Bill O’Reilly’s Legends and Lies
Henry Holt, New York, 2016, 320 pages
Book Review published on: April 7, 2017
What you learned beginning in grade school about the America Revolution may not all be true. Events and opinions can be embellished over time; a legend or a lie can be perpetuated. However, there is normally some historical truth to legends. So what is fact and what is fiction? Who was first man to sign the Declaration of Independence? What caused Benedict Arnold to become the most famous traitor in American history? Did Nathan Hale defiantly state, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country?” What do you believe about the American Revolution and what actually happened? The truth is sometimes stretched, and other incredible feats are lost or forgotten over the years. The author researches and presents the facts related to historical events, people, documents, symbols, battles, heroes, and traitors. You may be surprised what you find.
Legends and Lies is a historical book written in a very entertaining way. It is interesting, intriguing, and at times, suspenseful. Even if you know the outcome of the war and that George Washington becomes the first president, the events that enabled those outcomes are surrounded by incredible stories and courageous people. The book covers the period that lead to the American Revolution and the forming of a new government. The author explains the general environment and events that are taking place. Then he dives into details when there appears to be a legend or lie that is not supported by historical facts. Fisher then explains the facts surrounding the events through historical documents, journals, and other firsthand accounts from the period. He also attempts to identify when and where the legend or lie began, and how it may have been perceived as the truth. There are also legends that cannot be proven or disproven; it is left to the reader to decide their veracity.
Fisher does not simply describe events in chronological order. He diverts from the main historical event to track down a person or interesting facts that is related to it. He identifies common legends, songs, famous paintings, and illustrations to support the event. Fisher uses this technique throughout the book to reveal legends or lies related to several historical events. The historical documents, paintings, and maps also enable visualization of the people, battles, and incredible distances that were covered.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the America Revolution time period and who appreciates history combined with entertainment. The author compresses a very complicated time period into a relatively short book. There is sometimes too much information in rapid-fire succession in some descriptions; drawn out in others. However, there is a great balance of facts, incredible feats, legends, and lies that surround the birth of a nation.
Book Review written by: Lt. Col. Peter Campbell, U.S. Army, Retired, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas