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on May 25, 2013
Author Nathaniel Philbrick has favored us with his latest effort on Bunker Hill. I thoroughly enjoyed his previous books on The Mayflower and the one on General Custer. This book entitled Bunker Hill is divided into three parts entitled I. Liberty 2. Rebellion and 3. The Siege. I have to admit I found the book slow going in part 1. The book picked up considerably in part 2 with the battles at Lexington and Concord. Part 3 is about the battle on Bunker and Breeds' Hill which proved to be the single bloodiest battle in the war with 1100 causalities suffered by the British and 400 by the colonial army.

I found the author bringing out the personalities of those involved to be very well done with the hero, if there is to be one, to be Dr. Joseph Warren who was killed in the battle. Author Philbrick states that had Warren not been killed American history may very well have been quite different because the name George Washington may only have been a footnote in history and best known for his role in the French and Indian War. People generally are familiar with George Washington, Paul Revere, Sam Adams, and John Hancock but Author Philbrick also brings out the personalities of General Thomas Gage, Nathanael Greene, Henry "Ox" Knox, and minister Mather Byles among others. Byles is an interesting character and when asked how he could be a "brainless Tory", Byles answered by saying, "Tell me, which is better, to be ruled by one tyrant 3,000 miles away, or by 3,000 tyrants not a mile away?" He called the soldier who was ordered to guard him as his "observe-a-tory."

I enjoy reading about American history, but I did find the book to be more detailed for my taste. If your background is better than mine this should not be a problem for you. Since it was a little more descriptive than I would have liked I will rate it four stars.
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on October 24, 2015
"Bunker Hill: A City, A Siege, A Revolution," by Nathaniel Philbrick, is a marvelous book that looks at the lead-up to and early stages of the American Revolution. It is well detailed. Most books covering this period of our American history cover the Battle of Concord and Lexington but stop short of including the Battle of Bunker Hill (which, incidentally, was fought in large part on Breed's Hill in Charlestown) and the subsequent siege of Boston. This history provides the full story and is a must read for any history buff. The main cast of characters are here ... Dr. Joseph Warren who was killed at Bunker Hill; Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, et. al. and their British adversaries. Of the many books on this period that I have read, this is one of the best because it includes the Battle of Bunker Hill and the Siege of Boston, which galvanized the patriots of New England into revolutionary action and ignited the "embers" into full revolution in places such as New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and the Carolinas.
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on October 17, 2015
I have read a LOT of books on the Revolution, in fact it is all I have read for years now, and so far (have not finished this yet), this is one of the best I have read! I was surprised to find that this book is more than just the title! I have not even gotten to the Battle yet! In fact, not even up to Lexington & Concord yet! The book takes you through all of what transpired leading up to the start of the Revolution. Of course, since this is a lot of territory to cover, a lot of details are missing, that I have read in other books, BUT, there have been many, many details that I have not seen in other books. Its like the author knows what most people (that do any reading on the subject at all) already know so he skips over those and adds details that he knows are not in a lot of other books. In addition, the writing style is excellent, very enjoyable to read. If you are a student of the Revolution, I heartily recommend this book!
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This is a comprehensive history of the background of Bunker Hill and the aftereffects of that bloody battle. At the outset, it seems obligatory to note that the fight actually took place on Breed's Hill.

The book itself considers the various actions leading to an army of militiamen to surround British forces in Boston. The French and Indian War is discussed (quite a few Yankee leaders had had combat experience then). So, too, laws passed by Great Britain to pay for the debt incurred by British forces in that war--leading to anger in the colonies, as they were taxed without representation. Incidents such as the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party inflamed passions all around--patriots, loyalist, and Great Britain. The conflicts between militia and Redcoats at Lexington and Concord led to an army of militia focusing on Boston.

The book also spends considerable time outlining the key characters of the drama. On the British side, former Governor Hutchinson, Generals Thomas Gage, William Howe, and Henry Clinton were key players in the building of the drama culminating in Bunker Hill. On the patriot side, well known figures such as Sam Adams, John Adams, and John Hancock are discussed, So, too, a less well know figure, Joseph Warren. With the other three off at the Continental Congress, Warren played a leading role in organizing the patriots. Then, a much less wll known figure, a rabblerouser and trouble maker, who went by the nom de guerre of Joyce Junior. In fact, he was a part of one of the colony's most eminent families.

After Bunker Hill, new figures became important--George Washington, taking command of the besieging forces at Boston, Henry Knox, who helped create an artillery arm for the army, and so on. The book does a nice job of describing the siege, Washington's battle within himself, the dramatic capture of Dorchester Heights, and the subsequent withdrawal of British forces from Boston.

A wonderful resource for understanding the events and players leading up to the battle at Bunker Hill and what followed from that sanguinary event.
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on September 4, 2013
I know you think you know about Bunker Hill. After all, there is a monument to the battle overlooking Boston harbor; the name itself seems to suggest something about the beginning of the American Revolution; the main actors in this great drama are a bit fuzzy but we knew they were ardent patriots; we knew that the British inflicted grave damage to the ragtag Colonial army. All of that is true but there is so much more to what is really the opening chapter to the Revolution. Nathaniel Philbrick, a great historian who has told us the story of the Mayflower voyage in 1620 and several stories of the wild sea, now turns his lens on that modest hill just outside Boston.

First, it should be noted that this is very well written history. It moves well, leading the reader along into an exciting story of emerging patriotism, bravery and determination, all of which would ultimately defeat the British. The problems in dealing with the colonies steadily mounted during the early-1770's and were capped by the bloody battles of Lexington and Concord when the colonials battled the British troops to a draw. But now, in June 1775, the colonials
 found themselves facing more than 1600 British soldiers determined to break out of their surrounded base in Boston and expand their perimeter to the north and west, first by taking possession of the large hill - Bunker Hill -- just northwest of Boston harbor.

The British possessed huge advantages. The army was drawn from some of the finest men in England, supplemented by skilled mercenaries from Germany. The navy was by far the most impressive and powerful in the world and enabled the British to prevent the colonials from shuttling men and arms from one arena to another along the Eastern seaboard. The industrial might of England reached levels no country in the world had ever attained.

In spite of this, the Americans had a degree of determination to govern themselves, habits ingrained in them by the the British themselves in their Glorious Revolution that swept an unpopular king from his throne almost one hundred years before the start of the American Revolution. Also, the Americans had the good luck to have several remarkable men emerge, almost magically, to play pivotal roles in the revolt: Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Hancock, and others. Perhaps none was as important in the early days leading up to Bunker Hill as a relatively unknown physician, Joseph Warren. It was Warren who organized the defense north of Boston, led the American colonists in resisting the British advances up the hill, and engaged in continual correspondence with the nascent colonial government sitting in Philadelphia. Warren was tragically killed during the end stages of the battle; it is Philbrick's opinion that had he lived he, not Washington, would have led the colonial army.

Bunker Hill was the beginning of the war for independence. As we know, it took another six years and eventually swept British and American forces north towards the Canadian border and then south, ending in Yorktown, where the British forces surrendered and the Revolution was over. But it was at Bunker Hill where the Americans proved that they could fight even a power as great as England.
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on September 9, 2013
This book was sitting on my desk for a couple of months unread as I bought it with the intent of a quick read to buttress my "large" knowledge base on the topic so I was in no rush. I was also not a fan of Philbrick's Mayflower.

The book starts a little slow but in retrospect, plants the seeds for the all important understanding of the battles that led to the formation of a cohesive cause for independence. In fact, I went back and reread the first 20% of the book after finishing the book, getting so much more out of it than initially and actually having much more interest in the first 20% the second time around.

This book is the most in depth and unique book of all the books I have read on the topic. I enjoyed it more and found it much more informative as well as more entertaining and informative than Fischer's Revere.

Philbrick lays the foundation of the mindset of the colonists, the serendipitous grouping of events that led to the escalation that truly gets you not just into the battles, but into the minds and hearts of the leaders, followers and townspeople. Many facts were revealed to me I had never known. This was not a cursory look at an "important time in nascent America" but an in depth look at leaders few know about often from a fragmented group that many were worried could lead to a military dictatorship during the fight to rid the colonists of the oppression of the British. Details such as Howe's discombobulation during the Battle of Bunker (Breed's Hill) was the result of this fragmentation, with Stark, Prescott and Knowlton leading their own plans, that was foreign to Howe-Howe used to fighting a unified and cohesive Army with one leader.

The maps are good, not excellent like some others, however, the narrative associated with these maps are so excellent that I rarely had to refer to them and when I did, I actually used other maps from a search on Google.

What always impresses me about the fight for freedom in this country is just how important topological, geographical and geological aspects to this "new land" played in the outcomes. The best examples of this were in Boston, NY and Trenton. This book does a masterful job of illustrating how these influences had a huge determination on the outcomes and does it with a visceral effect.

I understand this book may not be everyone's cup of tea, but if you like delving into this era, following not just the treks of the soldiers but the hearts and minds of those involved this book is a winner. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it.
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on August 12, 2014
I enjoyed this book because it upset many expectations and beliefs I'd had about the battle of Bunker Hill. Philbrick's version is much messier than the one I had understood. He made me aware of the dissension among the patriots and among the British military leaders, not just among the colonists who were divided in their loyalties to the king and the colony. Philbrick presents General Gage as being more sympathetic to the colonists' complaints against Parliament than the colonists knew, and he presents some of the patriots as being hot-headed agitators, especially Joyce Jr., who relished tarring and feathering Tories. His hero is not George Washington but Joseph Warren, the pragmatic and charismatic leader of the initial resistance, who was killed in the major battle. His Tea Partiers are more like our current ones than he or I would like, extremists. The military strategists on both sides are nearly comical, so much depends upon luck and happenstance.
The battle of Bunker Hill, it turns out, was really fought on Breede's Hill, because the patriot general built the fortification on the wrong hill, one much lower and closer to the British warships, whose cannons would not have been able to reach Bunker Hill. Washington, though he has all the virtues usually attributed him, is less attractive, snobbier, in fact, than most Americans, especially New Englanders, would care for. He IS
capable of learning, however, both as a military strategist and as a leader. Philbrick says Washington's biggest battle was with himself, and he won. This is a balanced and eye-opening book. If you haven't looked at American history since grade school, you'll learn a lot.
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on April 28, 2016
The book arrived on time in great condition.. This part is 5 stars. I gave the first 107 pages (pre-fighting) about 3 stars. Things like the coersive atcs etc are interesting and important to know. Once the bullets start flying at the Lexington Green this book is intense. Finally, It gives Dr Joeseph Warren his due. He was a patriot that rose to prominance at the outbreak of the fighting and was made a Major General. Philbrick suggests that if Warren were not killed at the evacuation of Breeds Hill - due to a lack of pwder - George Washingto would have been a much less of a prominant figure. Anyway the last two Parts of the book where the Patriots are fighting the British - I give a 5 star rating to. Interesting.
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on June 23, 2013
As a former resident of the area and a self-proclaimed history nut, I think the author did a wonderful job of describing the social turmoil of the New England colonies running up to the beginning and through the first year of hostilities. His descriptions of life in British Boston show a great understanding of the cross-currents of ideas and conflicts loyalties that were thrashing around at that time. In this modern era, we always seem to overlook the fact that communication across the Atlantic was not only time-consuming, but was physically risky. It is easily apparent that the author has done an enormous amount of research in preparing to write this book.

An unfortunate characteristic of this book is the way in which the author forces modern politically correct tidbits into the historical narrative. It almost appears the author had a checklist of things to be sure to include to get the manuscript past a censorship board. Any student of the period already knows about the very large contribution by both free and enslaved blacks as well as the impact they made in forcing the debate of slavery in the Continental Congress. This book could have gone much deeper if the intent was to explain these contributions to a wider audience, rather than just making sure to pass some editorial board's checklist.

After accepting the modern political reality of recording of historical events using 21st century prejudices, I think the author did a marvelous job of collecting and collating the diaries and letters of not only the well-known Colonial leaders but also the largely ignored British leadership (ignored in traditional US school books and narratives). This book is an excellent presentation of the battle for the "hearts and minds" of Colonial America that took place as the stage on which the physical battles of the period took place.
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on October 6, 2013
With Last Stand and Mayflower Nathaniel Philbrick set the bar very, very high for historical writing. Bunker Hill comes very close to those noble standards...close but like the initial volleys from Henry Knox's canons looking down on British-occupied Boston his shots land within the city limits but miss the mark. Philbrick reveals countless details of the events leading to the battle of Bunker Hill, most are new and go a long way to set the record straight, often by shattering long-standing myths. But the battle itself seems to get short shrift, occupying scarcely a third of the pages. And the maps and illustrations a woefully inadequate, especially if you are reading on any electronic platform. One saving grace is the appendage with numerous paintings, engravings and other illustrations of many of the actors in the historic battle.

It is worth the read but not his best.
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