I have recently read three books from Bill O’Reilly’s “Killing” series: Killing the SS, Killing Patton, and most recently Killing England. The books are well written and offer deep dives into periods of history and the lives of individuals during those times. In Killing England, there are multiple lessons that can be gleaned, but a few in particular stood out.
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Some moments require a sense of urgency
Both the British and the Colonials encountered critical moments during the Revolutionary War. War in general can require quick and confident decision making. Consequences of decisions made can be glorious or catastrophic. There are many examples of these situations in the book, but there is one noteworthy occurrence that sticks out: Washington’s crossing of the Delaware. During the dead of winter, in the middle of the night, during Christmas time, Washington led his troops on a surprise attack against Hessian forces allied to the British. The attack was heard of by the Hessians, but so audacious and shocking was the plan, that officers did not heed the warning. Washington’s force crossed successfully, surprised the opposing side, and defeated the Hessian units.
In history class growing up I don’t think I realized how pivotal this moment was in the war and ultimately American history. The context of the situation makes the crossing all the more necessary. Many of the Colonial troops were about to go home as there term of service expired in the fast approaching new year. If he had waited to attack and hunkered down during the winter, Washington may not have had a sufficient army to fight with come spring. The general knew that he needed a decisive turn of events to keep hope alive and give the American side a fighting chance. There are moments in our lives that require quick and decisive thinking. Decisions made during these moments will have lasting effects, and we must be ready to do our best to make wise choices during these periods.
Know when to stop
One of Washington’s most important decisions resulted in not a victory but an evacuation. At the Battle of Brooklyn, realizing his weakened position, Washington evacuated a mass amount of troops and supplies during the night, thereby saving precious resources and men that may have otherwise been taken and destroyed by the British. Sometimes, in life and business, we must know when to pivot our focus, move on, and live to fight another day.
Persevering through setbacks
Washington had his fair share of setbacks and hardship. Early in his career he had lost battles. Congressmen expressed doubt in him throughout the years, and some requested that he be replaced. In addition to failures, hardships such as the winter in Valley Forge were endured, where Washington lost nearly 2,000 men to harsh conditions. But he and his men came out of it. Washington had stayed with his men during the harsh winter, and his men respected him for it. Following the cold season, American leaders knew that there was no replacing him after the loyalty that he showed the army.
I definitely recommend giving Killing England a read or listen. The book is an in depth recounting of the Revolutionary War and captivates the reader through stories of men and women on both sides of the conflict. I appreciate the author’s objectivity he shows in sharing good and bad details about different aspects of society during this time. Obviously the American side claimed to fight for freedom and wrote in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal.” Yet many simultaneously endorsed the current practice of slavery. Benjamin Franklin is considered a Founding Father, yet was not the most morally upright man as he was a not so secretive womanizer throughout his life. Bill O’Reilly does not shy away from mentioning the good with the bad, which I feel adds to the credibility of the book.
History can be messy. No individual is perfect. But whether good or bad, we can study history to learn lessons both good and bad, and can apply them to our lives going forward. I give this book 4 stars.