Dr. Joseph Warren is the hero of Philbrick's excellent account of the events before and after the Battle of Bunker Hill, the first major battle and the bloodiest of the American Revolution. Warren is an example of a "forgotten patriot," one of the many individuals who played critical roles in the revolution but were eclipsed by the more famous names of Washington, Franklin, and Jefferson. Warren was the leader of the Boston patriots when the British troops first occupied the city, he dispatched Paul Revere on his famous ride to warn the colonists, and he gave the order to build a defensive redoubt on Bunker Hill. Although Warren held the title of General, he chose to serve on the front line of the battle and as a result became the most famous casualty of the battle.
Philbrick does a fine job of conveying the immediacy of the situation the provincial troops faced on June 17, 1775. His description of the men in their crudely dug fortification on Breed's Hill watching the first cannonballs arch over the bay from the British ships is vivid and memorable. The most controversial part of the book is Philbrick's description of Warren's relationship with a young pregnant woman who may or may not have been his mistress. Advocates of the saintly Warren prefer to point to this episode as an example of Warren's philanthropy, paying for the housing and care of an unwed teenage mother. The problem is that Philbrick treats this saucy business as if it where a solid fact rather than a highly likely speculation. A professional historian should know better, but I will forgive this lapse in a highly entertaining history.