With Fire and Sword: The Battle of Bunker Hill and the Beginning of the American Revolution

James L. Nelson, Author
James L. Nelson, St. Martin's/Dunne, $27.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-312-57644-8
Reviewed on: 01/03/2011
Release date: 03/01/2011
Hardcover - 635 pages - 978-1-4104-3824-9
Ebook - 384 pages - 978-1-4299-6807-2
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This rousing history rescues Bunker Hill from its folkloric shroud and pre-sents it as one of the revolution's more significant and dramatic battles. Historian and novelist Nelson (Benedict Arnold's Navy) calls the 1775 engagement—a struggle for high ground from which American artillery could hit the British stronghold in Boston—the revolution's "first real battle." Amateurish Minutemen weathered a standup fight against the superbly drilled redcoats. (That they could obey the famous order to hold their fire until they could see the whites of their enemies' eyes was a triumph in itself.) The outcome was a bloodbath in which "the [British] front ranks were mowed down as if the hand of God had swept them away"—until the ammunition ran out and the Americans fled. Nelson's gripping portrait of the battle caps a lively chronicle of the early days of the rebellion in Massachusetts and of the revolutionaries' scramble to establish a government and organize an army as they edged uneasily toward independence. Nelson's well-researched, entertaining account of the revolution's opening chapter aptly conveys the difficulty and riskiness of the patriots' gamble. 2 maps. (Mar.)
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