“Handed the reins to a big brown New England mare, Revere swung into the saddle and took off at a canter across Charlestown Neck, hooves striking sparks, rider and steed merged into a single elegant creature, bound for glory.” — Rick Atkinson, The British Are Coming
This is the story Americans never tire of hearing — how ragtag groups of militia and the under-provisioned Continental Army took on the greatest power the world had seen since the Roman Empire. Their struggle for survival against all odds is an enthralling tale composed of larger-than-life characters. Rick Atkinson’s The British Are Coming transports the reader and history lover to the spring of 1775, when the hostilities of Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, ignited the American Revolution, through the winter of 1776-77 at the battles of Trenton and Princeton, New Jersey. It seems as though every action is explored during this 21-month period from both the American and, refreshingly, British perspective.
Atkinson, a former staff writer and senior editor at The Washington Post, has an incredible ability to bring history to vivid life with masterful descriptive skills and a multitude of facts. At 564 pages of text, 32 pages of color plates with 60 illustrations, and 24 pages of maps, The British Are Coming is the first in Atkinson’s Revolution Trilogy and provides the reader every detail from this formative period in our nation’s history.
The British believed Americans were ungrateful for the protection they had given them during the French and Indian War as well as incredulous that they resisted paying for it. Subduing the Colonists would be quick and easy work, or so they thought, and would restore the relationship with the mother country. They were drastically overconfident. The American Revolution dragged on officially for eight years with a tenacious foe that would not give up and was willing to make major sacrifices. One out of 10 Americans who fought died, a ratio only matched by the Civil War.
After the Battle of Bunker Hill in June of 1775, the British, who suffered their worst casualty rate of the entire war while still technically winning the battle, realized it was not going to be so easy.
Gen. George Washington arrived in October after Bunker Hill and commanded the high ground surrounding Boston. When Henry Knox came with 58 cannons from Fort Ticonderoga in Essex County, New York, one of the most amazing feats conducted during the entire war, General Washington had the upper hand, forcing the British to leave Boston and retreat via the Royal Navy to Halifax, Nova Scotia. At this early stage of the Revolution, the motley citizen soldiers of America had forced the mighty British army out of the Colonies to the extent that they did not control a single port between Canada and Florida.
Of course, the British came back taking New York and very nearly capturing General Washington’s entire army. From there until the crossing of the Delaware and the Christmas surprise attack on Trenton, the British mercilessly hunted the Continental Army, attempting to end the war with one grand stroke. Washington skillfully evaded them, waiting for an opportunity to strike back and take the momentum. His chance came at Trenton with a follow-up at Princeton.
For readers interested in expanding their knowledge of the American Revolution as well as an entertaining read, The British Are Coming will wonderfully fulfill both of those desires with the gripping saga of where we came from as a people and what we believe in as a nation.