by William M. Dwyer ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 1, 1983
Another account of how Washington's ragged little army, after months of humiliating flight, suddenly revived the patriot cause with a daring counterattack against the British regulars and their Hessian allies--not as carefully or crisply told as in Richard M. Ketchum's Winter Soldiers (1973), which covers virtually the same ground, but more attentive to the nitty-gritty details of what happened to people who were there. Dwyer, a New Jersey journalist, has in fact pieced together the first-hand reports and recollections of a remarkable variety of participants--some great (Washington, Paine, Hamilton, Sir William Howe, Lord Charles Cornwallis), some near-great (Charles Lee, Banastre Tarleton), and a whole regiment of others whose testimony is known only to specialists. (They include a Hessian aristocrat or two, a former slave, some Princeton students, anonymous farmboys, newspaper correspondents, a Dutch clergyman, panicky townsfolk, and weary soldiers on both sides--lots of weary soldiers.) Despite the subtitle's promise of an ""inside view,"" this method (or non-method, really) turns up no new insights or interpretations, and the constant shifting of perspective, sometimes producing two or three versions of the same event, will be disconcerting to anyone looking for a straightforward narrative. Even so, Dwyer manages to say a good deal. He effectively depicts the increasing desperation of the American forces in the autumn and winter of 1776 as Howe pursued them out of New York, across New Jersey, and into dismal winter quarters on the far side of the Delaware, The indecisiveness of the British command is nicely balanced against the spreading cynicism, fatigue, and defeatism on the American side--a balance which then makes for an admirably even-handed appreciation of Washington's decision, on Christmas Day 1776, to recross the Delaware and attack the outposts at Trenton and Princeton. The success of that decision and its justly famous part in the winning of American independence is likewise made more tangible by the many grim details of what actually took place on the battlefield. An interesting contribution, in its own particular way.
Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1983
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1983
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