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"The British Are Coming" Topic

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18th Century

1,234 hits since 27 Feb 2019
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Old Contemptibles Supporting Member of TMP27 Feb 2019 1:44 p.m. PST
Virginia Tory27 Feb 2019 1:48 p.m. PST

Greene was a "brilliant battle captain?"

Winston Smith27 Feb 2019 2:23 p.m. PST

More like a brilliant strategist.
Ignore publisher's fluff. grin

Personal logo ColCampbell Supporting Member of TMP27 Feb 2019 2:37 p.m. PST

If it is anything like his Liberation trilogy, I'll pass. I tried to read the first volume of that trilogy and quickly got disinterested by his style of writing and the errors in the text.


Pan Marek Supporting Member of TMP27 Feb 2019 3:49 p.m. PST

No accounting for taste, but that triology is extremely well regarded, as is the author.

42flanker Supporting Member of TMP28 Feb 2019 4:37 a.m. PST

"The story is also told from the British perspective…"

Oh my.

22ndFoot28 Feb 2019 9:59 a.m. PST

Isn't the title itself inaccurate?

"The Regulars are coming out" does not have quite the same right ring to it but I do hope this is not going to be a lot of one-eyed "print the legend" nonsense.

42flanker Supporting Member of TMP28 Feb 2019 1:00 p.m. PST

I do hope this is not going to be a lot of one-eyed "print the legend" nonsense.

From captions to two illustrations previewed on the website link I shall reserve comment:

'A day after the debacle at Kip's Bay, the American commander in chief lured unwary redcoats into a bloody ambush near Harlem Heights along the Hudson.'

'This sketch by John Trumbull captures the brutality of the bayonet. General Mercer, surprised by a British counterattack near Princeton, spills to the ground after his horse is shot in the foreleg. Despite multiple stab wounds, he would live for more than a week.'

coopman28 Feb 2019 5:59 p.m. PST

Tough crowd.

Virginia Tory28 Feb 2019 8:00 p.m. PST

Oh dear. Not encouraging

Old Contemptibles Supporting Member of TMP28 Feb 2019 8:30 p.m. PST

+1 22nd Foot.

That was my reaction to the title. Does not bode well for the rest of the book. Even the author is highly regarded among Historians.

Old Contemptibles Supporting Member of TMP28 Feb 2019 8:47 p.m. PST

To be fair the title may not have been his choice. The publisher may have insisted on it. To most Americans "The British are Coming" is what PR shouted out. The Publisher may have decided that it was more marketable. They are probably right. Hopefully the issue is corrected in the book.

Old Contemptibles Supporting Member of TMP28 Feb 2019 8:56 p.m. PST

TMP is always a tough crowd. Snowflakes and thin skin need stay away.

42flanker Supporting Member of TMP01 Mar 2019 4:08 a.m. PST

" TMP is always a tough crowd."

Long may it remain so
(Appropriate emoticon)

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP01 Mar 2019 6:13 a.m. PST

What it should be is an accurate 'tough crowd' and it isn't always, unfortunately, as all of us make mistakes from time to time.

Before criticizing the book, perhaps we should have a look at it first?

FlyXwire01 Mar 2019 6:27 a.m. PST

Yeah, agree with Brechtel – it seems many opinions are reflexively negative, and often before fully-informed reviews might even have been made.

Certainly social, but always accurate media? – often just sounds like singing to the choir.

42flanker Supporting Member of TMP02 Mar 2019 4:54 a.m. PST

Having finished spluttering into my coffee, and leaving aside references to 'accuracy' which seem wholly unjustified by any offerings on this thread so far, let me be specific in my observations on the captions cited above.

Harlem Heights. Anyone with a detailed aquaintance of the facts of the action at HH, will understand how stating that "the American commander in chief lured unwary redcoats into a bloody ambush" is a misrepresentation of events. (The bloodiest casualties may have been suffered by Colonel Knowlton's detachment when Washington's planned ambush went wrong and Col.Knowlton and Col.Leitch were shot down along with a number of their men, while the British made their hasty withdrawal to better cover). The C19th illustration bears no relation to the terrain or any point in the action. There could be a number of reasons for using it- the lack of contemporary images being one, but it certainly subscribes to the still prevailing mythology.

As for the caption relating to Mercer's wounding at Princeton, the sketch indicates a helpless Mercer on the ground having been thrown from his horse, about to be bayonetted by British soldiers. By his own account Mercer precipitated his fatal injuries by refusing quarter and attacking the British soldiers who had him cornered. Although Mercer did suffer several bayonet wounds (interesting how use of the word 'multiple' creates a certain impression) the surgeon who treated him thought he was not dangerously wounded and there is an indication that what might in fact have done for Mercer was a brain injury caused by a blow to the head from a musket butt rather than any bayonet wound.

One would hope that the author of the 'British Are Coming' would have been aware of the facts and deployed them accordingly rather than using familiar trophes which are well out of date. They should have been long retired by now, yet they re-appear again and again. True, the passages quoted are only picture captions but they indicate the tone of the piece and the rigour with which the author has revisited the facts

"Full of riveting details and untold stories"?

Well, we shall see.

FlyXwire02 Mar 2019 7:04 a.m. PST

There was nothing wrong with Washington's deployments and ambush maneuver against the British advanced body at Harlem Heights. The British came on with their horns sounding "Call to Ground" – the fox is trapped……

This action involved at least three tactical steps – the initial skirmishing, the ambush maneuver, and the movement to support and turn the action into a more general engagement.

Some quotes on casualties suffered –

"The British casualties were officially reported by Howe at 14 killed and 78 wounded, but a member of Howe's staff wrote in his diary that the loss was 14 killed and 154 wounded. The author David McCullough suggests much higher figures of "probably…90 killed and about 300 wounded" but cites no source for this. Henry Johnston, whose 1897 study remains the most thorough investigation of the battle, assessed British losses at 14 killed and 157 wounded and those of the Americans at about 30 killed and 100 wounded."

"The fighting at Harlem Heights, really on the Harlem Plains, was not a major battle. The American suffered 60 casualties, including the deaths of Leitch and Knowlton; the British counted about 100 casualties. However, this encounter ended the recent tendency of American forces to flee when faced by British soldiers. This time the American lines held and the British retreated."

That's bloody enough.

42flanker Supporting Member of TMP02 Mar 2019 12:57 p.m. PST


The merits of Washington's stratagem were not at issue. My point was that it did not succeed in its objective and that the phrase "lured unwary redcoats into a bloody ambush" is a misleading contraction of the events of the day.

Not so much an ambush as an attempted encirclement, the manoeuvre ordered by Washington was not as successful or as costly to the British as Atkinson's brief caption seeks to suggest and indeed cost the Americans dearly while allowing the Light Infantry patrol to fall back on the supports sent up to cover their withdrawal, having caused significant losses among the rangers and riflemen, including their two commanders; capable officers whose death Washington could ill-afford.

However, perhaps the most costly phase of the day to both sides was the stand-up fight that followed, where the supports sent by both sides, more or less evenly matched, exchanged fire fruitlessly for two hours across the so-called Buckwheat Field. Bloody and wasteful it might have been, with casualties more or less even, but it was not an ambush.

And as for the British coming on "with their horns sounding "Call to Ground" – the fox is trapped……", (a) you are confusing the British response to Washington's stratagem with the first stage of the action when the Light Infantry's advanced through the woods of their own accord in pursuit of Knowlton's recconnaissance party and (b) you are citing a version of this much mythologised episode as garbled as those by numerous authors writing on the subject in the last 100 or so years and which rather illustrates Virginia Tory's concerns over ‘one-eyed print the legend' narratives.

FlyXwire03 Mar 2019 6:32 a.m. PST

You know, I think I'll just wait for the actual book reviews to come in.

I enjoyed the author's excellent work, and award-winning book – Army At Dawn (we'll see if can do his magic for the Rev. War too) –


42flanker Supporting Member of TMP04 Mar 2019 6:48 a.m. PST

Meanwhile, enjoy the spring!

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP15 May 2019 8:28 a.m. PST

I received my copy of Atkinson's new book yesterday and immediately went to his version of Harlem Heights/The Hollow Way.

It was excellent and he is definite that both the British light infantry and the Black Watch ran.

42flanker Supporting Member of TMP15 May 2019 10:34 a.m. PST

No surprises there, then

Virginia Tory23 May 2019 6:08 p.m. PST

Any casualties that are not roughly 3:1 wounded to killed are suspect (not counting unusual engagements like Paoli). Boatner has a nice analysis of this.

Virginia Tory30 May 2019 10:35 a.m. PST

Just read up through the Lexington engagement. So far, nothing major has leapt out making me go "aiiigh!" At least, not yet.

Parker still referred to as F&I veteran. I thought that had been proven not to have been the case?

42flanker Supporting Member of TMP30 May 2019 10:04 p.m. PST

So,the British have arrived…

Virginia Tory31 May 2019 8:49 a.m. PST

They're reforming and off to Concord, which is a bit more alert than they were at Lexington.

MiniPigs02 Jun 2019 12:24 p.m. PST

Why are the page edges on my copy so ragged? It's like they were cut with a hand paper cutter.

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