestal of which no fault is found. McCullough takes an unusual view in that he paints Washington as somewhat of a flawed man. He points out that the General was inexperienced and, as a result, made mistakes that led to the needless deaths of many Continental soldiers. In the end however, Washington proved victorious and staked his claim as the most important of the Founding Fathers.

General William Howe was Washington's counterpart in the British army. McCullough focuses on the passive nature of Howe and makes the point that, with a more direct confrontational tone, perhaps the war would have ended in favor of the British monarchy. Howe's leadership qualities are seen as soft, which was major factor in allowing the Continentals to group and regroup.

Nathanael Greene is seen as representing all that is favorable about the Colonial spirit of revolution: youth, hard work, and self-motivation. Greene rose up to become a favorite of General Washington despite his most humble beginnings in Rhode Island.

Joseph Reed served as a personal secretary to George Washington. In 1776, Reed changed over time and eventually second guessed some of Washington's decisions and strategic ideals. 

General Charles Lee is another individual who challenged the leadership abilities of Washington. Lee went as far as to say he could have done a better job leading the Continental Army and that Washington was ineffective as a leader. 

Henry Knox was a friend to Washington and a loyal follower of the General. Knox successfully captured British artillery at Fort Ticonderoga and would remain a supporter of George Washington throughout the Revolutionary War.

King George III was the leader of the British Empire. The king refused to negotiate peace and sent English troops to subdue the rebellion, which led to a bloody conclusion to the conflict.

General Henry Clinton was a British general who became jealous of General Howe. Once his feeling become common knowledge among the British, Clinton was replaced with General Cornwallis, the man who would eventually surrender his sword to George Washington at Yorktown.


thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The book 1776 by David McCullough is a nonfiction account of a crucial year in the history of the United States, a date usually identified as the key year in the American Revolution and founding of the United States; it was the year in which the Declaration of Independence was issued on 4 July. Some of the most important historical figures treated in the book are:

King George III of England opposed American independence, even though Parliament and most of the British people were in favor of letting the colonies have partial independence or some form of self-determination.

George Washington was a leading general who eventually became the first President of the newly formed United States.

Nathanael Greene was a leading general of the Continental Army (the revolutionary force). His Southern Campaign, and defeats in battle of the British general Charles Cornwallis, made important contributions to the eventual revolutionary victory.

Henry Knox was the chief artillery officer of the Continental Army and worked closely with Washington. He was involved in manufacturing artillery and setting up training in artillery for soldiers in the revolutionary forces.

William Howe was Commander-in-Chief of British forces and responsible for several major British victories in the early stages of the war.