On Our Bookshelves: Bunker Hill

NOVEL: Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution

AUTHOR: Nathaniel Philbrick



Focusing on the lead-up and beginning of the American Revolutionary War from 1773 to 1776, this lush look-back covers the British occupation of Boston after the Boston Tea Party as well as the Battles of Lexington and Concord, Bunker Hill and the British evacuation of Boston.


Known for its piety, smuggling ops, as well as its whorehouses, eighteenth-century Boston was the powder keg that set off the historic clash between the British government and American colonists.

Nathaniel Philbrick’s latest book returns us to that turbulent time and retells the history of a seaport city in distress and the people who inhabited it. But instead of concentrating on some of the more familiar patriots such as Samuel Adams, John Adams or John Hancock, Philbrick, himself a Boston native, throws a readers a nice little curve, spending most of the book introducing us to Dr. Joseph Warren.

Handsome, charming, a respected doctor, President of the Massachusetts Provisional Congress, Major General in the Massachusetts Militia, and ardent advocate for independence, Warren was one of the leading lights of the patriot movement in Boston.  His death at the Battle of Bunker Hill, where he decided to act as a private soldier instead of his rank of Major General, provided the fledgling separatist cause one of its well-known early martyrs.

Philbrick also tries to set the record straight. Where American history classes tend to give the impression that the British were barbaric in their treatment of the colonists, Philbrick steps in to point out how much restraint was shown by the Red Coats. Their Commander, General Thomas Gage, had served in the Colonies since the French and Indian War. His wife was a New Yorker and he hoped to end the standoff over the Tea Party in a peaceful manner. He kept his soldiers under tight rein in spite of the numerous patriot provocations and even after the outbreak of hostilities at Lexington and Concord.

Philbrick does not offer up any new revelations throughout, but he presents an excellent overview of Boston during the period, deftly reintroduces us to a couple of colorful characters, and manages to convey the horror of battle.

If you’re intrigued by history and how authors interpret it, this read is well worth the shot.

RATING (one to five whistles, with five being the best): Four Whistles.


* Dr. Warren is the man who ordered Paul Revere to take his famous ride to warn the countryside that the British were coming.

* The Battle of Bunker Hill actually took place on Breed’s Hill.

* The militia members who met the British regulars on Lexington Green on a famous April morning had been waiting in a tavern for most of the night.



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