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Washington's Crossing (Pivotal Moments in American History)

4.11  ·  Rating Details  ·  9,757 Ratings  ·  313 Reviews
Six months after the Declaration of Independence, the American Revolution was all but lost. A powerful British force had routed the Americans at New York, occupied three colonies, and advanced within sight of Philadelphia.
Yet, as David Hackett Fischer recounts in this riveting history, George Washington--and many other Americans--refused to let the Revolution die. On Chri
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Hardcover, 564 pages
Published February 12th 2004 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published December 1st 2003)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Matt
Apr 26, 2016 Matt rated it it was amazing
Despite a great love of history, I’ve never been able to really connect to the American Revolution as a historical event. The reason, I think, is that the Revolutionary War is our creation myth. Like other creation myths, such as the Christmas Story (the one with Jesus, not the BB gun), historical veracity and the exact sequence of events is not as important as the fact that event happened at all. Rigorous analysis takes a backseat to emotional considerations. Objectivity is shrouded in the mist ...more
Max
Sep 06, 2015 Max rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-history
Washington’s Crossing is a real page turner. It is well researched and filled with detail yet never becomes tedious. An added bonus is the historiography at the end showing all the ways the same events have been interpreted over the years by historians and artists of different nations. For someone who is weary of constant references to American exceptionalism by the clearly unexceptional, Fischer’s genuine depiction of American revolutionary leaders who deserve the accolade is wonderfully refres ...more
David
Nov 22, 2008 David rated it really liked it
Almost everyone knows the famous painting of General Washington standing heroically in a shallow boat, surrounded by soldiers in a variety of garb including James Madison holding an American flag, crossing the ice-choked Delaware river. The painting, done by a German artist 75 years after the fact, is a pretty romanticized depiction of the event. But there's no debating the significance of what happened on that Christmas Day 1776. This book, which won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for History, is a re ...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Jan 12, 2013 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Every American
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: The Ultimate Reading List - History
Less than two weeks ago I read David McCullough's 1776, a history of the first year of the Continental Army under George Washington, its mixed success in Boston and disaster in New York City and culminating--after a night crossing of the Delaware River--in their victory in the Battle of Trenton. It was an engaging, well-told story of such suffering and such blunders I left that book amazed the American Revolution, the army and cause survived to triumph. This book covers much of the same territor ...more
Frank Stein
Jan 12, 2013 Frank Stein rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

A rare and impressive example of a modern academic doing military history, and doing it well.

Yet clearly part of the reason Fischer wrote this book was to provide a kind of on-the-ground justification for his earlier work of social and cultural history, "Albion's Seed," where he discovered four major "folkways" in America which he thought descended from four separate waves of migration. Sure enough, he finds similar divisions here, such as that between the "ordered liberty" of the New England re
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Gary Hoggatt
I've been reading a lot of American Revolutionary history lately, and even so, David Hackett Fischer's 2003 volume Washington's Crossing, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for history, stands out as excellent. Much like David McCullough's fantastic 1776, Washington's Crossing focuses in on a narrow portion of the Revolutionary War and brings it to vivid life.

Washington's Crossing is devoted to an in-depth look at the New Jersey campaign of the winter of 1776-1777. However, Fischer doesn't just dump y
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Christopher Sturcke
Aug 25, 2014 Christopher Sturcke rated it really liked it
Simply browsing the title, table of contents, and some reviews potential readers may fall into the trap of thinking that this book is too similar to David McCullough’s 1776 to justify reading it. However, this assumption isn’t correct. While both stories follow Washington’s army through the fall of New York and conclude with the battles of Trenton and Princeton, Fischer’s focus is different than McCullough’s. McCullough’s main focus was on Washington’s army throughout the entire year of 1776 st ...more
Richard
Oct 12, 2012 Richard rated it it was amazing
David Hackett Fischer has produced a highly readable and fact-filled account of the important battles of the Revolutionary War following the Declaration of Independence. This conflict required a young, self-made country to draw soldiers from among its colonies to go against the strongest army of the time without the knowledge of how or when the outcome would play out. I think the heart of the American War of independence was the people of all classes who joined regiments and went to war under so ...more
Jason
Apr 12, 2008 Jason rated it it was amazing
Part of the Oxford Pivotal Moments in American History series, Fischer's work is a cultural history surrounding the events that Washington's Revolutionary Army participated in from March of 1776 to March of 1777, with the middle of the book focusing on the pivotal turning point of the unlikely capture of the Hessian garrison in Trenton, New Jersey on Christmas of 1776, made famous by the painting featured on the cover of the book.

Fischer's book was published at nearly the same time as McCullough
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Don
Feb 18, 2008 Don rated it really liked it
Washington’s Crossing is one of those tomes that every American citizen should read. It’s very well paced with an inclusive narrative that places the reader squarely in the action. This book is so well written, I found myself under the mistaken impression that Fischer had actually interviewed the participants and their first generation relations. I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. This is not only a good read for history buffs, it’s revealing of the subdural attitude, for better ...more
Chris
May 19, 2014 Chris rated it really liked it
In Washington's Crossing, Fischer covers the New Jersey Campaign of December 1776 through the spring of 1777. He also explains the lead-up to th the battles in New Jersey and the Continental Army's disastrous actions during 1776 and how and why control of the war shifted from the British to the Americans during the few months of December '76 through April '77. This enlightening analysis of the war helped me to understand some of the reasons why the Americans ended up victorious in the conflict. ...more
Joe
This book is so far, my personal favorite. I wasn't 10 pages into it when I realized I was really going to enjoy this book. David Fischer won the Pulitzer prize for History for it, and I can see why. The story unraveled like no other I have ever come across. Just like other reviewers have said, it should be required reading for anyone who is interested in learning about one of (if not thee) most important moment in American history.

This is a wonderful story... There is suspense, drama, impossibl
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Greg Bailey
Jan 28, 2015 Greg Bailey rated it it was amazing
One of life’s simple pleasures is to be blown away (amazed, enthralled, thrilled) unexpectedly by a book. It doesn’t happen often, but David Hackett Fischer’s Washington’s Crossing did that for me in spades.

I’ve been mildly interested in this book for some time, but having read David McCullough’s 1776 a few years ago, I wasn’t sure I needed to cover the same ground again. Even a few chapters into Washington’s Crossing, I was wondering whether I needed to go on, as Fischer was giving me lots of
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Lewis Weinstein
Dec 04, 2011 Lewis Weinstein rated it really liked it
An exciting description of one of the main reasons we are no longer part of the British Empire. Page-turning history.
Jim
Aug 31, 2015 Jim rated it it was amazing
In Washington’ Crossing, David Hackett Fischer has given us a fresh view of the events, motivations and consequences surrounding the New Jersey Campaign of 1776, pitting the British and Hessian army under General William Howe against the Continental Army and attached militia under General George Washington. Extremely well written and extensively documented, using numerous primary and secondary sources as well as many very helpful maps, Fischer has produced a book that, in my opinion, will be def ...more
Corey
Dec 02, 2008 Corey rated it it was amazing
A fantastic review of a year in the Revolutionary War and some of the best writing on the military aspects of the battles, campaigns and strategies for both sides in the year 1776 and the war in general.

Like most history lovers, I think I have neglected the actual nuts and bolts of this war. So much has been written (and rightfully so) about the towering personalities and characters of the Founding Fathers, but often times the obstacles facing the milita and soldiers in the trenches battling eac
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Tweed Scott
Mar 24, 2012 Tweed Scott rated it it was amazing
This is a fabulous book! This Pulitzer Prize winner is a compelling book in that you will learn things about the condition and spirit of the people who lived through this trying era. Many times through the book I had the sense of being there as the events unfolded. The most remarkable thing for me was chronicling the growth of George Washington as a leader. As a battle commander he was defeated time & time again and was run out of NY by the British. After arriving in New Jersey he began to g ...more
Heather
Oct 24, 2012 Heather rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, leadership
I liked this author. He does a good job of describing the context and events surrounding the famous painting Washington's Crossing, but I liked the beginning of the book the best. Towards the middle there were a few too many details for me, but ultimately it did help me understand more of the times, people, circumstances and turning points during the years of 1776 and 1777 in the American Revolution. I particularly enjoyed learning about General Washington and his leadership, how he worked toget ...more
Tom Rowe
Sep 03, 2015 Tom Rowe rated it really liked it
A very interesting book. There was so much more to Washington's crossing the Delaware than I ever knew. David Hackett Fischer's analysis of the event goes far deeper as he points out how Washington and this event set the tone for how the American Army would come to function and its place in the government in the US. And the back of the book (almost half) is filled with interesting appendices. I highly recommend.
Steve
Sep 12, 2009 Steve rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history, war
Probably the best history I've read on the Revolutionary War. Lots of stuff I didn't know before, especially about the make up of the armies (Colonial, British, and Hessian). But Fisher never gets bogged down with details, and keeps the narrative flowing. I was surprised at the level of brutality involved with the British/Hessian occupation of New Jersey. Gang rapes, from little girls to old women, plundering houses, etc, all of which,in a compressed amount of time (a few weeks), pretty much und ...more
Greg Strandberg
Jan 13, 2015 Greg Strandberg rated it liked it
Shelves: history
I remember picking this up at the library. It was in the new section, and I got it because of the great cover. It's a good history, if a bit dry. As you can tell from the length (526 pages is a long book, even subtracting the typical 100 page notes/bibliography sections these books cram in) the book has a large tapestry.

If you want a look at just the night of the crossing, perhaps a shorter book would be to your liking. Still, if you like broad histories of a period you don't know that much abo
...more
Heather
Jan 09, 2015 Heather rated it it was amazing
This book brought a renewed appreciation for Americans in 1776. It's easy to remember everything as just "George Washington," but there are so many regular soldiers and families that sacrificed to create what we currently enjoy.

-Howe brothers sought to end the rebellion peacefully and offered peace to Loyalists and let the Continental army retreat safely for months. They thought the war was essentially over by Dec 1776.
-However, pillaging/plundering and no-mercy-for-prisoners by the Hessians/Br
...more
Alan
Nov 25, 2014 Alan rated it really liked it
Another masterful, well-written historical account from David Hackett Fischer, Washington’s Crossing brings us personal accounts and perspectives that we surely did not hear in high school history class.

In a nutshell: it’s the story of the American Revolution in New Jersey and how that campaign turned the tide, both militarily and, probably more important, psychologically. Relying on diaries and correspondence from British and Hessian soldiers, low-level American volunteers, as well as a few of
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Wes A
Oct 20, 2014 Wes A rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This book is an excellent examination of the winter campaign of 1776-1777, marred a small bit by a touch of "so there-ism" in it's pages (fully expressed in the last line of the work). The popular time-line Washington's Crossing is extraordinarily muddled, and this work does a splendid job of layout out the mish-mash of popular myth against an actual historic backdrop. Fischer also paints the desperate nature of the campaign with vivid force, once the battles commenced I had difficulty putting t ...more
Stephen Rittermann
May 22, 2016 Stephen Rittermann rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent book. I had read and excerpt of the first chapters years ago for a college course, and have been meaning to go back and finish it. Reading it all the way through was a pleasure. Fischer really describes the difficulties of waging war during a mini-ice-age in New England. He describes the forces at play, the Hessians, redcoats, and rebels, better than any text I know. What made these men tick? How did their leaders think and lead?
His treatment of Washington is awesome... Anot
...more
Kyra
Jun 10, 2014 Kyra rated it really liked it
Carlyle maintained that "history is but the biography of great men," a sentiment that I don't share intellectually but can't always avoid emotionally. Surely it is impossible to imagine how the American Revolution could have succeeded without Washington, and this book adds to that impression. But it also ably demonstrates the critical role of men with 'smaller' roles, from those commonly known, like Paine, to men like Knox, who did their jobs so well that they made victory possible. It prevents ...more
Len
Jan 21, 2008 Len rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book because I liked David McCullough's "1776" so much -- especially the fifteen pages or so when he describes the Battle of Trenton.

This book takes those fifteen pages and expands it to a couple hundred pages. The level of detail is extraordinary, and Fischer does this without sacrificing readability.

Political and military history buffs both will enjoy the book very much.
Peri
Apr 19, 2009 Peri rated it it was amazing
This book is about more than just Washington crossing the Delaware to fight the battle of Trenton. It covers the events that lead up to this pivotal event, and effects of this important victory. It is very readable and enjoyable, and does make a great impression of what a massive accomplishment this was and how it impacted the psyche of the country.
Matt Portnoy
May 25, 2016 Matt Portnoy rated it really liked it
An excellent explanation of the key battles from 1776 and 1777 where the Revolutionary War turned from 'no, we can't' to 'yes, we can'. Fischer does a great job balancing the complex and shifting politics of the time on both sides with the battlefield strategy and tactics, without favoring either side. I learned how Washington came into his own as a leader, rather than a commander-in-chief and why this helped the American side learn their way to victory. It was also interesting to learn about ho ...more
Chris
Sep 06, 2015 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed reading this history of a key part of the American Revolution. At first it seemed a bit tedious of the author to explain the details behind the British generals and the Hessians, their uniforms, their politics, their personal styles. But it did make them more like characters in a story, made me interested in their fates. And I'm amazed at all the things I take for granted but in fact are much more involved and interesting than I knew. George Washington was big, powerful man who ...more
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Washington: A Life vs Washington's Crossing 12 28 Feb 20, 2014 04:37PM  
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David Hackett Fischer is University Professor and Earl Warren Professor of History at Brandeis University. His major works have tackled everything from large macroeconomic and cultural trends (Albion's Seed, The Great Wave) to narrative histories of significant events (Paul Revere's Ride, Washington's Crossing) to explorations of historiography (Historians' Fallacies, in which he coined the term H ...more
More about David Hackett Fischer...

Other Books in the Series

Pivotal Moments in American History (1 - 10 of 25 books)
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  • Rainbow's End: The Crash of 1929
  • Adams Vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800
  • All Shook Up: How Rock 'n' Roll Changed America
  • The Scratch of a Pen: 1763 and the Transformation of North America (Pivotal Moments in American History)
  • James Madison and the Struggle for the Bill of Rights
  • Storm over Texas: The Annexation Controversy and the Road to Civil War (Pivotal Moments in American History (Oxford))
  • Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice
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“Until Washington crossed the Delaware, the triumph of the old order seemed inevitable. Thereafter, things would never be the same again.” 3 likes
“Americans tended to think of war as something that had to be done from time to time, for a particular purpose or goal. They fought not for the sake of fighting but for the sake of winning.” 2 likes
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