Tag Archives: Bunker Hill

We’ve got a Bunker Hill winner

The deadline for entering our second Bunker Hill giveaway was Saturday night, but I didn’t get around to generating a random number and notifying the winner until a few minutes ago.  Sorry about the delay, guys, but I’ve been moving this week, so things have been pretty hectic.

Anyway, the winning number was 1,321.  Thanks to everybody who entered, and to all you fine folks who read the blog.

Oh, and don’t forget that I’m tweeting now, so follow me @mlynch5396.  I’m like the Swamp Fox of Twitter—my band of followers is small, but plucky and enterprising.

1 Comment

Filed under American Revolution

Win a Bunker Hill book

Last year the fine folks who published Nathaniel Philbrick’s Bunker Hill: A City, A Siege, A Revolution allowed me to host a giveaway.  Now that it’s out in paperback, we’re going to do another round, so if you want to win a copy, here’s what you do.

Pick any number between 1 and 1,776.  E-mail it to me at mlynch5396@hotmail.com, using “Bunker Hill Giveaway” as the subject line.  Deadline for entries is 11:59 P.M. on Saturday, May 31.  I’ll use the magic of the Interwebs to generate a random number, and the book goes to the person who selected the number closest to it.

Good luck, folks!

Leave a comment

Filed under American Revolution

My Boston marathon

I’ve been back home long enough to recuperate from two weeks of sightseeing, so it’s time for that most venerable of all end-of-vacation traditions: forcing a captive audience to look at your photos.

We’ll start with some highlights from the Boston Freedom Trail.  As I said a few days ago, it’s a remarkable experience for any enthusiast of early American history.  I don’t think there’s any other place where you can see so many important American Revolution sites in such close proximity to each other, except maybe Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia.  (I’ll be posting some stuff about INHP eventually, too; it was a long trip.)

My friend Ryan and I set out on the Freedom Trail about 2:00 in the afternoon.  Because there’s so much to see between the starting point on Boston Common and the end point at Bunker Hill, and because it was already so late in the day, I  had told Ryan that we’d never be able to do the whole thing that afternoon, and that we should plan on picking up where we left off the next day.  Thing is, Ryan played basketball and tennis in high school and has never lost his competitive streak.  Apparently in an effort to set some sort of record, he announced that we were going to stand on Bunker Hill that very day, come hell or high water.

One of the first things you see on the trail relates to the Civil War rather than the Revolutionary one.  It’s one of my favorite works of commemorative sculpture, the monument to Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts on Boston Common, right across from the State House.

IMG_1056

Boston seems to be embracing the history of abolitionism pretty enthusiastically.  I’m not familiar enough with abolitionism to know how widespread serious anti-slavery sentiment in the city actually was, but I suppose it’s a handy way to embrace the legacy of the Civil War when most of the actual fighting took place hundreds of miles away.

And speaking of the history of abolitionism, just a stone’s throw from the Shaw Monument is Park Street Church, where William Lloyd Garrison gave his first major anti-slavery speech in 1829.

IMG_1107

Step over to the other side of the church, and you’re also stepping back in time—two hundred years before the outbreak of the Civil War, in fact.  Granary Burying Ground dates all the way back to 1660.  Its age is apparent from the winged skulls carved on some of the tombstones, a very old motif that’s characteristic of early American grave markers.  Again, bear in mind that I’m used to touring regions where “old” means 1790-ish.

IMG_1102

There are more important figures from early American history buried here than you can shake a stick at: Benjamin Franklin’s parents…

IMG_1097

John Hancock…

IMG_1098

James Otis…

IMG_1100

Sam Adams…

IMG_1105

Paul Revere…

IMG_1101

…and the victims of the Boston Massacre.  All in the same graveyard!

IMG_1103

The Old South Meeting House is probably best known as the launching pad for the Boston Tea Party, but that was just one of many highlights in this building’s long history of playing host to protest and dissent.  An exhibit inside the sanctuary details this history, from the imperial controversy to abolitionism, female suffrage, and the Sacco and Vanzetti trial.

IMG_1062

British troops used the church as a riding stable during the occupation of Boston, but it doesn’t look any worse for wear.

IMG_1061

To me, a big highlight of the trail is the Old State House, seat of government in Massachusetts from 1713 to 1798 and now home to a museum that explores politics and public life in the Bay State from the colonial era through the nineteenth century.

IMG_1065

You can’t beat the Old State House exhibit for fantastic artifacts, including a coat and other items belonging to John Hancock…

IMG_1073

some Stamp Act material…

IMG_1077

…and the cane Preston Brooks used to wallop Charles Sumner on the Senate floor.

IMG_1074

You’ll also find Indian treaty belts, rare documents, and artifacts from Bunker Hill on display here.  Great stuff.  If you’re rushed for time on the Freedom Trail and you’ve only got time to tour one building interior, my personal opinion is that you should do this one.

Right outside the State House is a circle of bricks marking the site of the Boston Massacre.  This seems to be the popular spot for tourists to take their “Look-Ma-we’re-doing-the-Freedom-Trail” photos, with their arms spread wide and big grins on their faces.  I’m not sure how I feel about this; 1770 was a long time ago, but geez, five guys did die here.

IMG_1067

Next stop is Faneuil Hall, a most appropriate place for a statue of Sam Adams.  The marketplace in and around this site is a great place to pick up souvenirs.

IMG_1078

Paul Revere’s house would be a neat thing to see anyway, but it’s of significant architectural interest even without the celebrity name recognition.  Built around 1680 on the site of Increase Mather’s parsonage, it was already old by the time Revere bought it.  It’s pretty small, so the self-guided tour doesn’t take very long.

IMG_1089

Not far from the house is another structure inextricably linked to Revere: Old North Church.

IMG_1091

There are quite a few historic churches on the trail, and in fact I haven’t even included them all here, but I think Old North has the most beautiful interior of all of them.  (Sorry about the lousy picture focus; I was trying not to use a flash.)

IMG_1084

Among those buried in the crypt is Maj. John Pitcairn, who received a mortal wound at Bunker Hill.

IMG_1086

There’s an equestrian statue of Revere in a kind of courtyard outside the church.  I highly recommend making an effort to visit this spot at night, with the courtyard dark and the steeple illuminated behind it.

IMG_1082

The cemetery on Copp’s Hill doesn’t have as many notable residents as Old Granary, but it’s still worth a visit.  Increase and Cotton Mather are both buried here.

IMG_1093

Most of the sites on the trail are in pretty close proximity to each other, but getting to Bunker Hill (or Breed’s Hill, if you insist on geographical precision) requires a good bit of walking.  I hadn’t been to many urbanized battlefields before this one, and it was hard to orient myself with all the buildings around.  The monument is a lot more impressive in person than I’d expected; you can see it from quite a distance.

IMG_1094

Here’s one final recommendation.  If you’re going to do the Freedom Trail, you should grab something to eat at the Green Dragon Tavern in the North End, not far from Revere’s house.  Despite what their advertising implies, it’s not the same place where Joseph Warren, Paul Revere, and their buddies used to hang out, but the steak tips are still pretty darn good.

IMG_1081

Long story short, you can do the Freedom Trail in half a day, but you’d better be ready to do some serious huffing and puffing.  The Constitution was closed that day, too, so that helped us shave off some time.  There are a number of guidebooks and audio tours available; we used the Freedom Trail Foundation’s official guide, which was excellent.  A lot of the sites along the way are either free or accept donations, but you can get a combination ticket for Old South Meeting House, the Old State House, and Paul Revere’s house at the small visitor center on Boston Common.

3 Comments

Filed under American Revolution, Colonial America, Museums and Historic Sites

Philbrick takes Bunker Hill

Like the name of the battle itself, the title of Nathaniel Philbrick’s Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution is a bit misleading.  Just as his Mayflower covered more than the Pilgrims’ ship, his newest book is about more than the bloody confrontation at Breed’s Hill on June 17, 1775.  He tells the story of the Revolution in and around Boston from the time of the tea party through the British evacuation in 1776. 

In Bunker Hill, Philbrick’s gift for narrative serves him well when there’s some sort of action going on.  The chapters on the war’s first day, on the titular battle, and the siege of Boston are where this book shines, although the best modern account of Lexington and Concord remains David Hackett Fischer’s masterful Paul Revere’s Ride.  It’s fitting that Hollywood has already taken an interest in this book, which is cinematic in its vivid characterizations, gripping battle passages, and rapid pacing.

The earlier chapters, which deal with the political maneuvering that led up to the shooting war, are not as strong.  Perhaps this is because it puts Philbrick out of his element.  He first catapulted to popular acclaim with a gripping account of the sinking of the whaleship Essex, he’s at its best when he describes the experiences of men in deadly and dramatic circumstances.  Or perhaps this is simply due to the nature of popular narrative history itself, a genre in which character and action often take precedence over analysis.

Philbrick’s bibliography is extensive; he has read widely in the secondary literature on the Revolution in New England.  One of his contributions is to emphasize the role of Dr. Joseph Warren, whose critical place in the colonial protest movement is familiar to historians but less so to average readers.  Philbrick suggests that Warren’s death at Bunker Hill—he arrived on the battleground to fight as a common soldier even though the Provincial Congress had appointed him a major general—cost the Patriots one of their more able leaders, and he notes several points at which they might have benefited from his presence had he survived.

Ultimately, this is a good work of popular history.  If you’re new to the Revolution, or if you’re a more seasoned history buff looking for a refresher before setting off on a summer trip to Boston’s Freedom Trail, you’ll find Philbrick an informed and engaging guide.

1 Comment

Filed under American Revolution, Historiography

Picture yourself with a Bunker Hill book

Nathaniel Philbrick’s Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution hits bookstores in a week.  Thanks to the fine folks at Viking Press, one lucky reader of this blog will win a free copy.

Pay attention, kids.  Here’s how this works.

  • If you want to enter, pick a number between 1 and 1,775.  Then e-mail it to me (mlynch5396@hotmail.com) no later than 10:00 P.M. EST on May 5.  Use “Bunker Hill Giveaway” as the subject line.
  • When the deadline passes, I’ll use Random.org to generate a completely random number.  The reader whose number comes closest to the one selected by the website wins the book.  If two or more readers pick the same winning number, I’ll have them each select new numbers, and the website will then generate another figure for the tie-breaker.
  • Only one entry per person, please.  Last thing I want is my inbox getting swamped by a zillion e-mails from the same person.
  • Once a winner is selected, I’ll contact him or her via e-mail to get a shipping address so the publisher can send the book.

That’s it.  Good luck, folks.  You may submit your entries startiiiiiiinnnnnggggg…now.

1 Comment

Filed under American Revolution

Philbrick is tackling Bunker Hill

According to an item brought to our attention by J. L. Bell at Boston 1775, Nathaniel Philbrick is working on a book entitled Bunker Hill, a look at Boston from 1768 to 1775.

This sounds reminiscent of Philbrick’s Mayflower.  Rather than an examination of the Pilgrims’ actual voyage, it was a fairly straightforward narrative that began with the founding of Plymouth and ended with King Philip’s War.

Richard Ketchum wrote an accessible account of the battle and its background called Decisive Day, but I’m not aware of any full-dress, detailed tactical treatments.  Of course, as I’ve noted before, there are a lot of gaping holes in the historiography of the Revolution, but this one in particular is a little surprising.  Bunker Hill is one of the war’s better-known battles, and one that squares pretty well with some near-and-dear myths about the prowess of citizen soldiers.

2 Comments

Filed under American Revolution, Historiography

Virtually on the ground

I’ve posted before about some of the online gimmicks that allow you to virtually visit historic sites, whether via aerial photos or webcams.  Lately I’ve been trying the same thing with Google Street View, which allows you to travel along roads and look around for a 360° view.  The images come from car-mounted cameras, so it only works for locations located along public thoroughfares.

Take Gettysburg, for example.  Emmitsburg Road cuts across the middle of the battlefield; the Confederates had to cross it during Pickett’s Charge.  You can plop yourself down at street level across from the High Water Mark of the Confederacy and pan around to view the entire landscape, behind you and on both sides.  It’s too bad that internal Park Service roads aren’t included, or you could tour the whole battlefield.

Urban sites work best, because public streets are more numerous around them.  Here’s Lincoln’s law office and the Old State Capitol in Springfield, here’s Independence Hall in Philadelphia, here’s Fort Moultrie in Charleston, and here’s the site of the first shot of the Revolution in Lexington, MA.  Bunker Hill appears to have an ice cream truck parked in front of it, which is just about the last thing you’d expect to see on a battlefield.  The neat part is that you can use the arrows on the streets to “walk” around these sites and examine them from different angles.

If you’ve got a particular site you want to visit, just head over to Google Map, type in the address or name, and then zoom in as far as you can.  Near the top left side of the map is a small, yellow icon shaped like a human figure.  Grab that icon with your mouse and set it down on the nearest street.  It’s not exactly being there, but for those of us who like history, it’s a fine way to make our workdays even less productive than they already are.

1 Comment

Filed under History on the Web, Museums and Historic Sites