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Washington's Crossing

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  13,485 ratings  ·  410 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 Chris
Hardcover, 564 pages
Published February 12th 2004 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published December 1st 2003)
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Average rating 4.13  · 
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 ·  13,485 ratings  ·  410 reviews

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Dec 26, 2010 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
Michael Finocchiaro
Continuing my punctuated voyage down the road of Pulitzer-winning books, this one from Fischer published in 2004 was really good. Fischer does a great job explaining the dire situation of the Continental Army as they were obliged to leave New York and flee towards New Jersey. At one point, there was a real threat that the capital of the colonies, Philadelphia, would be taken as well. Without going too far down the road of sentimental nationalism too often, Fischer describes the courage of the "r ...more
Aug 27, 2015 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
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Nov 09, 2012 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
Nov 22, 2008 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
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
Frank Stein
Jan 11, 2013 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
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
Robert Snow
Dec 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Some books you read and you say... That was a good and enjoyable. Now "Washington's Crossing" is very different, it changed my way of thinking about who we are, where we came from and about our hopes and dreams. This is a powerful book about some of our darkest days and we've had a few since. This is more than a history book it can be a teaching book also... If you want it to be! Enjoy...
Jun 03, 2010 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
Christopher Sturcke
Jul 13, 2014 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
Jan 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent, engaging, interesting, and inspiring.
A few non-exhaustive notes:
• Washington: “A people unused to restraint must be led; they will not be drove.”
• Private Joseph Plumb Martin woke to the sight of 5 warships anchored in the East River near New York that were ready for battle. He remembered, “It was on a Sabbath morning, the day in which the British were always employed about their deviltry if possible.”
• Washington wept when he realized the disaster that befell his (2,800+) troops afte
Jan 17, 2008 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
Feb 20, 2008 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
Brian Eshleman
Jan 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm not surprised to find out from the interview with the author at the end of the book that he is a professor of more than forty years experience. His lectures must be spellbinding. He can keep the main narrative moving in a straight line that is easy to follow. He can do this while finding the appropriate timing to comment on the forces of the larger culture at work. Then, he can compound his effectiveness by entering into the hearts and minds of the individual actors, charting maturation or t ...more
Oct 17, 2013 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 conflic ...more
Lewis Weinstein
Dec 04, 2011 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.
Nov 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Excellent report of the famous crossing of the Delaware. Shows you a very detailed account while also laying out tremendous groundwork for explaining why things happened as they did.
Jan 19, 2009 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
Sep 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: leadership, history
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
Jan 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
A different kind of Army fighting a different kind of war.

Fischer's history is outstanding but inaccurately named. This work is more about the New York and New Jersey campaign from Summer 1776 to March 1777 than it is about Washington's crossing of the Delaware on Christmas night prior to the battle of Trenton. That's perfectly fine as Fischer does a wonderful job placing the crossing in proper historical context and helping illustrate its significance in damaging the British army's psyche and
Apr 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Okay okay I know what you are thinking: Christiana has clearly lost her perspective on book reviews, given that she is awarding yet another book on the Revolutionary War 5 stars.

Hear me out!

THIS one was probably the Best of the lot. I have no idea about military science and what it takes to launch a successful campaign, and while I Still could not do that, I DO have a better understanding of it.

What makes this book so compelling is that the author (or better, original participants in this War w
Jul 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Well-told and fascinating. Once again I was struck by how miraculous the outcome of the American Revolution was in many ways, and what a man for the mission George Washington was. Fischer brings a story we all think we know (but obviously don't!) to life, and painted a very clear picture of all the people who fought in the Revolution--British, Hessians, and colonists--and how personalities and cultural norms affected the outcome of the battles and ultimately the war. I had to return the book bef ...more
Michael Walther
Jul 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book begins with the defeat of Washington in New York during the American Revolution. Three thousand soldiers were captured, most of whom died on prison ships (more men died on these ships than in all the battles of the war). Washington was down to 5,000 troops, and that number would drop even further as enlistments expired. Support for the war was surging in England and waning in America.

On December 25, 1776 Washington succeeded in crossing the icy Delaware River undetected… An incredible
Ron Roberts
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding read about the pivotal moments in American history. I previously read Fischer’s book on Paul Revere, which is excellent as well. Highly recommended.
Greg Bailey
Dec 30, 2014 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
Jun 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I'm finding it hard to give this book only 4 stars. It's deserving of more. But five stars is "AMAZING" and I think that's tough to justify as well. So, 5 will have to do with a caveat or two. It's dense, and is written as a military history, so some readers may need to look up some terms. Also, there's a fairly large cast of characters on both the British and Colonial side, that at times I forgot who was who. That being said... read on.

I think that this book needs to be "rellooked" at in terms
Nov 24, 2008 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
Blaine Welgraven
Jan 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
"We have seen how it happened: not in a single event, or even a chain of events, but in a great web of contingency."

"The American army of 1776 came mostly from middling families who cherished the revolutionary principles of liberty and freedom but understood them in various ways: the collective rights of old New England, the reciprocal rights of Philadelphia Associators, the individual rights of backcountry riflemen, and the hegemonic rights of the Fairfax men."

Contingency and cultural realiti
Sep 05, 2016 added it
Fischer’s historical work focuses on a particular time during the American Revolution, the period from late 1775 into early 1777. 1776 was a tumultuous year, the first three quarters of which was characterized by one military defeat of the Continental Army after another, beginning with the loss of New York City and the steady retreat of the army into New Jersey and south across the state and the Delaware River into Pennsylvania south of Trenton, NJ. Innumerable challenges faced Washington and th ...more
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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

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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.” 6 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.” 4 likes
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