This Week in History: Declaring Independence, the Battle of Gettysburg, and the Lives of Two American Presidents

The 4th of July has been well-known to Americans since the country’s founding 242 years ago. It’s the day that we celebrate our nation’s declaration of independence from Great Britain. But did you know that this date has other historically important things attached to it? For starters, both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on July 4th, 1826The two are considered to be the opposing political poles of the American Revolution, and their political rivalry and rocky friendship make the date all the more eerie. If this weren’t enough, the week of July 4th marks the anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. Fought from July 1 to July 3, 1863, Gettysburg served as a turning point in the war, ensuring the eventual defeat of the Confederacy. (Gettysburg also remains the largest battle ever fought in the Western hemisphere).

The Library would like to recommend three book titles and one documentary in honor of such a momentous week in American History.


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1776 by David McCullough

“America’s beloved and distinguished historian presents, in a book of breathtaking excitement, drama, and narrative force, the stirring story of the year of our nation’s birth, 1776, interweaving, on both sides of the Atlantic, the actions and decisions that led Great Britain to undertake a war against her rebellious colonial subjects and that placed America’s survival in the hands of George Washington.

In this masterful book, David McCullough tells the intensely human story of those who marched with General George Washington in the year of the Declaration of Independence—when the whole American cause was riding on their success, without which all hope for independence would have been dashed and the noble ideals of the Declaration would have amounted to little more than words on paper.

Based on extensive research in both American and British archives, 1776 is a powerful drama written with extraordinary narrative vitality. It is the story of Americans in the ranks, men of every shape, size, and color, farmers, schoolteachers, shoemakers, no-accounts, and mere boys turned soldiers. And it is the story of the King’s men, the British commander, William Howe, and his highly disciplined redcoats who looked on their rebel foes with contempt and fought with a valor too little known.

Written as a companion work to his celebrated biography of John Adams, David McCullough’s 1776 is another landmark in the literature of American history.” -Taken from


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John Adams by David McCullough

“The Pulitzer Prize–winning, bestselling biography of America’s founding father and second president that was the basis for the acclaimed HBO series, brilliantly told by master historian David McCullough.

In this powerful, epic biography, David McCullough unfolds the adventurous life journey of John Adams, the brilliant, fiercely independent, often irascible, always honest Yankee patriot who spared nothing in his zeal for the American Revolution; who rose to become the second president of the United States and saved the country from blundering into an unnecessary war; who was learned beyond all but a few and regarded by some as “out of his senses”; and whose marriage to the wise and valiant Abigail Adams is one of the moving love stories in American history.

This is history on a grand scale—a book about politics and war and social issues, but also about human nature, love, religious faith, virtue, ambition, friendship, and betrayal, and the far-reaching consequences of noble ideas. Above all, John Adams is an enthralling, often surprising story of one of the most important and fascinating Americans who ever lived.” -Taken from




Image result for thomas jefferson the art of power book coverThomas Jefferson: the Art of Power by Jon Meacham

In this magnificent biography, the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of American Lion and Franklin and Winston brings vividly to life an extraordinary man and his remarkable times. Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power gives us Jefferson the politician and president, a great and complex human being forever engaged in the wars of his era. Philosophers think; politicians maneuver. Jefferson’s genius was that he was both and could do both, often simultaneously. Such is the art of power…

The Jefferson story resonates today not least because he led his nation through ferocious partisanship and cultural warfare amid economic change and external threats, and also because he embodies an eternal drama, the struggle of the leadership of a nation to achieve greatness in a difficult and confounding world.” -Taken from








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The Civil War: A Film by ken Burns

“Hailed as a film masterpiece and landmark in historical storytelling, Ken Burns’s epic documentary brings to life America’s most destructive– and defining–conflict. With digitally enhanced images and new stereo sound, here is the saga of celebrated generals and ordinary soldiers, a heroic and transcendent president and a country that had to divide itself in two in order to become one.” -Taken from 











Happy 4th of July! Try to stay cool out there!

-George, FTPL

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