1776

I finished reading 1776 today. The whole time I could not believe that this little ragtag army of farmers and merchants, who were out-trained, out-numbered, out-paid, and out-clothed (not to mention out-weaponed) somehow managed beat the British. It turns out that 1776 was not a good year for the Continental Army.

From my perspective nearly 2 1/2 centuries later, I thought 1776 was a year of glory, the year our country was born. I thought it was full of the fire of independence, of certainty and action.1776

But it wasn’t until the final paragraphs that David McCullough tells us what 1776 really was:

“The year 1776, celebrated as the birth year of the nation and for the signing of the Declaration of Independence, was for those who carried the fight for independence forward a year of all-too-few victories, of sustained suffering, disease, hunger, desertion, cowardice, disillusionment, defeat, terrible discouragement, and fear, as they would never forget, but also of phenomenal courage and bedrock devotion to country, and that, too, they would never forget.

Especially for those who had been with Washington and who knew what a close call it was at the beginning – how often circumstance, storms, contrary winds, the oddities or strengths of individual character had made the difference – the outcome seemed little short of a miracle.”

It was and is a miracle. And it is reassuring to me to know that despite that awfulness of that year, all that uncertainty and indecision and bad luck and inexperience, Washington and his army persevered. They learned from their mistakes and moved forward, stronger and more capable.

That first year is never easy, I guess, whether it is the first year of marriage, or parenthood, or being a new country. It’s hard. And often seems foolhardy. But it’s also where the devotion and dedication and future successes are forged and sealed. The events themselves may be nothing to get excited about, but what grows out of them can be the stuff of legends.

Take that to heart.

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8 Comments

  1. Yes! Well said. Since I read this book, going to Pier 1 has never been the same. Feels kind of special to be standing there and think back to the miracle that occurred (in my opinion) that allowed the Continental Army to escape Brooklyn. I love David McCullough’s historical writing–ceases to fascinate me.

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  2. Lindsay commented on the Mother Runner:

    Yes! Well said. Since I read this book, going to Pier 1 has never been the same. Feels kind of special to be standing there and think back to the miracle that occurred (in my opinion) that allowed the Continental Army to escape Brooklyn. I love David McCullough’s historical writing–ceases to fascinate me.

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  3. never ceases, I meant.

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  4. Lindsay commented on the Mother Runner:

    never ceases, I meant.

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  5. There’s actually a good bit of that kind of thing in Church history/doctrine; the way we conceive of it now, decades and decades after the fact vs. the way they think of it then. Joseph Smith thought of Moroni’s visit in 1823 as the beginning of the church, not the first vision, for example.

    [Reply]

  6. Ben commented on the Mother Runner:

    There’s actually a good bit of that kind of thing in Church history/doctrine; the way we conceive of it now, decades and decades after the fact vs. the way they think of it then. Joseph Smith thought of Moroni’s visit in 1823 as the beginning of the church, not the first vision, for example.

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