Review Essay

Washington`s Crossing by David Hackett Fischer
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June 6, 2012
In the editorial note of the much acclaimed book Washington`s Crossing McPherson (p. X) states that David Hackett Fischer`s narration of the book is more than a military campaign. The story presents major transformation that had undergone in the history of political and social context of western world. This gives a new perception to the book. McPherson in view of American Revolution states that it has pitted the fight of amateur army as a new form of independence and liberty for both British and Hessian professional armies which depict the older hierarchy of defence and discipline. However the triumph seemed to be inevitable until the Delaware was crossed by Washington. The stated outlook of McPherson accounting the anecdote as presented in the book further prompts to view the book from a different perception `The Revolution`.
Motivated from the outlook of McPherson this essay furthers to argue whether Fischer`s opinion of the anecdote was based on the perception of `revolution` with a broader outlook as a social and political conflict instead of just a confrontation.
Justification to this argument can be found in the studies of Marina (2012) who states that there is no event in the history being isolated of time and space just like “no man is an island”. Various ideas have been drawn out from American Revolution and presented infinite social conditions that described the past development and actions of many individuals from time to time within the transatlantic area. Furthermore it is also necessary to understand that the revolutionary American army has hardly seen a victory in 5-months till the end of the Delaware crossing.
ANALYSIS
As per the various arguments of the historians, the military force used by the Americans enabled them to continue the American Revolution against the British. In the book, `Washington`s Crossing` of David Hackett Fischer, who is one among the various historians explained that fighting is considered as the military dimension of political and social conflict which pits the `new order of liberty` against the `old order of hierarchy and discipline` (Fischer. 2004, p.449). However, the big question that remains to be answered is that can the events of the 18[th] century as presented by Fischer be considered as a revolution in the history of America? To gain a better understanding of this it is imperative to understand the concept of revolution.
Zagorin (1998), states that the revolution can be studied within the three distinct inquiry lines. The general or in-depth account of a particular revolution indicates the first line of inquiry. Either two or more revolutions being formally compared in order to expose the relationships within them are included under the second inquiry line then comes the third inquiry line which is theoretical through which the revolution theory is developed that explains the processes, causes as well as the effects indicating the kind of change. In furtherance Marina (2012) informs that any `symbolic event` for example Revolution when examined designate the events as `revolutions` and it all depends on our perception when actually such an event began and finally ends.
Considering the opinion of Zagorin and Marina this essay furthers to look at the chronological events of the 18[th] century anecdotes as presented by Fischer that focused on the commandership of Washington leading the American army against the British and the Hessain.
A war started among the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies on the North American continent and it was referred to as the American Revolutionary War (1775 – 1783) which is also called as the American War of Independence. This war turned into an international conflict because of the association of the foreign nations with the American colonists to fight against the Britain. The British rule has been deposed by the colonists and also this war resulted in the closure of the political American Revolution. Fischer views this as the Americans have decided to defend their country from the British as well as the Germans and this led to the huge changes in New England and also across the globe. From these opinions it can be understood that the events of revolution are the culmination of drastic changes. If the drastic change in the mid of the 18[th] century is the amalgamation of the thirteen American colonies the more imperative revolutionary is the event when Washington crossed Delaware.
Washington as discussed by Fischer (2004) takes the strong initiative and attempts to cross Delaware with an intention to defeat Hessian which has become successful during Christmas night i.e., on 26 December, 1776. A parade was carried out by the Cornwallis to retake Trenton but initially it was repulsed and then after it was outmaneuvered by Washington, who made a successful attempt at Princeton on January 3, 1777 in attacking the rearguard of the British. A moral enhancement to the American cause was shown by Washington that has entered the winter quarters of Morristown, at New Jersey.
Step by step victories were recorded by Washington over the British. According to the information of Zagorin, this chronology was considered as appropriate to the third line of revolution, though it is not explained in detail. According to Fischer, the cause, effect and process are all the three aspects which can be derived from the chronological events. Initially, the `cause` aspect can be obtained from the quest of Americans to attain independence from the British rule. Second aspect i.e. `process` which is the union of thirteen North American states to fight against the political and social freedom. Thirdly, `effect` aspect represents itself as the American army victory under the Washington`s commandership.
After the conflict the American army was on a rampage degrading the enemy soldiers. In this regard by taking the British lack of humanity into consideration Fischer argues that `the entire British army had been stripped bare of shoes and stockings`. The captured enemy (trained army) instead of complaining their conditions on the other hand simply followed instructions from the American fighters. However, the army men were reminded by Washington as men of freedom and liberty and states that the humanity rights to be equally executed on enemies. Thus Fischer goes on to not only ended the anecdote indicating the initial revolutionary fight against the British that ended up with their and the Germans defeat but also indicates lying of a strong foundation to free the Americans from their oppression. This is also a restoration of the freedom, humanity and liberty in the American society. In line with this, the states that took participation in this revolutionary war were able to develop a plan for the formation of the United States of America. It is necessary to understand that if the events aim at attaining certain goals especially with focus on social justice and injustice in the society then they can be referred to as the revolutionary. By keeping this in mind, the British leadership and army was distinguished by inhuman behaviors. It became imperative because inhuman behaviors raises the injustice and degrades the humanity in the society.
Conclusion
The opinion as put forward by Fischer gives a better understanding of what a revolution is. The content presented in a chronological order and structured way provides an understanding of the main role of the military intervention in developing the society wherein a political and social structure involves. This became imperative as the development of the society depends on the liberty and freedom of the people. It is necessary to know that if the people in the society were treated as good instead of treating them as slaves then discipline will be achieved in the society.
In conclusion, revolutionary refers to the events that led to get freedom for the American people in the second half of the 18[th] century. Due to various reasons it has referred to as the revolutionary. The prime reason was that people were severely suffered when they were under the control of British. Under such circumstances people became united and have taken initiatives to fight for the freedom never minding of their own lives. The only thing all the people kept in their mind was that at least their future generations must have freedom. So they fought for the existence of political and social structure in the society that would maintain liberty, freedom and humanity in the people. In other words, change in political and social structure must take place in the society.
In furtherance to this, as the fighting led by General Washington left a great impact in the society that lead to the attainment of United States independence it is termed as the revolutionary.
References
American Revolutionary War. “Online Library of Liberty – American Revolution as a People`s War.” A project of Liberty Fund, Inc. Accessed June 2, 2012. http://oll.libertyfund.org.
Fischer, D. H. Washington`s Crossing. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-517034-2, 2004
Marina, W. Revolution and Social Change: The American Revolution as a People`s War, Accessed June 2, 2012. http://oll.libertyfund.org
Zagorin, P. Francis Bacon, Princeton, published by N.J. Princeton University Press, ISBN: 0691059284, Accessed June 2, 2012. http://www.worldcat.org

Review Essay

Washington`s Crossing by David Hackett Fischer
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June 1, 2012
Fischer, David Hackett. `Washington`s Crossing`. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004
The main idea of this essay is to review one the America`s greatest historical anecdote: `Washington`s Crossing` written by Fischer, David Hackett. This essay initially presenting the plot of the essay will further to summarize the contents of the book. The summary is followed by critical review. The conclusions are presented in the light of the critical evaluation.
The book is a story of varied themes such as `bravery, leadership, tenacity, liberty and freedom`. From among these themes this essay reviews it from the context of leadership as the book mostly speaks of the leadership and team leading skills of George Washington, who crossed the Delaware River and engaged in the Battle of Trenton to ultimately win them.
Thus the focus of this essay will be based on the central theme leadership. By evaluating the book with the leadership theme I am confident of gaining self motivation from the antecedents. The perspective of leadership evolved from the book is also anticipated to guide be to build a character that I consider as the most important factor that would guide me all through my personal and professional career facilitating me to achieve what I intend to achieve in my life. Washington Crossing is the description of an antecedent of an young nation`s (America) quest to `win` and an highly ambitious leader`s (George Washington) aspirations to lead the team to success. I am confident that reviewing the book from my own perception will not only help me to develop my skills of lateral thinking, developing a perception will also help me to connect well to the book and develop an understanding of the book from the way I wish to look at it.
This essay views the book as a story of a young nation forging its way toward independence. The perception is: a story of freedom, liberty, discipline, leadership, and perseverance. Considering George Washington as the lead character he is viewed as a hero and leader. The plot laid in the book is all through the days of revolution wherein the hero, Washington continues to gather his team and lead them to victories laying a strong foundation for the future of the nation, United States of America.
The author in his book depicted the bravery act of American militants by presenting the scenario of American Revolutionary War that started in the late 1776 and ended in the early 1777. The overwhelming defeats faced by the Gorge Washington and his military force has given birth to the war. However this war could have been ended if American militants had failed in escaping under the cover of fog and night. The American militants during their next visit crossing from New Jersey to Pennsylvania were again retreated by the British forces at the territories of Princeton and Trenton. This time as the winter was set British force expected to put an end to American militants in the spring itself.
However Washington by reaching the other side of Delaware River on the Christmas night defeated the enemy especially the Hessian mercenaries who were made the alliance with British force at Trenton. Soon after a week Washington on the same place at Trenton was attacked by the British reinforcement. Yet again under the dark, he and his force was able to run off from there and finally took the refugee at Princeton, the place believed to be lightly defendable. With repeated counterpunches from an opponent, the British withdrew its force from most of the New Jersey. The remained outposts were then subjected to harassment by the American militant forces.
With the exploitation of knowledge and by gaining the control of countryside, the British force was attacked by the American militia that demoralized the complete efforts of the British. This situation however had lower down the expectations of the British regarding the end of war by the spring and on the other side gave a beginning to the end of public support in Great Britain.
Critical Analysis
The best part of the book can be seen in the closing remarks of the author:
In the late twentieth century, too many scholars tried to make the American past into a record of crime and folly. Too many writers have told us we are captives of our darker selves and helpless victims of our history. It isn`t so, and never was. The story of Washington`s Crossing tells us that Americans in an earlier generation were capable of acting in a higher spirit – and so are we.
The above quote is a best example of the skills of our leaders what could have been a better description for leader like that of Washington as: `capable of acting in a higher spirit`. On the other hand the author`s opinion `many scholars tried to make the American past into a record of crime and folly` is a clear indication of the kind of mockery that he has noticed as against the authors who disregarded the skills of our leaders. Appropriate justification to the intentions of the author`s opinion can be found in the review by Sauerwein (2009) who stated that the background helps the readers to understand the kind of importance Fischer has given to the success of the revolution resulting from Trenton Campaign.
One of the leadership style mostly talked about in management science is `situational leadership` (Hersey, 2009). However the incidence of the American soldiers who instead of retreating from the defeat at New York moved on to cross the Delaware River is considered as the best example of situational leadership of Washington. This surprise and situational decision of Washington is well depicted by Fischer argues Ellis (2004) who opines `…Fischer has devised a storytelling technique that combines old and new methods in a winning way`.
In furtherance Trinque (2004) states that Fischer not only affirms these victories as significant but also praises Washington for his wisdom and effective performance being shown as a commander-in-chief. This is again an evidence of another leadership style `transformational leadership`. This is very well described by Beth (2008) who reviewing the book states the more interesting facts one can come to know is in the last third.
At this point one can realize how the victories of Washington in New Jersey serve the basis for upcoming generation of men while waging a war. In this regard Washington right from low private to top general held councils as well as listened to the views of many. The Soldiers were treated as gentlemen and further Washington defined a new term that best suit for the new nation: Gentlemen are not born but are made through dignity, decency and honor.
Lastly but not at the least point is the humanity nature of Washington as expressed by Fischer. This dignifies the utmost leadership quality of soft leadership as against the hard leadership tactics that was shown in waging the war against the British. In this regard the studies of Beth (2008) explaining the expressions of Fischer states that Washington commanded his force to consider even the prisoners of war as per the ideals prescribed in the human rights. Later this principle became the respect of the United States for over hundred years.
Beth further concludes to state that a concluding chapter was also provided by the Fischer that presents the summary of various imperative factors such as Washington`s first campaigns, including the commander`s growth as a leader.
Conclusions
From the focal idea of this essay it can be concluded to state that the book Washington`s Crossing is not just an antecedent of the American history leading to its independence but also when viewed and contrasted with leadership skills it is an exemplary example of different leadership styles. Most of the reviews indicated in the essay are not just a revelation of victory in war but also a depiction of the great qualities of leadership. The book is so well structured and simply written and organized each and every chapter attracts the readers` attention to complete the book in a one read. This essay also concludes to state that the chronologic of events that have been discussed by Fischer has also received wide acclamation by critics as well. From the given and discussed chronology different qualities of leaders can also be evaluated as the principle focus of the author as well as those who reviewed it drew their opinion by comparing and contrasting the incidents with not just military and social history but also a wide range of discussion on the strategies applied and adopted by the commanders. The capabilities of Washington as a Commander-in-chief of the army not only depicted the war skills but also specifically indicated the motivation given and received by the soldiers of the army. This is again a clear indication of the importance of leadership qualities discussed all throughout the quoted incidences. Of the many reviews done on this book it was only the review of Beth that specifically focused and indicated the leadership styles and qualities though it has not been specifically indicative of the management terms of leadership the discussion and evaluation of the book however pinpointed the aspects of leadership given under varied circumstances. Lastly but not least this essay concludes to state that the book Washington`s Crossing if viewed from the aspects of leadership the younger generation of today can develop the kind of qualities required to lead – this may not be probably a army.
References
Beth, Fish Reads. “Review: Washington`s crossing by David Hackett Fischer.” Accessed May 28, 2012 http://www.bethfishreads.com
Ellis, Joseph J. “Sit Down, You`re Rocking the Boat.” New York: Oxford University Press. (2004): 564.
Hersey, P. and Blanchard, K. H. Management of Organizational Behavior – Utilizing Human Resources. New Jersey: Prentice Hall 1969.
Sauerwein, Daniel. “Review of David Hackett Fischer`s Washington`s crossing.” Frontier Battles, (2009): 1607-1815.
Trinque, Bruce. “Amazon.com: Bruce Trinque`s review of Washington`s crossing.” Accessed May 28, 2012 http://www.amazon.com