Ketchum explores what made that bloody, but relatively small, action decisive by probing the deteriorating relationships between New England and Britain during the months before the battle. He forcefully argues that both the British and American commanders were still seeking ways to make peace even as the guns began to fire. After June 17, 1775, the Americans and the British could view each other only as enemies.
The author of two other books on the Revolutionary War (Saratoga and The Winter Soldiers), Ketchum has written an authoritative history of how Americans--especially the rank-and-file soldiers--won their nation through combat. In Decisive Day he argues that the remarkable transformation of American rebels into soldiers was a crucial, if intangible, episode within the battle. Indeed, as those tired and shell-shocked colonials waited on their ramparts for some of the most disciplined fighters in the world, they did not shoot haphazardly, but held their fire until they saw the whites of British eyes. --James Highfill