Friday, September 7, 2012

The First Tentative Steps Towards Freedom

The Whites of Their Eyes: Bunker Hill, the First American Army, and the Emergence of George Washington by Paul Lockhart

Summary: Paul Lockhart combines military and political history to offer a major reassessment of one of the most famous battles in American history.

One hot June afternoon in 1775, on the gentle slopes of a hill near Boston, Massachusetts, a small band of ordinary Americans--frightened but fiercely determined--dared to stand up to a superior British force. The clash would be immortalized as the Battle of Bunker Hill: the first real engagement of the American Revolution and one of the most famous battles in our history. But Bunker Hill was not the battle that we have been taught to believe it was.

Revisiting old evidence and drawing on new research, historian Paul Lockhart, author of "The Drillmaster of Valley Forge," shows that Bunker Hill was a clumsy engagement pitting one inexperienced army against another. Lockhart tells the rest of the story, too: how a mob of armed civilians became America's first army; how George Washington set aside his comfortable patrician life to take command of the veterans of Bunker Hill; and how the forgotten heroes of 1775--though overshadowed by the more famous Founding Fathers--kept the notion of American liberty alive, and thus made independence possible.

Review: A thorough and new take on the Battle of Bunker Hill and the events leading up to it and following it. 

It really is amazing that we were able to win the Revolutionary War. I feel that a lot of people view the Revolutionary War with rose tinted glasses and view it as a triumph of good over evil. Nothing is ever that black and white. Reading this book, which focused mainly on just one battle, showed me how tentative everything was and how easily we could have come to losing the war. I'm eager to read this book: Almost a Miracle: The American Victory in the War of Independence.

I didn't know too much about Bunker Hill or the Revolutionary War, which is a tragedy. I know I learned about it in school, but I must have forgotten most of it and school often doesn't go into great detail. And since I plan on getting a Master's in American History in a few years, I figured I should start learning more about my country. Lockhart says people view the Battle of Bunker Hill as a great clash between the amazing Americans and the terrible, incompetent English. Lockhart does a good job of portraying the battle as it actually was. I learned a lot about the battle. My only real complaint was that it felt like Lockhart was apologizing for people that didn't need apologizing for.


Recommendation: I would recommend this to fans of military history, American history, or the Revolutionary War. 

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