Summary and Quotations from Washington's Crossing

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The book starts out with an account of the British troops leaving Boston Harbor in March of 1776. The people of America were celebrating George Washington and what they thought was the end of the war. Washington wasn’t so convinced. He alludes to many difficulties that he “was obliged to conceal then from my friends, indeed from my own Army.”

We are then given an account of Washington as a boy and young man growing up in Virginia. There he grew up amongst gentlemen that held a code of honor and courage. Washington is also told to be a man of great strength and stamina. He lived amongst these gentlemen and learned and abided by the ideal that a hierarchy existed amongst men and when dealing with inferiors to “keep them at a distance” while still treating them civilly.

Washington had trouble adapting to the style of those outside of his circle in Virginia. The differences between his style and that of the militias in New England are brought up multiple times. Washington understood though that most of his Army was going to come from New England and so begrudgingly accepted and compromised with them.

The story then delves into the diversity of the units that made up the American rebel army. Descriptions of the various units show that there was a broad expanse of peoples that weren’t all fighting for the same type of liberty that the others were, but were willing to fight none the less.

Next, the British return in late June to America after recharging and reloading. They sail into harbor of New York and prepare to come ashore. The British unload nearly 25,000 troops and such over the next several weeks. 2/3 of the Royal Navy are patrolling the coasts as well in a display of a large majority of the British military in the colonies. The book continues by talking about the British Army and its size, strength, and innovations during this time period. Light infantry and cavalry were being revolutionized by Generals Gage and Howe. The various troop types, their strengths and battle tested soldiers give a grim outlook for the ragtag soldiers of the Colonial Army that were spoken of earlier. Hessian soldiers, mercenaries from the German states, were hired by the British to help fight the war in America. Hiring mercenaries was a typical practice and the Hessian soldiers were considered the best in the world. There are accounts and short bios of each of the Hessian officers given as well as a telling of how the Jaegers become the Green Berets. It continues by delving into the Howe brothers of England and their role in Revolution. The two brothers, Admiral Lord Richard Howe and General William Howe, were military reformers and innovators. They were sympathetic to the Americans and the ideology of liberty but they were always loyal to their King. Both brothers made attempts to negotiate between the Americans and Parliament as both brothers held seats in Parliament. The Howe’s open a discussion on the strategy of how to fight war against the rebels and the Howe’s listen to and take what they consider the best parts of the strategy to form their plans. The American strategy was constantly failing as intelligence of the enemy’s movements and inner workings was very hard to come by for General Washington. This resulted in the British easily taking Long Island, New York City and Manhattan. But American troops were good at escaping with only minimal losses. It was difficult for the British and Hessians to see the Americans as anything more than farmers and tradesmen carrying guns. They were incompetent amateurs in the eyes of the professional soldiers of Europe. The British and the Hessians were not taking prisoners and were commended by some of their officers, but the Howes wanted minimal casualties on both sides and so ordered this practice to cease. Cornwallis, who some thought was the most brilliant mind in the British army, leads the Royal Army into New Jersey. They chase down the Americans on many...
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