David McCullough


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1776 Major Characters Analysis

General George Washington

Washington, a Virginian, was a self-made man, like so many men in the New World, and he was a born leader. What little military experience he had came from books. Mostly he was a slave-owning planter—or became one due to his fortunate marriage to Mary Washington Custis, a wealthy widow from Williamsburg. An orphan, his first real vocation was that of surveyor. For a man who navigated the world of the privileged with such ease, he had remarkably little education. He was particularly interested in architecture and décor. As a general, Washington’s edge was largely that he carefully studied his enemy and did not make moves without thinking things through. Another of his strengths was his ability to usually find reliable, talented, trustworthy men to help him strategize and plan.

King George III

King George is given a remarkable portrait. His attitude toward the rebellious colonies is the first impression the reader gets. He treats them like schoolchildren who need a spanking if they do not return to right behavior and apologize. As he discusses with Parliament what is to be done about the rebellion, he always emphasizes that when the colonies come back into the fold, he will graciously welcome them with open arms. Whether one sees this as patronizing or as generous depends on how one reads history. After all, what group of ragtag, uneducated men would dare threaten the great British Empire. He has many noble qualities in any case, a taste for the simple life, love of his wife, and genuine concern for his country.

Nathanael Greene

Greene was one of the greatest revolutionary heroes and close friend of George Washington. The two have much in common. Greene too was a self-made man. Son of a well-to-do tradesman Quaker who does not seem to have been a traditional pacifist, Greene was unfortunate enough to get no formal education. However, he bought books and through his swift intellect educated himself. His favorite books were of battle strategies. Upon entering the Continental army, he had had no battle experience, but he go on to help Washington plan some of…

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