The Whites of Their Eyes: Bunker Hill, the First American Army, and the Emergence of George Washington

( 14 )

Overview

Paul Lockhart combines military and political history to offer a major reassessment of one of the most famous battles in American history.

One hot June afternoon in 1775, on the gentle slopes of a hill near Boston, Massachusetts, a small band of ordinary Americans—frightened but fiercely determined—dared to stand up to a superior British force. The clash would be immortalized as the Battle of Bunker Hill: the first real engagement of the American Revolution and one of the most ...

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The Whites of Their Eyes: Bunker Hill, the First American Army, and the Emergence of George Washington

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Overview

Paul Lockhart combines military and political history to offer a major reassessment of one of the most famous battles in American history.

One hot June afternoon in 1775, on the gentle slopes of a hill near Boston, Massachusetts, a small band of ordinary Americans—frightened but fiercely determined—dared to stand up to a superior British force. The clash would be immortalized as the Battle of Bunker Hill: the first real engagement of the American Revolution and one of the most famous battles in our history.But Bunker Hill was not the battle that we have been taught to believe it was.

Revisiting old evidence and drawing on new research, historian Paul Lockhart, author of The Drillmaster of Valley Forge, shows that Bunker Hill was a clumsy engagement pitting one inexperienced army against another. Lockhart tells the rest of the story, too: how a mob of armed civilians became America's first army; how George Washington set aside his comfortable patrician life to take command of the veterans of Bunker Hill; and how the forgotten heroes of 1775—though overshadowed by themore famous Founding Fathers—kept the notion of American liberty alive, and thus made independence possible.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The strengths and weaknesses of the early Revolutionary War effort are illuminated in this stimulating history (the second this season, after Thomas Nelson's The Fire and the Sword) of the first engagement—and of the 1775 American siege of Boston. Historian Lockhart (The Drillmaster of Valley Forge) skillfully explains the factors that shaped it: the American blunder of fortifying Breed's Hill instead of the more defensible Bunker Hill; the British blunder of halting under fire instead of pressing home their bayonet charges; the ammunition shortfall on the American side that decided things; and the horrific British casualties. He sets the battle against a vivid portrait of the American army, a fractious, panicky, ill-disciplined force some of whose soldiers often walked off at the drop of a hat, but still managed to stand up to the vaunted Redcoats. (His account closes with an appalled George Washington taking over a camp that was the antithesis of Valley Forge.) Lockhart's shrewd, well-judged interpretation corrects myths about the battle and the men who fought it while doing full justice to their achievement in creating an army—and a nation—out of chaos. 17 b&w photos; 2 maps. (June)
Kirkus Reviews

Lockhart (History/Wright State Univ.; The Drillmaster of Valley Forge: The Baron de Steuben and the Making of the American Army, 2008, etc.) suggests that conventional Fourth of July hyperbole about the Battle of Bunker Hill "confuses history with heritage, conflates fantasy and patriotic sentiment."

The author compares the British and American forces and find them both made up of poorly trained raw recruits, led by generals—Thomas Gage and Artemas Ward—who had profited from the lessons of the French and Indian War, in which they had fought side-by-side. The American militiamen were settled farmers, not hardy frontiersman, and the British army was not the finest in the world. Gage had gained respect for American militiamen and recognized the need for marksmanship, while Ward recognized the importance of drill and light infantry tactics. The Massachusetts Provincial Congress and the Committee of Safety were prepared to respond quickly and decisively when Gage moved his army into Concord and Lexington to quell the incipient rebellion. However, the militiamen who responded enthusiastically to the call to protect their colony were not prepared for a war, and Ward faced the problem of establishing even rudimentary discipline in camp. Lockhart explores how the militant Massachusetts leadership—Ward, Samuel Adams, Joseph Warren, General Ward and Israel Putnam—were spoiling for a decisive battle. For six weeks—until British forces were reinforced—the militia commanded the heights surrounding Boston. Ironically, the actual battle on June 17 was not fought on Bunker Hill as planned, but on the less defensible, neighboring Breed's Hill; the author calls the battle a "triumphant defeat." Yet this was a mixed blessing because it obscured the need for a disciplined and trained army in order to defeat the British.

Nonetheless, as the author ably demonstrates, the actual story is "about ordinary people who, when put to the test, did extraordinary things."

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061958861
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/7/2011
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 475,076
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul Lockhart is a professor of history at Wright State University, where he teaches European and military history. He lives in Dayton, Ohio.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 14 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 15, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    a fresh interpretation of the beginning of the Revolution

    The shift of 13 loyal crown colonies, to the independent United States is subtle, because it happens over the better part of the decade, Yet when it happened, particularly in New England, where the descendants of many of the old Roundheads from the Civil War of a century before reside; it happened with a deliberate violence that stunned the Empire in its organization and intent. The turn of the colonial resistance from petition, to protest to armed resistance precedes this story. The rise of the First American Army, and its really amateur siege of the British Army in Boston, throughout 1775, is the subject of this book.

    Lockhart, a professor of European and military history at Wright State University, brings his professional experience to primarily examining the organization and action of the First American Army in comparison and contrast to the British Army. He brings a fresh perspective on the primary sources relating to that military conflict in the Boston area in 1775. What he has done, besides telling afresh the story of that early resistance, is to show how many popular ideas, like the experience of the British army, and the reliability of the New England militia, are largely overstated and not really demonstrated by the military facts of those moments.

    This book focuses on the leadership of the two militaries and the many challenges they both faced. The military stories of the leadership is well told. Lockhart is sympathetic to both, and freely shows the shortcomings of both sides. His irony argument is that the leadership of the colonial militia had more experience fighting for the Crown than did rank and file members of the British Army they were facing, yet both corps of enlisted men were both raw and inexperienced.

    The sense of place, the physical environment of the land around Boston harbor is well told here, precisely because it is so important to understanding the decisions and reactions of both militaries. The political decisions, removed away in Philadelphia and London, are only at the periphery of this work, for they both were only spectators, particularly to decisions regarding Bunker Hill. Though Lockhart does show effectively how the conflict around the harbor in 1775 hardened the political leadership of both sides to pursue the conflict towards its end of either total rebellion suppression (like in Ireland in the 1790's) or towards independence. The book ends with the establishment and attempt of military professionalism, through Washington and leadership from the Continental Congress, not from voluntary New England committees.

    As a popular work of military history, Lockhart writes a good narrative, and explains well the military tactics and terminology of the 18th century well enough. The general reader should enjoy the story, and the examination of human nature through the many characters of the battle. The book could have used more descriptions of the views of the junior officers and senior enlisted men of the British Army, though I realize that those are harder to come by. Nevertheless, this is an enjoyable read that brings new light to the conflict.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2012

    Great read on the flight home from Boston

    I had a long flight home after my first trip to Boston. The day before, the wife and I had walked the Freedom Trail, culminating at a stop at the Bunker Hill monument and museum. This first great battle of the American Revolution (not to discount the efforts at Lexington and Concord) set the tone for the Revolution. After this, there would be no going back, nowhere to go but forward in the fight against Great Britain.
    This book details briefly the events in Boston 1775 leading up to the battle and then the battle itself. The major players are brought to the forefront and the reader is left with a clear understanding of how the battle unfolded and the remarkable efforts of the rebels to build and then defend the redoubt just hours later.
    For those looking for more information on this pyrrhic British victory, look no further.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 7, 2011

    awesome

    One of the best history books I've read and I've read alot,was very worth the 15 dollars.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2014

    This is one of the best books on Bunker Hill I've ever read.  I

    This is one of the best books on Bunker Hill I've ever read.  I details the story of the American army nearly from conception.  The majority of Paul Lockhart's sources come from correspondence.  It is a must-have for any person interested in the American War of Independence.  

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2013

    Stonetail

    She dips her head. "Thank you, Cloudstar."

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2013

    Starlightshimmer

    Starlightshimmer is locked out!!!

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2013

    Brambletalon

    We are moving main camp to result two

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2013

    CS

    "Good catch." She purred. ~€

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2012

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    Posted August 19, 2011

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    Posted January 27, 2014

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    Posted May 21, 2012

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    Posted September 13, 2011

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