American Spring: Lexington, Concord, and the Road to Revolution by Walter R. Borneman
Little, Brown, and Company, 2014. Hardcover, 480 pages.
American Spring is an extremely detailed account of the first spring of the American Revolution (January-June, 1775). In fact it essentially gives a play-by-play account of everything that occurred, including all of the key, prominent, and famous people (note: not all key figures are mentioned in the textbooks!). In the book’s opening, readers are first provided with detailed description to how and why the colonists were angry at Great Britain, mostly over taxes, acts, actions, and their effects (ex. Tea Act, Intolerable Acts, Quebec Act). It also includes some information about key figures (Generals George Washington and Thomas Gage) and locations (ex. Fort Carillon/Ticonderoga) roles in the French and Indian War that comes into play during the Revolution. Next, it addressed the earliest “rebel” thinking and key figures, such as John and Samuel Adams and John Hancock.
The next section of the book concerned the events surrounding the Battles of Lexington and Concord. It opened with the warning rides to towns outside Boston about Gage’s planned actions to take control of “rebel” ammunition stores in those towns. The most famous rider was, of course, Paul Revere. Then the British do come and there were the battles on Lexington’s Green and an at a key bridge in Concord. Readers were presented with examples of how disorganized the British troops entering the battle and how quickly the Colonial militia was able to respond. In fact, the militia troops were so swift in arrival that they had to wait for the British to arrive and at first believed it was a false alarm and spent time in pubs! While who fired the first shot is debatable, these battles were seen as an act of war to the British. The book then goes into the effects of Lexington and Concord. News spread quickly for the era, angering those living in other colonies and to the disbelief of those in England. In reaction, George III sent three new generals to the New World to assist Gage (William Howe, John Burgoyne, and Henry Clinton). And the colonist hold the Second Continental Congress to draft plans to protect themselves and their interests.
The final section described the first planned battle of the Revolution: Bunker Hill. This time when word reached the colonists of a plan of action to protect Boston, colonial militias planned to meet the forces head on. Taking over a strategic area near Boston, they dug in on Bunker and Breed Hills. The British then altered their plans in order to attack the emplacement. While colonial leadership in the battle was unclear to the soldiers, the British failed to take full advantage of their Navy and land troops in a way that could ensure quick victory. En short, it was chaos. The battle made both sides see that war was the only path and that reconciliation was unlikely to occur. It also led to leadership changes for the British. Keep in mind, while George Washington was now commander and chief of Colonial forces, he had yet to arrive in the vicinity of Boston after his nomination in Philadelphia.
Where this book seems to have original analysis is in its debunking of common myths. Borneman pointed these out in context of their chronology and provided evidence on how they are not true. Among these myths are how one person is credited with each of two famous rides (Revere and Isaac Bissell [on the route of taking news about Lexington and Concord to Philadelphia]) when they were but one of many on the Pony Express-like route. Another addresses whether or not Margaret Kemble Gage, Thomas Gage’s wife, was or was not the spy in his household.
In all, this was an educational read. However, the amount of detail could be burdensome. In my opinion, it would make an excellent research resource. Or a great book to use in an upper level American history college course. However, for casual reading, it depends on the reader. Some may enjoy the level of detail. Others may make the same observation I did. Or it may fall somewhere in between for a particular reader. I will admit I have had another of Borneman’s books on my to-read list, The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King—the Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea, but reading this work has me rethinking tackling that one.