Not 1776

Reviewing "1775: A good Year for Revolution"

July 4, 1776 - everybody knows that was the moment that launched the colonies' revolution against England. We set off fireworks, have cookouts and parades, and fly our flags to celebrate that historic day.

But could we have it all wrong? Could it be that fateful moment - the real start of the revolution - happened earlier, much earlier? There are two just-released books that argue that point of view - one explicitly, one implicitly.

Author Kevin Phillips says in "1775: A good Year for Revolution" [Penquin Books, $36] that by the time the Declaration of Independence was signed, the colonies had already rejected British imperialism, that the Declaration simply formalized the sentiment. He writes that 1776 is exalted as the pivotal year for independence because popular history has a tendency to simplify things: "Why complicate an easy story?" says Phillips.

He feels that a true marker of the independence movement was in December 1774, when colonists successfully raided the munitions supply at Fort William and Mary in New Castle, NH, to keep the British from confiscating them. Unlike earlier rebellions, the colonists from Portsmouth, Exeter, Dover and points beyond faced charges of treason, a hanging offense.

Author Terri DeMitchell's "The Portsmouth Alarm" [Mayhaven Publishing, $16.95] gives a fascinating fictionalized account of the raid (there were actually two in two days) and puts it in the context of the times. The raid is an incident most people know little about and DeMitchell brings it alive.

She wrote the book for young adults but I, a bit older than that, enjoyed it immensely.

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