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The Whites of Their Eyes

de Paul Lockhart

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Offers a reassessment of the first major engagement of the American Revolution by intertwining two equally important stories--the creation of America's first army and the rise of the man who led it, George Washington.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. But the first real engagement of the American Revolution and one of the most famous battles in our history, Bunker Hill was not the battle that we have been taught to believe it was. Revisiting old evidence and drawing on new research, Lockhart 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.--From publisher description.… (més)
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Interesting short overview into exactly what the cover says, the events leading up to the creation of the first American Army in 1775, the nomination of George Washington as its first commander and the battle of Bunker Hill (Breed's Hill, really). The battle has a mythic quality in the American psyche - so it was good to dig into the specifics a bit. That being said, there definately seemed to be enough material for a much more in-depth digging. This left me wanting more detail, not less. ( )
  stuart10er | Nov 5, 2013 |
That I don't esteem this lively history of the New England militia army that held the line until the arrival of George Washington on the scene (and which essentially faded away with the formation of the Continental Army) a bit higher can be illustrated with one example. Not one, not two, but three times Lockhart invokes the image of British grenadiers being impeded by their bearskin hats as they assaulted Breed's Hill; he really, really likes it. There's just one small problem. As near as I can figure the British grenadier of the period was a lot more likely to wear a "mitre" hat in the field; it makes me wonder what else Lockhart got wrong. ( )
  Shrike58 | Dec 16, 2011 |
The author of this book has a knack of taking his assembled researched from first hand accounts of the period and writing a history book that is as compelling to read; a narrative of what transpired. At times you can let your self get lost in the moment and actually feel the men's panic, determination and exhaustion. The descriptive narrative in no way detracts from the academic standards found in more conventional academic text. Note I enjoy reading conventional academic publications on historical subjects. This book though opens itself to be enjoyed by the casual reader of history.

Paul Lockhart's "The Whites of Their Eyes: Bunker Hill, the First American Army, and the Emergence of George Washington" is a concise and interesting history of the Battle of Bunker Hill that took place just outside of the old outskirts of Boston, in June of 1775. The author touches on the spark that started this altercation. The expedition that surprised all involved with the bloodshed at Lexington and Concord. Though their were fatalities the author contends that this act of the American Colonist could be considered an act of self defense and still allow for negotiation and compromise with England. But riders had gone out across the region summoning the militia and minute men who answered the call that day

The main topic of this book is as the title suggest about the battle of Breed's Hill, near Bunker Hill. The military, political and logistical situation of both forces are described in some detail. The writing seems to be objective and engrossing. The militia's formed into and the first American Army was commanded and formed by Artemes Ward., a man history seems to have forgotten, and the British commander general Thomas Gage who history has not treated well. Paul Lockhart shows that both of these men were the right men for the job at the time. And both faded from the American Revolution after playing their role.

The author has gone to length to vindicate General Gage's actions and his request for more troops and his assessment on where the war if it were to break out should be fought from. All his assertions and request would turn out to be followed a couple years after he first made request to the English parliament who ignored his request. And his counterpart Artemes Ward who by no desire of his own had the responsible of taking untrained individual militias and forming them into an army that would last ninety days and contain the British with the confines of Boston.

We are able too read of the exploits of the field commanders of both sides who showed courage and ingenuity such as General Howe and Col Stark or the ever moving Israel Putnam to name just a couple. As well as a detail telling of the men who formed the troops of both armies. Both were untried in actual battle and what was to come would be their first real battle. The Americans were ill-equipped, poorly trained yet well feed and full of esprit de cor. While their counter parts in the British army were not well fed but well-drilled, well-supplied and had naval support. As I mentioned above the major flaw was that neither army had battle experience though their officers by in large did. Lockhart does a wonderful and objective job at writing brief biographies of the principal officers on both the American and British sides.

Artemas Ward was able to do as he was asked with basically a mob of men from various areas though the American Militia Lost the battle. He was not a born leader and his caution is what Lockhart purports saved the First Continental Army and I after reading this account I would agree. And if his orders were followed to take Bunker Hill instead of Breed's Hill the British may never have attacked. Breed's Hill position as it related to Boston and lack of proper defense was an unavoidable target for assault. And General Howe lead an amphibious attack that should have succeed with a lot less casualties. The only fault in the British plan was the lack of discipline under fire of the British solider. The officers did their best yet the soldiers would not comply with their orders and the loss of life was higher than it should have been.

So though the “Battle of Bunker Hill” was a military victory for the British in reality it was a moral victory an celebrated as one by the Americans and it was a demoralizing action to the British forces. Casualties were high, but as Lockhart explains within the norm of a European battle. What made this battle rather hard on the British was the obscenely high casualty rate of officers. During the eight years of war that would ensue, twenty-five percent of all British military officer losses took place at this battle.

The book is summed up with the aftermath of the battle; what happened to the officers on both side in the ensuing years and the arrival of George Washington who was appointed Commanding officer of the Continental Army much to the relief of Artemes Ward. The army that fought at Bunker Hill did their job and would not be the army of George Washington. But by in large most of the men did what was asked of them. We learn that in the ensuing years Washington would have to spend more time trying to make a cohesive army of the diverse volunteers than fighting the war up until valley Forge.

This is an excellent book and I recommend it highly to anyone who might be a little fuzzy on how the American Revolution went from political rebellion to armed insurrection. ( )
  hermit | Apr 23, 2011 |
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Offers a reassessment of the first major engagement of the American Revolution by intertwining two equally important stories--the creation of America's first army and the rise of the man who led it, George Washington.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. But the first real engagement of the American Revolution and one of the most famous battles in our history, Bunker Hill was not the battle that we have been taught to believe it was. Revisiting old evidence and drawing on new research, Lockhart 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.--From publisher description.

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