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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 fiancee, 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.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Rick on 09-30-13
Another Fantastic Story by Philbrick
Phlegm, Bile, Black Blood and Red Blood. My God! How did we ever make it as a race let alone a country? That little tie bit is just a taste of some of the rocks Mr. Philbrick has overturned to give us the story behind Bunker Hill and the hardships the American Patriots overcame to become the United States. People like (Dr.) Warren, and Church, Washington and Adams as well as countless other took on the 18th century just as ardent as the themselves. The redcoats were really no match then, were they?
I'm never disappointed when I read a Philbrick book. Whether he tells of the wooden whaling ships on the high seas or the same on an expedition. The story behind the Mayflower or Custer's last stand, he never lets the reader down. Bunker Hill is just another fine example of the writer sharing a story in a way that makes sense to the reader without dumbing it down, and without the endless ramble of how we got from page 1 to page 2..
This book was enjoyable, finishing it in about a weekend. And a big part of that goes to Mr. Chris Sorenson whose even tone and inflection made the book even easier to read/listen to. For a moment, I thought I was hearing Dylan Baker (Steve Jobs) which I read/listened to 3 times. Very easy on the ears. Well done!
This book is a credit well spent, and well worth the 12 hours to hear. Traveling in a few weeks, I may pop it in again!
34 of 36 people found this review helpful
By David I. Williams on 05-15-13
Excellent Narrative of The Period
The Battle of Bunker Hill. Most Americans have heard of this famous battle. June 17, 1775, the British forces led by General William Howe attacked the newly fortified Colonial position on Breed’s Hill and were repulsed on the first two attempts. On the third attempt the Colonial forces were finally forced to pull back due to lack of powder. The battle was not a large battle, fewer than 6,000 soldiers were involved. This would have been considered barely a skirmish in Europe. Yet this fight lives on in American legend.
Nathaniel Philbrick turns his talent to the story of this famous battle. He starts the book well before the events of that fateful day. He recounts the struggles between the colonial population and the British government over issues such as taxation. He gives a lot of detail about the nature and use of mob violence in colonial world. Philbrick spends a lot of time on this subject. He paints a rather terrifying spectacle of these mobs. One of the stories he relates is of an outspoken supporter of government policy who is taken from his home, dragged through the town, tarred, feathered, beaten, and almost hanged before the crowd is through with him.
There are two prominent characters in this book that we don’t hear enough about today: Joseph Warren and Samuel Adams. These were the two primary leaders in the anti-government movement. Samuel Adams, the elder of the two was a well known rabble rouser. He understood how to work the crowds and to use every situation to his advantage. Joseph Warren was one of the most respected physicians in Boston. He was also dedicated to the cause of liberty. He was, by all accounts, a great orator and a tireless worker on behalf of the cause. Philbrick spends a lot of time speculating as to whether he fathered a child by a maid. This may be the weakest part of the book. It really doesn’t matter whether or not Warren fathered this child and it does nothing to tell the story.
A good amount of the book deals with the lead up to the British march on Lexington and Concord, and with the actual fights on that April day. I was not aware of the British atrocities committed on the retreat to Boston until I read this book. Many of the dead Americans were civilians who were simply murdered by the British who were enraged over being forced to retreat.
Philbrick spends a lot of time on the battle itself. The main part of the battle was actually fought on Breed’s Hill, not Bunker Hill. The colonial forces were supposed to fortify Bunker Hill, but went to far forward and dug in to a less defensible position on Breed’s Hill. The British success drove the colonial forces off of Breed’s Hill and then Bunker Hill. It was in the defense of Breed’s Hill that Joseph Warren has killed. His loss was felt strongly by all who knew him.
Philbrick is a very good writer and knows how to keep the narrative flowing. He has found a lot of interesting stories and a lot of interesting characters. This is an easy to read, enjoyable book that can read with little or no background knowledge of the subject.
26 of 30 people found this review helpful