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The Indispensables: The Diverse Soldier-Mariners Who Shaped the Country, Formed the Navy, and Rowed Washington Across the Delaware

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From the bestselling author of Washington’s Immortals and The Unknowns, an important new chronicle of the American Revolution heralding the heroism of the men from Marblehead, Massachusetts

On the stormy night of August 29, 1776, the Continental Army faced capture or annihilation after losing the Battle of Brooklyn. The British had trapped George Washington’s forces against the East River, and the fate of the Revolution rested upon the shoulders of the soldier-mariners from Marblehead, Massachusetts. Serving side by side in one of the country’s first diverse units, they pulled off an “American Dunkirk” and saved the army by transporting it across the treacherous waters of the river to Manhattan.

In the annals of the American Revolution, no group played a more consequential role than the Marbleheaders. At the right time in the right place, they repeatedly altered the course of events, and their story shines new light on our understanding of the Revolution. As acclaimed historian Patrick K. O’Donnell dramatically recounts, beginning nearly a decade before the war started, and in the midst of a raging virus that divided the town politically, Marbleheaders such as Elbridge Gerry and Azor Orne spearheaded the break with Britain and shaped the nascent United States by playing a crucial role governing, building alliances, seizing British ships, forging critical supply lines, and establishing the origins of the US Navy.

The Marblehead Regiment, led by John Glover, became truly indispensable. Marbleheaders battled at Lexington and on Bunker Hill and formed the elite Guard that protected George Washington. Then, at the most crucial time in the war, the special operations–like regiment, against all odds, conveyed 2,400 of Washington’s men across the ice-filled Delaware River on Christmas night 1776, delivering a momentum-shifting surprise attack on Trenton. Later, Marblehead doctor Nathaniel Bond inoculated the Continental Army against a deadly virus, which changed the course of history.

White, Black, Hispanic, and Native American, this uniquely diverse group of soldiers set an inclusive standard of unity the US Army would not reach again for more than 170 years. The Marbleheaders’ chronicle, never fully told before now, makes The Indispensables a vital addition to the literature of the American Revolution.

ISBN-13: 9780802156891

Media Type: Hardcover

Publisher: Grove/Atlantic Inc.

Publication Date: 05-18-2021

Pages: 432

Product Dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)

Patrick K. O’Donnell is a bestselling, critically acclaimed military historian and an expert on elite units. The author of twelve books, including The Unknowns and Washington’s Immortals, and a Fellow at Mount Vernon, he is the recipient of numerous national awards. O’Donnell served as a combat historian in a Marine rifle platoon during the Battle of Fallujah and is a professional speaker on America’s conflicts, espionage, special operations, and counterinsurgency. He has provided historical consulting for DreamWorks’ award-winning miniseries Band of Brothers and for documentaries produced by the BBC, the History Channel, and Discovery.

Table of Contents

Prologue xi

Chapter 1 Seeds of Rebellion 1

Chapter 2 Marblehead's Leading Families 9

Chapter 3 Massacre and Tea 17

Chapter 4 A Virus and the Revenge of the Loyalists 26

Chapter 5 Boston Port Act 33

Chapter 6 Gunpowder 38

Chapter 7 Arms Race and a Fledgling Government 43

Chapter 8 The Marblehead Regiment 53

Chapter 9 The Forgotten First Shots: The Raid on Fort William and Mary 59

Chapter 10 Salem Nearly Ignites the Revolutionary War 70

Chapter 11 Prelude to War: Rendezvous at Black Horse Tavern 82

Chapter 12 First Blood at Lexington: Disarming the Americans 90

Chapter 13 Concord 96

Chapter 14 The Bloody Gauntlet 101

Chapter 15 Siege, the Army of New England, and Mr. Gerry 108

Chapter 16 The Loyalists 114

Chapter 17 Tyranny, Victims, and the American Narrative 120

Chapter 18 Bunker Hill 126

Chapter 19 General George Washington Arrives in Cambridge 145

Chapter 20 Washington's Covert Navy 151

Chapter 21 Broughton's Odyssey 159

Chapter 22 "This Instance of Divine Favour": Captain John Manley and the Capture of the Nancy 170

Chapter 23 Snowball Fight and a Diverse Regiment 179

Chapter 24 Beverly 185

Chapter 25 Washington's Life Guard and Lifting the Siege of Boston 194

Chapter 26 Dark Days and Hope 204

Chapter 27 Killing Washington and the Invasion 213

Chapter 28 "We Wish to Give Them Another Drubbing": Fire Ships and Invasion 222

Chapter 29 The Decision 234

Chapter 30 American Dunkirk 238

Chapter 31 Kips Bay 246

Chapter 32 The Forgotten Battles That Saved Washington's Army 260

Chapter 33 White Plains 272

Chapter 34 The Darkest Days 278

Chapter 35 Counterattack 291

Chapter 36 The Crossing 297

Chapter 37 Trenton: The Tide Turns 305

Chapter 38 The Epic Stand at Assunpink Creek 319

Chapter 39 Princeton 330

Chapter 40 Home and Back 338

Dramatis Personae 351

Acknowledgments 357

Notes 361

Index 403