The Art of War: An Illustrated '1776'

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The Iraq war is chronicled constantly in photographs, newspaper stories, first-person accounts, editorials and books. That was not the case during America's first war.

"The illustration, the reporting on the Revolutionary War was practically nothing by our terms," author David McCullough tells Steve Inskeep. "There was no coverage of the war by the press."

When the Pulitzer Prize-winning author first wrote about the Revolution, he based much of his narrative on diaries and letters. Now there's a new version of the book 1776, with some of those diary entries and letters.

McCullough has also included paintings from the time that he says provide historians with as much insight as the written word.

The great painter John Trumbull, who served in the Revolutionary War as an aide to Gen. George Washington, "considered his life's cause, his great mission, to record for subsequent generations the drama and the participants of his time," McCullough says.

Trumbull's famous painting, The Declaration of Independence 4 July 1776, represents the signing of the document as "an extremely formal scene."

But McCullough says it never took place. "There was no formal signing where everybody was present. The room is not the way it was. He got an awful lot of it very wrong."

But Trumbull got one critical thing right, McCullough says. The artist made sure that the faces of the Founding Fathers were portrayed accurately.

"He spent more than 30 years tracking down almost everybody that was in that painting to either sketch them or paint them from life ..." McCullough says of the painter. "He wanted us to know who they were and to know that they were accountable, not just in their time but for all time."

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