Readers who have enjoyed Mr. O’Donnell’s earlier books will not be disappointed with this one ... Mr. O’Donnell’s prose is efficient. The book’s 40 snappy chapters complement his fast-paced writing. He is at his best when it comes to warfare and its apparatus, on land and at sea. Maps help situate the action, as does additional context ... Outside the theater of war, occasional inconsistencies and minor errors creep in ... Still, those seeking a detailed, reliable account of the War for American Independence’s earliest years—one that embraces its nautical dimensions—will find it here.
O’Donnell’s account of Revolution-era Marblehead—its prosperous merchant families, its touchy relations with ‘the mainland’ of Massachusetts, etc.—is textured and oddly modular in its feeling, like it could be easily dislodged from the rest of the book, which broadens the story to include the familiar itinerary of George Washington’s early successes and failures. O’Donnell’s prose line almost always registers somewhere between 'vivid' and 'purple,' which, providentially, is also pretty much where most of the prose of the time period also fell. This makes for gripping reading even when the subject matter has been written up countless times by countless historians, as in Washington’s thrill-packed surprise attack on the Hessian encampment at Trenton ... The attempt to give The Indispensables a Marblehead focus often gives the book the awkward feeling of a monograph trapped inside a melodrama, but even so: for sheer energy, this is the season’s stand-out Revolutionary Era title.
The Revolutionary War achievements of a Massachusetts regiment that, while not necessarily indispensable, deserves this admirable history ... an expert history ... A vivid account of an impressive Revolutionary War unit and a can’t-miss choice for fans of O’Donnell’s previous books.