David McCullough


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1776 Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Chapter 3 Summary: Dorchester Heights

The British commanders, Howe and Gage, debated their strategy for taking Boston. All agreed that Dorchester Heights was necessary for its security, including the Americans, but none would attempt to take it. They dreamed of burning Boston and in fact, the entire coastline, but instead they fortified Bunker Hill and dug in for the long winter.

Digging in, however, was not as simple as it sounded. These British were not used to the American winter, and men actually froze to death while standing watch.

The British officers fared much better. They tore down houses for firewood and turned the Old South Church into a place for horses and other kinds of entertainment. Another fine building was converted to a playhouse where they viewed Shakespeare, among other things. One night while viewing a farce with “General Washington” and his rusty sword as the “star,” loud booms were heard. The crowd laughed, thinking the boom was part of the show. It was not. The Americans were bombing Charleston.

One important difference lay between the American military and the British. The colonists, like Nathanael Greene, moved through the ranks based on ability, while many of the English got their commissions through political relationships or cash. Another difference was the lackadaisical attitude held on the part of the British—a sort of surety that beating this Yankees would be no trouble in the end. This was particularly seen in General Howe who’d been born with a silver spoon in his mouth and who spent more time on leisurely activities than considering what his opponent, General Washington might be planning. Washington, on the other hand, spent innumerable hours trying to calculate Howe’s strategy like a chess game in his head. To Howe’s advantage, however, he possessed a full complement of professional soldiers—not the ragtag army that Washington led.

When the Continental Congress squelched Washington’s plan to attack Boston, negative word came that Benedict Arnold had suffered defeat in Quebec. However, this did not stop General Knox from moving armament from New York to Boston. Due to the formidable weather, the journey was life-threateningly hard, but…

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