1776 (book)

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1776[1] is a historical novel about the events in year 1776 of the American Revolutionary War. Written in the prose format of a fictional novel by David McCullough, it nonetheless is a nonfictional work that goes over the military and political events of that year in context to the conflict at the time in the American colonies.

Despite what it could seem, this book is not related to the musical of the same name, save for the common theme they both depict.

Tropes used in 1776 (book) include:
  • Axe Crazy: No one actually did anything this extreme, but propaganda on both sides loved to play up the other side as if they did.
  • The Alcoholic: Rum was a common drink on both sides, to the point of being doled as actual military rations,[2]. Actual instances of excessive drinking were severely discouraged and punished.
  • Asshole Victim: While the soldiers largely tried to treat each other with dignity despite being on opposite sides in formal engagements, loyalist and patriot civilians considered each other this.
  • Bamboo Technology: The seizure of Dorchestor Heights was achieved via clever use of this trope. The colonial army prefabricated somewhat flimsy barricades that they filled in with hay bales and earth filled barrels to give the appearance of being sturdier than they actually were. It sufficed to fool the British, who immediately decided Dorchestor Heights wasn't worth the effort to assault.
  • Badass: Both sides had theirs, though the usual lionizing given the colonists is quite downplayed in this work.
    • Badass Bookworm: Henry Knox, a former bookstore owner who was one of Washington's best generals when it came to artillery. His own CMOA was successfully pulling off the overland transport of nearly 100,000 plus pounds of cannons from Fort Ticonderoga all the way to Boston, despite the distance, weight, and lots of icy weather.
    • Handicapped Badass: Both Henry Knox and Nathaniel Greene. The former had lost two fingers when his fowling piece had blown up on him a few years back, but this didn't affect his ability to command. Greene had a limp in one leg, but he refused to let it slow him down.
  • Brilliant But Lazy: William Howe, who was far from stupid or cowardly, but prone to dawdling, which was to Washington's advantage more than once.
  • Crazy Awesome: Some Hessians rolled a cannon in the streets of Trenton right in front of some of Washington's troops to fire it at them. Those troops ran right into the line of fire to prevent the Hessians from being able to actually fire it in time, took down the Hessians while they were still trying to figure out a Plan B, then turned the cannon around and fired it into the other Hessian reinforcements.
  • Disc One Final Boss: Colonel Johann Rall of the Hessian forces at Trenton, who, due to a combination of good fortune on Washington's part and a few understandable mistakes on Rall's proved a Breather Boss in practice, thus ending the last major battle of the year and thus the first year of the whole war as an American Victory.
  • Fat Bastard: James Grant, a morbidly obese Scot who hated the colonies and the rebels equally. Regardless, he had some Pet the Dog moments, including showing humanity to prisoners of war who were starving.
  • Gasshole: One of the side effects of the poor sanitary conditions would be frequent outbreaks of dysentery.
  • Geo Effects: Both sides could be crippled by weather conditions. The British and Hessians found heavy rain to be crippling because it made marches terribly slow, especially when the rain turned overland routes into mud. Ice was a crippler for the colonists because it made transport of heavy cannon and other war material hazardous.
  • General Failure: George Washington sensibly admitted up front to the Continental Congress he might turn out this way, but would do his best anyway. In actual practice, he did make a lot of mistakes but wasn't so much so he fell squarely into this trope.
    • General Howe wasn't much better, being such a foot dragger several chances to win passed him by completely and most of his better offenses were done by more competent subordinates.
  • Get a Hold of Yourself Man: In a somewhat apocryphal account, George Washington did this to break up a riot by his own troops by rushing into the fray, grabbing two of the biggest rioters, and chewing them out, whereupon the rest immediately dispersed.
  • Holy Shit Quotient: Reached when the British knew Dorchester Heights outside of Boston were the key to defending the city but they didn't think the rebels could do so without a ton of advance warning and lots of efforts they needed months for. Cue utter horrified amazement when the revolutionaries pulled it off in under a week and had full siege works already set up, without getting caught long beforehand.
  • Humble Hero: George Washington, obviously. One of his generals, Israel "Old Put" Putnam fit even more so, being a general yet willing to take his meals at the mess like an ordinary soldier and rough it out like the lowest private, which he was beloved by his men for.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: General Clinton was basically the most technically proficient of the British generals, and whenever he got to prove it, he was generally good at his job. Unfortunately, General Howe was his superior, and a lot of his better suggestions were overruled, even though they would have been much more sensible in hindsight.
  • Improvised Weapon: Washington ordered barrels be used to reinforce fortifications on hills, having them filled with earth so they could also be rolled into the enemy as backup weapons.
  • Jerkass: Charles Lee to the point of nigh treason when he wrote ways to defeat Washington to Howe when he got captured, simply because he hated the man.
    • Jerkass Has a Point: Prior, when sent to reinforce New York from British attack, he immediately and sensibly realized it couldn't be held indefinitely, but if they played their cards right they could make the British pay dearly in their attempt to seize it.
  • Kill It With Fire: A tactic employed by both sides on occasion, though they generally had to refrain most of the time because both sides either wanted to avoid burning down potential garrisons for their own use or cause civilian casualties.
  • The Neidermeyer: Charles Lee was this for the Americans, to the point his eventual capture due to a moment of utter stupidity was actually a relief to General Washington, who was tired of hinging his hopes of reinforcements on him. It didn't help he was also a vainglorious jackass with such obvious lust for Washington's own job to the point he went out of his way just to screw things up for the man.
  • Netorare: General Howe openly cucked loyalist Joshua Loring. Loring, however, looked the other way due to being paid quite a bit.
  • Patriotic Fervor: Contrary to a lot of the more simplified histories of the period, the trope was revealed to have been greatly subdued on both sides. The British weren't all that fired up to retake the colonies for patriotism as they were for asserting their dominion and saving face politically. The revolutionaries were largely composed of very human people, and many were Only in It For the Money as much as the Hessian mercenaries employed by the British.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Bunker Hill was regarded as one by the British given the casualties spent taking it.
    • While the British though capturing General Lee was an actual victory, in truth, he was so useless to the colonial side it meant nothing in the long run.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: The Hessians were accused of this by both colonial and British detractors. The actual truth of the matter is that, while they were rather callous since they were being paid instead of serving out of loyalty, they were really no better or worse as a group than any other armed force.
  • Storming the Castle: Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold did this in the capture of Fort Ticonderoga, only finding out later they overestimated the force strength of the British garrison.
  • Wake Up Call Boss: The British dismissed the rebels all the way up until Bunker Hill. Even though in strict military terms they won, the cost was so high it was a Pyrrhic Victory in a morale sense for the British, who realized they weren't going to be able to swat the rebels like flies like they thought.
  • Vindicated by History: Done in the book to BOTH sides. Actual records exonerated the Hessians of being drunk off their asses and completely unprepared for the attack on Trenton. Most were sober, and while they were caught by surprise, it was more happenstance and good luck for Washington than outright incompetence on the Hessian side for why. Applies to both sides because even the colonial army and the people with them even spoke up in defense of the Hessian military competence at the time.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Bunker Hill caused a minor one to happen to the British commanders, William Howe especially, who were more than a little horrified at the sheer number of bloody corpses of their own forces that were the cost of victory. Another more prominent one happened when Washington pulled off his raid on Trenton, which caused the British to be flabbergasted at how easily a large Hessian force had been bested so easily.
  • Zerg Rush: The British loved this trope, knowing they had the troops for it, though this backfired hard on them at Bunker Hill, where they won, but lost far more troops than they wanted to.
  1. released in the United Kingdom as 1776: America and Britain At War.
  2. Which actually made sense, alcohol was used to steady the nerves and for other medical reasons