An American turning point: Review of Jim Murphy's 'The Crossing'

Tuesday, January 4, 2011; 7:02 PM


How George Washington Saved the American Revolution

By Jim Murphy

Scholastic. $21.99. Ages 9-12

George Washington was not the world's most confident leader in June 1776. He turned to Patrick Henry after the Continental Congress voted for his appointment and said, "From the day I enter upon the command of the American armies, I date my fall, and the ruin of my reputation." Fortunately, he guessed wrong, as author Jim Murphy clearly explains in "The Crossing." By focusing on Washington's initial self-doubt and tactical mistakes, the book makes his boldness and leadership in December 1776 all the more impressive. Amid mass desertions, foul weather and lack of equipment (including adequate shoes), Washington devised a plan to surprise the enemy and deliver a victory to the beleaguered Revolutionary cause.

As in Murphy's previous books about war, the roles of luck, weather and leadership are well conveyed, along with the dramatic particulars of pivotal battles. (As when Washington rode among his retreating soldiers and called out, "Parade with us, my brave fellows!") Although the archival illustrations are less than vibrant, the book's cover reproduces Emanuel Leutze's celebrated painting "Washington Crossing the Delaware," and Murphy explains the significance of the attire and position of the 13 people in the boat. Despite the inaccuracy of its details, the painting is a stirring representation of "Victory or Death," the sentries' password Washington set down on the day of the crossing.

- Abby McGanney Nolan

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