What I was expecting:
1. A book about the first full year of the American Revolution (this part was accurate).
2. Insight into the causes of the Revolution (absent almost completely).
3. Portrayals of the way the two sides saw each other, and why (somewhat present).
4. Stuff about George Washington and the other founding fathers (there was some stuff on George Washington, mostly in his role as commander in chief of the first continental army, but there was almost nothing on his personal life or anything outside his new role).
5. Explanations of battles (this is basically all the book consisted of).
6. Lots about the writing of the Declaration of Independence (there was NONE OF THIS).
So you can see I was probably setting myself up for failure, but luckily halfway through I forced myself to adjust my expectations and get over it. I ended up enjoying the book for what it was, and not what I wanted it to be.
What this book actually was:
1. A book about the full first year of the Revolution, during which time the US army almost lost the war, but managed through perseverance and some luck to turn things around.
2. Insight into each individual battle of the war during the period of January 1776-January 1777 and how each one set the tone for the war to come.
3. Portrayals of the strategies employed by both sides, and reasonably conclusions for why the did so.
4. A focus on George Washington and his main generals in the war, including Nathanael Greene and Henry Knox, as well as soldiers int he war and other people who McCullough was able to track down primary sources for. The book is told almost exclusively through finding and piecing together different primary sources from the day (letters, journals, proclamations, articles, essays, etc.) It is very much in their own words and there is very little outside analysis on McCullough’s part, aside from the decisions he made in putting the whole thing together.
5. Lots and lots of battles, including detailed descriptions of the living conditions of both sides of soldiers, including the pros and cons of the British being so regulated and traditional, and the Americans being so disorganized, inexperienced, but enthusiastic.
6. In large part, this book actually works to de-mythologize and unromanticize everything you learned in elementary school about the Revolution, and focuses on how the first year of the war influenced the rest of it.
I would definitely be interested in reading more books by this author, especially his one on John Adams, which I have a feeling is the one I should have been reading in the first place, given what I wanted from this one. Mostly, though, it just made me want to read more books about this time in history, because it made me realize that aside from those common romanticizations most Americans hold about the Revolutionary war, I know almost nothing concrete about it, a situation I really need to rectify as soon as possible.