The following review is dedicated to history buffs but has an even wider appeal, according to Gary S, a history enthusiast and blog reviewer. 

Philbrick focuses on the personalities of those involved as well as the events taking place. It's a refreshing take on the history of the Battle of Boston and Gary's review tells it all...well not quite... 


Bunker Hill – A City, A Siege, A Revolution.
By Nathaniel Philbrick.

As a resident of Boston for all of my adult life, I truly appreciated how the geography of Boston was relevant to the events of the day. Some of the streets are still in place, but most have given way to modernization.

Boston was a much different city in 1775—in many ways. The Back Bay was actually a bay, Castle Island was actually an island and the city was basically an island – except for the small neck of land that attached it to Dorchester (now called the South End).

Basically, we all know the events from our school studies – the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, the Battles of Lexington and Concord—and the Battle of Bunker Hill.

What I learned from the book was how a ‘revolt’ eventually became a ‘revolution’. In all struggles, there comes a time when a revolt takes hold, and most of the population, who for the most part are noncommittal, decide they need to choose a side. That is what the book is all about.

I loved learning about the importance of Dr. Joseph Warren, one of the early leaders and organizers of the cause. Dr. Warren had his office on Hanover St, in today’s Italian section called the North End. For me, however, the book did not truly grab my attention until the British decided to march from Boston to Lexington/Concord to capture the rebel stores of gun powder.
Prior to this, I was not sure I would I would finish the book (or I would at least skip through). After Lexington and Concord I was hooked.

To put the battle in geographic perspective, most people today dread the drive from Boston to Lexington, and yet the British had to walk. At one point, due to the fighting, it was doubtful they would even make it back to Boston. Once in Boston, the city was occupied, similar to martial law in today’s terms. The rebellion became somewhat of a chess game, until the rebels (Philbrick calls them Patriots) built a fort at Bunker Hill.

Actually, we learn that the fort was on Breed’s Hill, but the battle is still called Bunker Hill because that is where the fort was supposed to be built. The battle was brutal with most of the Patriot deaths occurring after the battle by vengeful British executing wounded Patriots who had already fallen to the ground. Had it not been for limited gun powder and ammunition, the Patriots could have fought longer. To top it off, the British, through their command of the harbor, destroyed the town of Charlestown with a naval bombardment.

Upon the conclusion of the Battle of Bunker Hill, it seemed like the right time to end the book. Instead, Philbrick takes us through a longer than needed journey about George Washington, his rise to power and his leadership of what was now a patriot army. Washington was able drive the British out of Boston (now called Evacuation Day) by secretly placing cannons atop of Dorchester Hights (now called Thomas Park in South Boston). I think this chapter could have been greatly condensed and woven into a summary at the end of the book.

Despite being too long and too detailed in certain sections, I came away with a better understanding of my city and learned a lot about the events that sparked revolt into a revolution




  1. Great Review.

    The American Revolution is my greatest interest and this is something that I would like to read.

    A point about the limited gun powder and ammunition. It is often said that it is logistics that wins wars.

  2. true...
    Gary felt this was an interesting take on the war.. Lots of info on the people involved as well as the battles. It's gotten excellent reviews.Although many agree with Gary that Philbrick had trouble ending it....and maybe a little too detailed.
    I'll be interested to see wht you think...

  3. For all the historical detail included, that usually leads to an utter bore of a book I think Philbrick has done exceptionally well to captivate a reader, but I do agree with you - the 'Washington' chapter would've fit in very nicely as a summary (it was too long). Also I was a little disappointed that no more got said about General Putnam's supposed cowardice. Philbrick has an interview lined up this weekend with the Book Report radio show's Elaine Charles, and I'm rather interested whether or not this subject will be broached.

  4. Hi Cathy
    Thanks for the feedback! Glad to know you agree re the 'Washington' chapter. And I agree with you too - that I was hoping form more personal stories, especially General Putnam. Thanks for the heads up about the radio show

    By the way,I just odered the new Joseph Ellis book, Revolutionary Summer. Even though it sounds like a re-hash of other books I've read, it picks up right where Philbrick left off.