Beck (Igniting the American Revolution: 1773-1775, 2015) continues his deeply detailed story of the American Revolution’s beginnings.
In this volume, the author focuses on the British occupation of Boston and the attempts by American forces to retake it. The first and most formidable problem was that the Colonies did not yet have an army of their own. The provincial armies and local militias were united only in their common cause, and localism doomed attempts to field a cohesive force. Men from different states would never recognize any superior but one of their own. The forces not only lacked unity; they also tended to go their own ways in battle. Disciplining troops was difficult, as all believed themselves equal; in the spirit of casting off George III’s sovereignty, soldiers rejected all authority. Even so, the author notes that the colonists did not initially intend to separate. They wished for liberty, not independence, but patriotism and a sense of duty were new ideas. It was the king’s attitude that drove them to it. Beginning with a few skirmishes and the Battle of Chelsea Creek, Beck leads up to the Battle of Bunker Hill. In the middle of the night, Americans built entrenchments out of range of bombardments from English ships. English Gen. Thomas Gage attempted to encircle them but failed. In the end, it was a bloody fight and a pyrrhic victory for him. The fall of Montreal and the siege of Quebec seem to be asides in this story until we see Col. Henry Knox bringing desperately needed artillery and cannon across frozen Lake Champlain and the Hudson. Though Beck only covers a short period, his excellent research brings to life the men who fought, providing readers with real, tangible heroes, not just hazy historic figures.
Revolutionary War fans will rejoice in this well-written work and hope that the author has more on the way.