David McCullough


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1776 Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature.  This 24-page guide for “1776” by David McCullough includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 7 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 10 important quotes, and discussion questions.

Plot Summary

David McCullough’s book 1776 covers just that, the most important year of the revolutionary war. Even though the war does not officially end until the Treaty of Paris is signed in 1783, the reader follows Washington and his men through losses and miserable retreats, as well as his big successes against Cornwallis and Rall.

The book centers on George Washington himself. Unlike many histories that spend a great deal of time narrating the Continental Congress’ development of the idea of “freedom” and “liberty” as it applied to the colonies, this book takes the reader right in the trenches following each of Washington’s battles with his New England militia men who were completely untrained and, according to some, unfit for battle.

At the same time the book paints detailed, fair portraits of some of the most important American and British participants of the war. It opens with King George III, the King of England and a villain by most American accounts, seen as having less in common with other royalty and more with many commoners. His desire to bring the colonies back into the fold seems sincere, but McCullough allows readers to decide for themselves.

The book not only chronicles George Washington’s heroic battles, but also gives a fairly in depth report of his early life, his educational background, his marriage to Martha Custis, his life as a wealthy Virginia planter, and his love of architecture and beautiful niceties for his homes. His staid personality comes through, not just in his war exploits, but also in his personal dealings with his officers and his men.

Of the many other portraits McCullough gives, Nathanael Greene’s is the most memorable. Born to Quaker family in Rhode Island, he is a self-made man, buying books and educating himself, particularly in the art of warfare. In many ways, he is very similar to Washington. He does not allow his stiff leg to prevent him from planning engagements and leading fighters. Like Washington, he had never fought in a battle until he entered the war.

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Chapter 1