Harpswell author draws readers into Bunker Hill

Posted July 24, 2011, at 3:48 p.m.
Last modified July 24, 2011, at 4:22 p.m.

WITH FIRE AND SWORD by James L. Nelson, Thomas Dunne Books, New York, 2011, hardcover, 384 pages, $27.99.

Nelson, a prolific author from Harpswell, is best known for his fiction series Revolution at Sea and Brethren of the Coast. But Nelson is equally at home with nonfiction from the Revolutionary War era, as his latest, “With Fire and Sword,” proves.

The subtitle does a dandy job of summarizing the book: “The Battle of Bunker Hill and the Beginning of the American Revolution.”

Though much information from that era has been lost, Nelson does a remarkable job of bringing history to life, using the voices of those involved (mostly in letter form).

He points out the key roles played by now lesser-known figures such as General Thomas Gage, unlucky enough to be the British governor of Massachusetts in the time when revolution was fomenting, and Dr. Joseph Warren, who proved both a healer and a firebrand.

For anyone who’s ever wondered about the story behind the Bunker Hill Monument, or where the phrase “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes” comes from, “With Fire and Sword” gives the definite explanation. Nelson brilliantly succeeds at drawing readers into the first major battle of the Revolutionary War.

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