Richard Ketchum on the Battle of Bunker Hill

RJO’s Reviews on Amazon.com

These brief book reviews have been posted to Amazon.com, and they may be viewed there in their original form either collectively (on my public reviews page) or individually (by following the link at each title below).

“Thick Description”

Decisive Day: The Battle for Bunker Hill
Richard M. Ketchum
Owl Books, 1999 (reprint edition)

This is an excellent, fast-moving account of the first great set-piece battle of the American Revolution. Ketchum is a very good writer, and his narrative succeeds in placing the reader in the event by providing many fine details of weather, sounds, ground conditions, and the like. The whole volume covers the events of only two or three days.

One of the main themes that Ketchum brings home—a theme common to all good histories that practice “thick description”—is how contingent the outcome of the battle was. If the British had not sent over the wrong size ammunition for their artillery at first, or if the tide had allowed the British to land earlier, the Americans probably would have been cleared off the hill in short order. If the Americans had had just one resupply of powder from the rear, they might have held the hill and driven the British back.

Along with Fischer’s Paul Revere’s Ride and Galvin’s The Minute Men, this is one of the best works I have read on the opening of the American Revolution.

© RJO 1995–2022