Americans Before the Fall

For those of us who love the Old Republic, a new book by David Hackett Fischer is a cause for celebration.  His newest will not disappoint the high expectations created by his previous work.  Washington’s Crossing is really a successor volume to Paul Revere’s Ride (1994), about the battles of Lexington and Concord and the harrowing British retreat.  Both combine a riveting military narrative with Fischer’s sensitivity to the differences between, and within, British and Anglo-American cultures and the way these cultures shaped why and how their peoples fought.  His latest book is more ambitious only in that it covers more ground.  Washington’s Crossing begins with the British evacuation of Boston (March 1776) and takes us through the battles for New York (August through November), the British conquest of New Jersey and Rhode Island (November and December), the American counterattacks at Trenton and Princeton, and the New Jersey uprising (winter 1777).

In the summer of 1776, the Howe brothers (Adm. Richard Howe and Gen. William Howe), in joint command of the British North American forces, entered New York Harbor with 32,000 troops (22,000 British regulars and 10,000 Hessian mercenaries).  In the campaign that followed, the British methodically defeated the American Continental Army in a series of battles, drove them headlong out of New York City,...

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