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On June 17, 1775, the entire dynamic of the newborn American Revolution was changed. If the Battle of Lexington and Concord was, in the immortal words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, the “shot heard round the world,” Bunker Hill was the volley that rocked Britain’s Parliament and the ministry of King George III to its core. The Battle of Bunker Hill was the first hostile engagement of the Revolution between two organized armies, and the first time that a genuine American army had ever taken the field. It gave the British...
On June 17, 1775, the entire dynamic of the newborn American Revolution was changed. If the Battle of Lexington and Concord was, in the immortal words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, the “shot heard round the world,” Bunker Hill was the volley that rocked Britain’s Parliament and the ministry of King George III to its core. The Battle of Bunker Hill was the first hostile engagement of the Revolution between two organized armies, and the first time that a genuine American army had ever taken the field. It gave the British their first inkling that the Colonial rabble-in-arms they had envisioned might actually prove to be a formidable fighting force.
In this book, award-winning author James L. Nelson tells the exciting and dramatic story of the fight that changed the face of the American Revolution. He looks at the events leading up to that fateful day, the personalities on both the British and American sides who made momentous decisions, and the bloody outcome of those crucial choices, which would affect the British strategy on the battlefield throughout the coming six more years of active warfare.
A masterful new history of the first set-piece battle of the Revolutionary War, With Fire and Sword offers critical new insights into one of the most important actions of our country’s founding.
"Top-notch research and an entertaining narrative capture all of the drama and flavor of this important event. Nelson writes with the clarity and authority of an historian who at the top of his game."—Tucson Citizen
"Excellent, vivid blow-by-blow account from fine storyteller."—American History Magazine
"Nelson does a remarkable job of bringing history to life, using the voices of those involved.... Nelson brilliantly succeeds at drawing readers into the first major battle of the Revolutionary War."—Bangor Daily News
"[Nelson] makes history entertaining, exciting and fascinating."—Kennebec Journal
"This rousing history rescues Bunker Hill from its folkloric shroud and presents it as one of the revolution's more significant and dramatic battles. ... Nelson's well-researched, entertaining account of the revolution's opening chapter aptly conveys the difficulty and riskiness of the patriots' gamble."—Publishers Weekly
"A clever, often sardonic history of an iconic battle. ... Nelson makes an entertaining case that the American Revolution may have been won on Bunker Hill."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Nelson has written a vivid description of the savage fighting, paying ample tribute to the courage and tenacity displayed by both sides. ... This is a well-done examination of a critical battle, ideal for general readers."—Booklist
"Most appealing is Nelson's refreshing ability to write about historical events and people in a manner that makes history come alive — entertaining, exciting, and fascinating. ... Best, however, is Nelson's gripping description of the battle itself."—New Maine Times
"Mr. Nelson has taken an episode, which usually does not occupy more than a few paragraphs in most histories of Revolution, an d with convincing research and vivid narrative style turned it into an important, marvelously readble book." —Thomas Fleming on George Washington's Secret Navy
"Benedict Arnold's Navy is an excellent book and one worthy of its author, James L. Nelson, who has written several historical books of exceptional quality. Typical of his work, Nelson has taken an episode of history, researched it thoroughly, and produced a smoothly told narrative." —Associated Press
"A suspenseful vivid account." - the Wall Street Journal on Benedict Arnold's Navy
"Nelson does a masterful job of storytelling, describing not just the military actions but also the petty jealousies and backbiting that were all too common in the Continental Army at that time." —Military Heritage on Benedict Arnold's Navy
"Nelson shows in Reign of Iron that his knack as a storyteller is as strong in a historical examination as it is in novels. But he also displays a great grasp of perspective that allows him to deal with the significance of events." —Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
A clever, often sardonic history of an iconic battle.
Prolific historian Nelson (George Washington's Great Gamble: And the Sea Battle that Won the American Revolution, 2010, etc.) begins in turbulent 1760s Massachusetts, which, in his often tongue-in-cheek narrative, resembles less the traditional high-school patriotic pageant than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. More than a century and a half of Britain's benign neglect had left the colonies largely self-governing. Attempts to reassert control by levying taxes produced widespread outrage and violence. Zealots such as Sam Adams and Joseph Warren denounced Britain in rhetoric similar to today's Tea Party. By the mid-1770s, matters were out of hand with trigger-happy militia springing up, far outnumbering British troops. Massachusetts governor Thomas Gage understood the situation, but superiors in London demanded action. When he sent troops to seize arms in Lexington and Concord, the resulting debacle merely convinced superiors that he lacked the necessary firmness. They sent reinforcements and hectoring advice as angry militia laid siege to Boston. In June 1775, overconfident British forces charged well-defended entrenchments around Bunker Hill, suffering repeated bloody repulses before overrunning them. Gage was dismissed. Ironically, his replacement, Gen. William Howe, commanded during the battle and bears responsibility for Britain's pyrrhic victory. In 1776, Howe's forces routed Americans on Long Island, demoralized remnants took shelter behind entrenchments on Brooklyn Heights. An attack might have annihilated them. Instead, possibly recalling his unhappy experience the previous year, Howe paused, allowing them to withdraw intact.
Nelson makes an entertaining case that the American Revolution may have been won on Bunker Hill.
Map: Bunker Hill 10
Map: Boston and Environs 12
Prologue: The Battle of Brooklyn 15
Part I From Resistance to Rebellion
Chapter 1 The Lexington Alarm 53
Chapter 2 Dr. Joseph Warren 78
Chapter 3 "The Butchering Hands of an Inhuman Soldiery" 115
Chapter 4 Weed of Slavery 142
Chapter 5 Gage's Return 173
Chapter 6 The Loyal and Orderly People 200
Chapter 7 A Well-Digested Plan 220
Part II Prelude to War
Chapter 8 From the Penn to the Sword 251
Chapter 9 Officers and Men 280
Chapter 10 The Massachusetts Army 307
Chapter 11 Three Generals 336
Chapter 12 The Siege of Boston 365
Part III The Battle of Bunker Hill
Chapter 13 Charlestown Heights 391
Chapter 14 First Light 418
Chapter 15 Redcoats and Bluejackets 447
Chapter 16 The Battle of Bunker Hill 480
Chapter 17 Attack and Repulse 511
Epilogue "We Are All Wrong at the Head" 549