In This Review

Washington's Crossing
Washington's Crossing
By David Hackett Fischer
Oxford University Press, 2004, 576 pp

Brandeis historian Fischer won a large and devoted following with Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in North America. His reading of the early settler communities' attitudes toward questions of liberty and government has influenced a generation of writers seeking to understand the differences between "red" and "blue" America today. In Washington's Crossing, Fischer looks at the darkest months of the American Revolution, when, following devastating defeats in New York and White Plains, Washington's tatterdemalion army, and the American cause, teetered on the brink of collapse. For Fischer, the story of how Washington rallied colonial opinion and rebuilt the army's spirit explains why the Americans were able to win their independence. Unlike the Howes (leading British aristocrats who commanded the formidably equipped British naval and land forces), Washington had to cajole, persuade, and win over a multicultural mob of colonial politicians, officers, and soldiers. Washington, Fischer argues, was doing more than winning a war in these months; he was inventing a style of leadership and a form of politics well suited to American realities.