Igniting The American Revolution by Derek Beck takes the reader from the Boston Tea Party in 1773 to the Americans taking Fort Ticonderoga and then control of Lake Champlain in 1775. Only 270 pages, it’s a quick read through a fast-paced set of key events which propelled colonial America to war.
The beginning scene is what was then known as The Destruction of the Tea. The author explains how this was a protest that had a global impact and was conducted with the discipline of a military exercise. No one was allowed to steal any of the tea and the one who tried was quickly stopped and removed. We don’t have protests like that anymore.
The result of The Destruction of the Tea was Boston was put into a military controlled lockdown. General Thomas Gage, the British governor of Massachusetts, is a major figure who the author treats fairly. His control over Boston is described as strong but never exceedingly harsh. While some of the soldiers behaved in ways that no one could defend, General Gage held his officers to the highest standards.
Other major figures in the book are heroic Paul Revere and traitorous Benjamin Church. Revere is properly described as brave, selfless and honest. His ride from out of Boston across the water to Charlestown then on to Lexington is one of most important events in American history and the author gives it its due credit. Also credited is Revere’s network of spies that had eyes on the British from Boston harbor to the outskirts of Charlestown. Revere and his network sounded the alarm in the countryside that the redcoats were coming. Note; it is unlikely Revere was saying the “British are coming” and the author rightly points this out.
Church was also part of a spy network, but for the other side. He gave intelligence to the British and likely directly to Gage himself. His treachery is listed throughout.
The most detail can be found in the descriptions of the military structure on both sides and in their movements engaging each other first at Lexington and then at Concord. Greater detail is offered in a lengthy appendix section (14 in all).
The title suggests a comprehensive account of the lead-up to war, but the attention hardly leaves New England. As a Virginian I was not expecting this but don’t take this as criticism because keeping things in Massachusetts allowed the book to flow very smoothly from the key events of the Boston Tea Party to the first shots of the war at the battle of Lexington and Concord.
This is an outstanding book.