Because Ideas Matter...
The faculty and staff of Butler University's College of Liberal
Arts and Sciences presents
by David McCullough, Simon & Schuster, 2005
Reviewed by Richard McGowan
While I was reading the Pulitzer
prize-winning 1776, I remarked to my wife, "I'm on page 268 [of 294
text pages] and cannot see how American won the Revolutionary War."
The remark, in and of itself, suggests why the book is worth
reading. It is nothing short of miraculous that the United States
did not remain a British colony.
The miracle was constituted in roughly equal parts by the
"rabble in arms" and by its leader, George Washington. Indeed, the
book could have been sub-titled The Luck and Hard Times of
America's First General. Washington did free Boston from British
grasp, moving artillery and forces into place under cover of dark
and through concealment by hay bales, but only after he had
suggested a frontal assault on the well protected and fortified
His officers talked him out of it. On several occasions, only
the weather saved the Continental Army.
Yet, Washington was dogged and resolved. He also was a good
judge of character and employed it well. McCullough does Americans
a kindness by relating stories of those who won that war: Henry
Knox bringing cannons from Fort Ticonderoga (NY) to Boston;
Nathanael Greene, a Quaker made a general at thirty-three; the
fearless and popular Israel Putnam; Major Leitch and Colonel
Knowlton, "whose deaths were a heavy blow to the army" and the
latter's death, the "greatest loss" to Washington.
The book's last sentence provides an apt summary, in that
America prevailed-"the outcome seemed little short of a
- Richard McGowan is an instructor of
business ethics at Butler University.