Boston in 1775 is an island city occupied by British troops after a series of incendiary incidents by patriots who range from sober citizens to thuggish vigilantes. Read more...
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Boston in 1775 is an island city occupied by British troops after a series of incendiary incidents by patriots who range from sober citizens to thuggish vigilantes. After the Boston Tea Party, British and American soldiers and Massachusetts residents have warily maneuvered around each other until April 19, when violence finally erupts at Lexington and Concord. In June, however, with the city cut off from supplies by a British blockade and Patriot militia poised in siege, skirmishes give way to outright war in the Battle of Bunker Hill. It would be the bloodiest battle of the Revolution to come, and the point of no return for the rebellious colonists.
Philbrick brings a fresh perspective to every aspect of the story. He finds new characters, and new facets to familiar ones. The real work of choreographing rebellion falls to a thirty-three year old physician named Joseph Warren who emerges as the on-the-ground leader of the Patriot cause and is fated to die at Bunker Hill. Others in the cast include Paul Revere, Warren's fiancE the poet Mercy Scollay, a newly recruited George Washington, the reluctant British combatant General Thomas Gage and his more bellicose successor William Howe, who leads the three charges at Bunker Hill and presides over the claustrophobic cauldron of a city under siege as both sides play a nervy game of brinkmanship for control.
With passion and insight, Philbrick reconstructs the revolutionary landscape--geographic and ideological--in a mesmerizing narrative of the robust, messy, blisteringly real origins of America.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-02-25
- Reviewer: Staff
Like most popular historians, Philbrick (Mayflower) writes about discrete events, not large developments. And he’s good at it, even if the larger context is rarely considered and critical analysis gives way to story and celebration. Here, his focus is on events that began with the humiliations of the British at Lexington and Concord and ended with the siege of Boston, the American victory at Bunker Hill in 1775, and the departure in 1776 of British forces from New England’s largest city. Philbrick correctly presents the battle at Bunker Hill as a critical moment in the opening stages of the War for Independence, and displays an empathy for the out-maneuvered British caught in the traps that the Patriots laid for them. He wisely makes as one of his central figures the Patriots’ charismatic leader, Joseph Warren, who was killed at Bunker Hill, and who has since been largely forgotten, despite having been the man responsible for “orchestrating the on-the-ground reality of a revolution.” Philbrick tells his tale in traditional fashion—briskly, colorfully, and with immediacy. The book would have benefited from a point of view more firmly grounded in a contemporary evaluation of the battle, but even as it is—no one has told this tale better. Agent: Stuart Krichevsky, Stuart Krichevsky Literary Agency, Inc. (May)
Unrecognized heroes of the American Revolution
Since elementary school, we’ve been told that the American Revolution was the work of such luminaries as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. But there were a number of other patriots who’ve long been neglected by the history books, and it is time to give them their due. This is the premise of Nathaniel Philbrick’s Bunker Hill, a marvelous book that recaps the highlights of the birth of our nation, while adding new insights into our history.
We know from our history lessons that on June 17, 1775, a group of inexperienced colonists repelled two assaults by highly trained British forces on Bunker Hill and adjoining Breed’s Hill. The colonists were scattered on the third assault, but the British suffered heavy casualties, and Bunker Hill became a symbol of the grit and determination of the colonists and their struggle for independence.
As in his previous books, including the bestsellers Mayflower and In the Heart of the Sea, Philbrick immerses himself in his subject; like a detective, he doesn’t quit until every stone is turned. He writes of the Battle of Bunker Hill in rich detail and gives credit to such heroes as Colonel William Prescott, Colonel John Stark and General Israel Putnam. But Bunker Hill isn’t a book about one battle. It also covers other important aspects of the American Revolution, such as the Boston Tea Party and Paul Revere’s Ride. And in telling these tales, Philbrick places the spotlight on heroes who rarely get proper credit.
Consider Dr. Joseph Warren, who was the field commander at Bunker Hill and who lost his life in the third assault by the British. Warren was a key figure in Boston, and the one who gave Revere his orders on April 18, 1775, to mount his horse and warn the colonists of the arrival of the British. Another strong figure was Mercy Scollay, Warren’s fiancée, who cared for his four orphaned children after his death.
Bunker Hill helps humanize history, bringing to life characters that we’ve heretofore only known as two-dimensional figures, if at all. It will appeal equally to both serious history buffs and casual readers looking for something lively and enlightening.