“In the Hurricane’s Eye” -Winter 2018

The final book in Nat Philbrick’s Revolutionary War trilogy

by: John Stanton

Five years into the War for Independence, George Washington was leading an army that was undermanned, underfed, ragged and often unpaid. It was an army that lost as many battles as it won. And the vaunted British Navy controlled the coast of America.

“The bitter truth was that by the summer of 1871 the American Revolution had failed,” Nat Philbrick writes in his latest book, “In the Hurricane’s Eye,” the third book in a trilogy that began at Bunker Hill.

The Battle of the Chesapeake has been called the most important naval battle in history. It directly led to the decisive American victory at Yorktown. Two years later the Revolutionary War was over.

“With thousands of able bodied citizens refusing to serve, with thirteen states refusing to fund the meager army that did exist ... the very existence of the United States now rested with soldiers and sailors of another nation.”

The trilogy begins in those heady days of revolutionary foment, with “Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution,” and follows the war as it moves into the American interior in “Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution.”

In all three books Philbrick tells us a story that we only think we know. This time it is the story of how the American Revolution was won in the waters just off the Chesapeake Bay, in a naval battle between the French and British fleets.

It’s a sprawling story, filled with characters that Philbrick draws out of the sepia tones of history and allows them to be seen in all their fragility, venality and greatness. Researching these characters and letting their struggles drive the story has become his main trait in writing what is best called narrative history.

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