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Washington's Crossing (Pivotal Moments in American History)

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  7,432 ratings  ·  272 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

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Matt
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
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Jan 12, 2013 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
David
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
Frank Stein

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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Christopher Sturcke
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
Jason
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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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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Don
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
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
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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Richard
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
Corey
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
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
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
Chris
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
Paul
I really enjoyed this book. It was very well written. David Fischer put me in the village with the Confederates and the British. I was at the Assunpink Bridge. I could see it! It was Black Hawk Down, Saving Private Ryan and The Patriot rolled into one. At the samWashington's Crossinge time he did an excellent job portraying George Washington. he has peaked my interest and I intend to do further reading. Quite frankly, I think that is the intent of every author Historical or otherwise. To give ot ...more
Steve
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
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
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Heather
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
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Alan
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
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
Kyra
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
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
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.
Gary Geiger
I thought that I knew about the New Jersey Campaign of the American Revolution because I read about the battles of Trenton and Princeton as a kid. It turns out that that is maybe half the story. There were more battles than that; including a second Battle of Trenton.

I listened to the audio version of this during my commute. I found it hard to follow sometimes in heavy traffic, but I think I got most of the gist of Fischer's book. He summed it up well in his epilogue. I may have underestimated Wa
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Marjika
It was refreshing to learn so much about a pivotal time in the American revolution in an unbiased book that reads much like a story. The author reports the facts backed up with documentation including accounts, letters, etc. from that time. There is a lot of interesting background material on the leaders involved, the Hessians, the people of New Jersey, and other aspects of the Revolutionary War and its time. This book is mainly for people who love reading history and are interested in America's ...more
Brent
An excellent book on the defining events of '76-'77 that turned the tide of the revolution. Includes background info on the forces of both sides that paints a much fuller picture of the conflict.
Mark
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lewis Weinstein
An exciting description of one of the main reasons we are no longer part of the British Empire. Page-turning history.
Carla
The same story but not as well told as David McCullough's 1776.
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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...

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Pivotal Moments in American History (1 - 10 of 19 books)
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  • James Madison and the Struggle for the Bill of Rights
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Paul Revere's Ride Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America (America: A Cultural History, Vol. I) Champlain's Dream Historians' Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought The Great Wave: Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History

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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.” 2 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.” 1 likes
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