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"The Battle of Bunker Hill"

Started by Newsletter, May 31, 2023, 10:55:24 AM

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"The Battle of Bunker Hill" By: AH1Tom

By early 1775 tensions between Britain and her colonies had escalated. The colonists began to mobilize for war, while the British Army secured gunpowder and cannon in anticipation of an uprising. On April 19, it all came to a head in the Massachusetts towns of Lexington and Concord. After that historic engagement, the British retreated to their camp in Boston, and local militias prepared for future British attacks. Militiamen marched to defend Boston, some from as far away as Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and what is now the state of Vermont.

British Commander-in-Chief General Sir Thomas Gage was under pressure to quash the colonial rebellion. The British Army planned to launch an attack against the Americans on the heights north and south of Boston. Details of the attack were leaked to the Colonials, however, and a detachment of 1,000 Massachusetts and Connecticut soldiers, including enslaved and free African Americans gathered to defend a hill in Charlestown. The violent clash of these forces on what is mistakenly known as "Bunker Hill" signaled that the colonial revolt would not be easily extinguished.

The sheer number of militiamen gathered on the hills outside of Boston deeply troubles General Thomas Gage and his newly arrived subordinates, Generals William Howe, Henry Clinton, and John Burgoyne. On June 15th and 16th, the Patriots moved forward to Breed's Hill on the Charlestown peninsula, where they prepared a fortified position that all but invites a British response.

June 17, 1775

On this sultry afternoon, Gage and his commanders ordered the British regulars and grenadiers to move across Boston Harbor and disembark in lower Charlestown, where Gage forced the rabble's hand with an assault. As the British moved into position, the fatigued but spirited defenders were on the alert inside their hastily built fortifications.

Led by General William Howe, King George's troops climbed Breed's Hill in perfect battle formation. Legend has it that as they advanced, American officer William Prescott cautioned his men not to waste their powder, exclaiming "don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes." When British troops neared the redoubt, the patriots unleashed a withering volley, creating an absolute slaughter. It is a veritable bloodbath as the British retreated back to their lines.

Once more the British pushed up the hill, stepping over the bodies of their dead and wounded comrades who lay "as thick as sheep in a fold," and again they received another patriot volley. Finally, on the third try -and just when the patriots ran out of powder and shotâ€"the British succeeded in breaking through the patriot works. Intense hand-to-hand fighting began inside the fortification. The British are victorious but at a cost. At some point in the struggle, a "black soldier named Salem" is credited with killing British Major John Pitcairn.

"Our three generals," a British officer wrote of his commanders in Boston, "expected rather to punish a mob than fight with troops that would look them in the face." The King's troops count 282 dead and another 800 wounded. Patriot casualties were less than half of the British total. British General Sir Henry Clinton appalled at the carnage, called it "a dear bought victory." Badly depleted, the British abandoned their plans to seize another high point near the city and, they are ultimately forced to evacuate Boston.

Though defeated, the Patriots were not demoralized by their loss. Those who choose to stay and keep the British bottled up in Boston become the nucleus of the Continental Army. The task of transforming the mob into a fighting force falls on the shoulders of Virginian George Washington, who assumes command in Cambridge, Massachusetts, within two weeks of the erroneously named Battle of Bunker Hill.