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With Fire and Sword: The Battle of Bunker Hill and the Beginning of the American Revolution, by James L. Nelson

New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2011. Pp. xx, 364. Maps, notes, biblio., index. $27.99. ISBN: 0312576447.

Nelson, author of the well-received Benedict Arnold’s Navy and numerous other works, both history and fiction, gives us a rousing account of what is perhaps the most famous battle of the Revolutionary War. 

Rather surprisingly, and cquite leverly, Nelson opens with the Battle of Brooklyn, fought more than a year later, to show how Bunker Hill affected British perceptions of American fighting qualities.  He then gives us a quick-paced look at the events  of the Spring of 1775, the “Midnight Ride”, the mustering of the militia, Lexington and Concord, the pursuit of the British back to Boston, and the investment of the city.  Nelson then spends some time examining the forces involved and their leaders, reminding us in the process that New England militiamen were generally well-organized, -equipped, and -disciplined, and bled by cadres of men who had seen service in the Seven Years’ War, with a number of very good word portraits.  It is only after this that he gets into the battle that was, of course, actually fought on Breed’s Hill, devoting about a third of his text to it in considerable detail.  The account of the battle is excellent, with a careful attempt to keep events in order.

An engaging account of the opening of the American Revolution, which throws a good deal of light on the ways in which the war unfolded over the next six years.

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Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   


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