As 1776 drew to a close, the Revolutionary War in America was in dire straits. Having landed over 30,000 British and Hessian troops on American soil, it appeared the King would successfully quell the rebellion. British forces had expelled the Colonial Army from New York and across New Jersey and the Delaware River. Meanwhile they had regained Rhode Island. Their strategy of retaking and pacifying one colony at a time seemed to be working. If the British could wrangle a major defeat of Washington and the Continental Army an end to the Revolution was certain. Even so, many thought that unless Washington acted quickly, the Red Coats would simply win by default, whether or not General Washington were captured.
But then the British forces made a fatal miscalculation. Abiding by the long-established rules of “civility” in warfare, they wintered over, awaiting fairer battle weather in the spring of 1777.
Fisher tells the fascinating and dramatic story of the events of the 1776 winter campaign that turned the tide from an inevitable British victory to an inevitable American victory. Washington’s Crossing in the pre-dawn hours on the day after Christmas of 1776 back into New Jersey was a tremendous ordeal for his troops which were ill-shod, ill-clothed and weary. But the story of the Battles of Trenton and Princeton are more than a blow-by-blow record of struggle and heroism. These battles had great meaning for the participants, the people of that generation as well as every generation down to Americans today. The reader is treated to an exciting account of an historical event coupled with a fascinating analysis of its importance in nearly 400 pages of pointed prose. The extensive appendices serve not only to back David Hackett Fischer’s cogent analysis, but also adds interesting perspectives on historiography, art and statistics.
No doubt that “Washington’s Crossing” benefits from voluminous sources that describe every facet of the battles, from the perspective of command and control down to acts of individual heroism and what the individual soldiers were doing and thinking. This is a fun and informative read any lover of American history will not want to miss.