colonists in an unflattering light. He points out the hypocrisy of the patriots who condemn the tyranny of British rule under which they suffer while denying freedoms to others. To quote Philbrick, “Enslaved African Americans, Indians, women, Catholics, and especially British loyalists were not worthy of the same freedoms they [patriots] enjoyed.”
Even George Washington, heaven forbid, is not immune to Philbrick’s honest portrayal of the man and his military career. After the battle of Bunker Hill, the Continental Congress named Washington Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army. A promotion that may not have happened at all, Philbrick speculates, if the highly respected, charismatic, doctor, military leader, and president of the Provincial Congress, Joseph Warren, had not been killed at Bunker Hill. Is it possible that the job would have been offered to him?
This award-winning bestseller details the period between the Boston Tea Party in December 1773, and the British evacuation of Boston in March 1776. His writing style includes occasional bits of subtle irony that I enjoyed. I have to admit, however, that I got bogged down in the first half of the book in which he describes at length the personalities and conflicts between British loyalists and the patriots. I put the book down for a while, then resumed reading it. I’m glad I did. Things heat up on April 19, 1775, when British general Gage orders his troop to march through Lexington to Concord to retrieve artillery pieces and military stores the patriots have hidden away. As the British retreat back to Boston with little to show for their efforts, they run a gauntlet of patriot fire that turns the incident into an American victory. Of far greater magnitude is the battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775. The result is a British victory, but it comes at tremendous cost. American casualties of dead and wounded total 420 compared to British casualties of 1,054, nearly half of the 2,200 regulars committed to the battle. What follows is an eight-month siege of Boston by the patriots, ending when the British depart for Halifax.
I don’t want to leave the impression that Philbrick does not value General Washington’s leadership qualities; he does. Also, at the end of the book, he says Washington’s attitudes toward patriot discrimination and retaliation had evolved for the better. When the siege of Boston ended he “acted decisively” to stifle violence against loyalists and Catholics.
On a personal note, this book belonged to former resident Huber Warner, and I bought it at his book sale after his untimely death. It came with a bookmark with his picture on it, which I treasure. I will donate the book to our library. It’s worth a read during our confinement.
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