Bunker Hill: A City, A Siege, A Revolution

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Bunker Hill: A City, A Siege, A Revolution
Nathaniel Philbrick
May 20, 2014

Nathaniel Philbrick brings a fresh perspective to the Battle of Bunker Hill. The real central character in this battle is Boston—where vigilantes fill the streets with a sinister and frightening violence, even as calmer patriots struggle to see their way to rebellion. The core of Philbrick’s lecture, building on his book Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution, tracks in detail the eighteen months following the Boston Tea Party (Dec. 1773), as Boston turned from the center of patriot defiance to a British-occupied city under a patriot siege. Philbrick builds to the extraordinary moment when a group of ordinary citizens stood up to several regiments of British regulars in the Battle of Bunker Hill. Several hundred citizen soldiers had the bravery and discipline to hold their fire until the British soldiers, each one with a bayonet mounted to the barrel of his musket, marched to within fifteen yards of the patriot entrenchment. Only once they could see “the whites of their eyes,” did the rebels fire, ultimately killing or wounding almost half the British force. It was not until the third British charge did the Americans retreat when they exhausted their supply of ammunition. With this single battle, the ultimate course of the American Revolution had been foretold. This lecture was sponsored by the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati.


About the Speaker

Nathaniel Philbrick is the author of the New York Times bestseller Bunker Hill: A City, A Siege, A Revolution (2013). He is also the author of In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex (2000), Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War (2006) and In the Hurricane’s Eye: The Genius of George Washington and the Victory at Yorktown (2018).


John Trumbull’s The Battle of Bunker’s Hill made it to our list of Ten Great Revolutionary War Paintings. Explore the others here.