“Financial support from France and the Netherlands, and military support from the French army and navy, would play a large part in the outcome. But in the last analysis it was Washington and the army that won the war for American independence. The fate of the war and the revolution rested on the army. The Continental Army — not the Hudson River or the possession of New York or Philadelphia — was the key to victory. And it was Washington who held the army together and gave it ‘spirit’ through the most desperate of times.
He was not a brilliant strategist or tactician, not a gifted orator, not an intellectual. At several crucial moments he had shown marked indecisiveness. He had made serious mistakes in judgment. But experience had been his great teacher from boyhood, and in this his greatest test, he learned steadily from experience. Above all, Washington never forgot what was at stake and he never gave up.
Again and again, in letters to Congress and to his officers, and in his general orders, he had called for perseverance — for ‘perseverance and spirit,’ for ‘patience and perseverance,’ for ‘unremitting courage and perseverance.’ Soon after the victories of Trenton and Princeton, he had written: ‘A people unused to restraint must be led, they will not be drove.’ Without Washington’s leadership and unrelenting perseverance, the revolution almost certainly would have failed. As Nathanael Greene foresaw as the war went on, ‘He will be the deliverer of his own country.’
The war was a longer, far more arduous, and more painful struggle than later generations would understand or sufficiently appreciate. By the time it ended, it had taken the lives of an estimated 25,000 Americans, or roughly 1 percent of the population. In percentage of lives lost, it was the most costly war in American history, except for the Civil War.
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.”
The final page of 1776by David McCullough.