8/8 American Spring: Lexington, Concord, and the Road to Revolution, by Walter R. Borneman.

Nov 24, 2019, 12:46 AM
Image:  Bunker Hill clipper ship.  Public domain..
Kirkus Reviews / An extremely detailed, opinionated account of events in 1775 Massachusetts ending (despite the title) two months after the famous skirmishes in the June Battle of Bunker Hill.

By that spring, American colonists had spent the previous 10 years fending off Britain’s attempts to recover the ruinous costs of the French and Indian War, writes popular historian Borneman (The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King—The Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea, 2012, etc.). The author accepts their time-honored protest against taxation without representation but admits that Americans paid less in taxes than Britons and had benefited greatly from the recent victory. Ironically, 150 years of Britain’s benign neglect had resulted in 13 largely self-governing colonies that were disinclined to change. The most appealing figure is, oddly, British Gen. Thomas Gage (1720-1787), a longtime resident in America, who understood better than London officials how bad matters were. Pugnacious colonial militias were drilling and accumulating arms, and Boston mobs were assaulting loyalists and trashing their homes. Gage’s restraint exasperated superiors in London, who, in April 1775, sent a blunt order to take action. The result was an expedition that marched all night to seize arms at Concord but stumbled on a band of armed militia in Lexington. Taking advantage of massive documentation, Borneman delivers a gripping, almost moment-by-moment account of the nasty exchanges and bloody retreat of British troops followed by hundreds and then thousands of militia who camped around Boston and laid siege. Fed up with Gage, Britain dispatched three generals, William Howe, John Burgoyne and Henry Clinton, who launched their career-ruining missions in North America by overseeing the debacle at Bunker Hill.

Although Kevin Phillips (1775) and Nathaniel Philbrick (Bunker Hill) have recently trod the same ground, Borneman adds a first-rate contribution.