The trailer for Ron Howard’s film In the Heart of the Sea, based on Nathaniel Philbrick’s bestseller of the same name, is finally out. It’s about time somebody put the tragedy of the Essex on the big screen; it’s one of the most harrowing and incredible episodes in human history.
Tag Archives: Nathaniel Philbrick
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.
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 email@example.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!
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.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.
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.