The American War for Independence was my first historical love. When diving into the details of the war, it doesn’t take long to discover all the near misses, and all the opportunities for alternative history. Washington’s coat riddled with bullet holes, Benedict Arnold’s nearly successful plan to sink the entire war effort, the battle of Trenton New Jersey, the arrival of the Baron Von Steuben at Valley Forge, the fog that saved the army escaping New York, the Capture of General Charles Lee, the death of Doctor Warren, the French entering the war. All these things: had a bullet been one inch to the left, or had the wind picked up, or had any one the pivotal men or women not been in a certain place at a certain time – who knows how things would have played out.
I have at least one ancestor who fought at Lexington and Concord, John Bosworth – who would have been about 24 at the time. He like so many at the time was a member of the Massachusetts militia and answered the alarm that the British were marching to seize their weapons.
A little more than a decade ago whilst doing research on my ancestor I came across the writings of a British officer who not only was in the battle but wrote vivid accounts of what it was like. His letters do a wonderful thing… they give us a very human side of the enemy combatant in a battle that has taken on mythological proportions due to the poems and paintings depicting hard-nosed patriot farmers standing up for their rights against a tyrant king hell-bent on subduing them. They’re not exactly wrong, its just not the complete picture.
And so, with this episode, to the extent that a non-historian and amateur podcaster can, I’m going to attempt to paint a more or less complete picture of the battle through the eyes of a British officer, Hugh Percy: Kicking the Hornet’s Nest.Support the show