Friday, August 19, 2011

Book Review: Paul Revere's Ride

Paul Revere's RidePaul Revere's Ride by David Hackett Fischer

Like Mayflower, this book was recommended by my brother-in-law, who is working toward a PhD in early American history. It is magnificently researched, clearly written and absurdly detailed. I loved it!

Dr. Fischer begins with a close examination of Paul Revere and General Gage, but the narrative of the fateful events of April 18-19th form the bulk of the book. He follows all the different players, carefully reconstructing each river crossing, horseback ride, tavern meeting and movement of individual soldiers. Despite the title, the book continues through the march of the British back to Bunker Hill and a discussion of the battle for public opinion that followed. He also kindly provides a brief epilogue of some of the more prominent people, telling how they fared in the war and subsequently

Kansas Dad laughed at me when I mentioned how exciting it was, because of course I knew the ending. Dr. Fischer lets the excitement, fear and anxiety of the events speak for themselves so that anyone reading along must feel the same way. In addition, Dr. Fischer's account follows along with less familiar people whose individual stories are not well known.

The book seemed objective, telling intimately of both American and British emotions and actions. He praised the courage of both sides, as well as condemned the atrocities. It was a exhausting and sometimes brutal day of fighting. Though Dr. Fischer does not revel in the violence, it is a vital part of the story and therefore this book may not be appropriate for reading aloud to children. For example, a couple of descriptions from journals and diaries mentioned "brains" being splattered, at least one father was killed while running for the cover of his house (dying after crawling up to the doorstep while his wife and children watched), and a number of men were stabbed excessively by bayonets.

The Historiography at the end is fascinating. The author describes research and reasoning to explain details like the height of the tide and the phase of the moon on the night of Paul Revere's Ride. There's also a fascinating look at how the ride and Paul Revere himself have been studied and portrayed over the years, reflecting in each era the tensions and current events of the time.

Highly recommended.

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