J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Back to Bunker Hill

Fifty years ago, a young writer named Thomas J. Fleming published his first book, Now We Are Enemies: The Story of Bunker Hill. That was the first study of that battle since the nineteenth century, and many new sources (especially from the British side) had become available. Fleming didn’t set out to write a scholarly history—he imagined dialogue based on historical sources, and didn’t use citations—but he did his best to accurately synthesize the sources and recreate the fight for modern readers.

Now We Are Enemies (reissued in paperback as The Story of Bunker Hill) was also the first of many books about the Revolution by Tom Fleming. In fact, Fleming just won an award from the American Revolution Round Table of New York for his latest, The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers. (Here‘s a podcast interview about that book.)

Now anyone who’s tracked the A.R.R.T. of New York knows that Tom Fleming has been a big part of its activities. I’m not saying the fix was in. Rather, Fleming’s ubiquity is just a sign of how much he’s contributed to the popular study and discussion of the Revolutionary War in the last fifty years. As another sign, the American Revolution Round Table of Philadelphia actually named its own book award after him.

Now We Are Enemies has just been republished by American History Imprints, which sent me a review copy. The book includes a new introduction in which Fleming looks back on its publication:

One of the most enduring memories I have…is how often readers spoke to me or wrote to me in disbelief, confessing they never knew that the battle had ended in headlong American flight, leaving the British in possession of the disputed hill. The climax to this phenomenon was the reaction to the British edition. The headline of one review read: YANK SAYS BRITS WON AT BUNKER HILL!
Fleming is in Boston this week discussing the Battle of Bunker Hill and Now We Are Enemies at these venues:

1 comment:

J.L. Rowan said...

An excellent book. I studied it in '95 for research for my thesis on writing historical fiction.