Battle of Bunker Hill

From Wikipedia for FEVERv2
Jump to navigation Jump to search

For a list of numerous places and things that are named after this battle, see Bunker Hill. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_0

Battle of Bunker Hill_table_infobox_0

Battle of Bunker HillBattle of Bunker Hill_header_cell_0_0_0
DateJune 17, 1775LocationCharlestown, MassachusettsResult

See AftermathTerritorial changes The British capture Charlestown PeninsulaBattle of Bunker Hill_cell_0_1_0

DateBattle of Bunker Hill_header_cell_0_2_0 June 17, 1775Battle of Bunker Hill_cell_0_2_1
LocationBattle of Bunker Hill_header_cell_0_3_0 Charlestown, MassachusettsBattle of Bunker Hill_cell_0_3_1
ResultBattle of Bunker Hill_header_cell_0_4_0 See AftermathBattle of Bunker Hill_cell_0_4_1

changesBattle of Bunker Hill_header_cell_0_5_0

The British capture Charlestown PeninsulaBattle of Bunker Hill_cell_0_5_1
BelligerentsBattle of Bunker Hill_header_cell_0_6_0
United ColoniesBattle of Bunker Hill_cell_0_7_0 Great BritainBattle of Bunker Hill_cell_0_7_1
Commanders and leadersBattle of Bunker Hill_header_cell_0_8_0
William Prescott
Israel Putnam
Joseph Warren 
 John StarkBattle of Bunker Hill_cell_0_9_0
Kingdom_of_Great_Britain William Howe
Kingdom_of_Great_Britain Thomas Gage
Kingdom_of_Great_Britain Sir Robert Pigot
Kingdom_of_Great_Britain James Abercrombie 
Kingdom_of_Great_Britain Henry Clinton
Kingdom_of_Great_Britain Samuel Graves
Kingdom_of_Great_Britain John Pitcairn Battle of Bunker Hill_cell_0_9_1
StrengthBattle of Bunker Hill_header_cell_0_10_0
~2,400Battle of Bunker Hill_cell_0_11_0 3,000+Battle of Bunker Hill_cell_0_11_1
Casualties and lossesBattle of Bunker Hill_header_cell_0_12_0
115 killed,

305 wounded, 30 captured (20 POWs died) Total: 450Battle of Bunker Hill_cell_0_13_0

19 officers killed

62 officers wounded 207 soldiers killed 766 soldiers wounded Total: 1,054Battle of Bunker Hill_cell_0_13_1

The Battle of Bunker Hill was fought on June 17, 1775, during the Siege of Boston in the early stages of the American Revolutionary War. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_1

The battle is named after Bunker Hill in Charlestown, Massachusetts, which was peripherally involved in the battle. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_2

It was the original objective of both the colonial and British troops, though the majority of combat took place on the adjacent hill which later became known as Breed's Hill. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_3

On June 13, 1775, the leaders of the colonial forces besieging Boston learned that the British were planning to send troops out from the city to fortify the unoccupied hills surrounding the city, which would give them control of Boston Harbor. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_4

In response, 1,200 colonial troops under the command of William Prescott stealthily occupied Bunker Hill and Breed's Hill. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_5

During the night, the colonists constructed a strong redoubt on Breed's Hill, as well as smaller fortified lines across the Charlestown Peninsula. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_6

By daybreak of June 17, the British became aware of the presence of colonial forces on the Peninsula and mounted an attack against them that day. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_7

Two assaults on the colonial positions were repulsed with significant British casualties; the third and final attack carried the redoubt after the defenders ran out of ammunition. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_8

The colonists retreated to Cambridge over Bunker Hill, leaving the British in control of the Peninsula. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_9

The battle was a tactical, though somewhat Pyrrhic, victory for the British, as it proved to be a sobering experience for them, involving many more casualties than the Americans had incurred, including many officers. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_10

The battle had demonstrated that inexperienced militia were able to stand up to regular army troops in battle. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_11

Subsequently, the battle discouraged the British from any further frontal attacks against well defended front lines. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_12

American casualties were comparatively much fewer, although their losses included General Joseph Warren and Major Andrew McClary, the final casualty of the battle. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_13

The battle led the British to adopt a more cautious planning and maneuver execution in future engagements, which was evident in the subsequent New York and New Jersey campaign, and arguably helped rather than hindered the American forces. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_14

Their new approach to battle was actually giving the Americans greater opportunity to retreat if defeat was imminent. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_15

The costly engagement also convinced the British of the need to hire substantial numbers of Hessian auxiliaries to bolster their strength in the face of the new and formidable Continental Army. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_16

Geography Battle of Bunker Hill_section_0

Boston, situated on a peninsula, was largely protected from close approach by the expanses of water surrounding it, which were dominated by British warships. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_17

In the aftermath of the battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, the colonial militia, a force of about 15,000 men, had surrounded the town, and effectively besieged it. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_18

Under the command of Artemas Ward, they controlled the only land access to Boston itself (the Roxbury Neck), but, lacking a navy, were unable to even contest British domination of the waters of the harbor. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_19

The British troops, a force of about 6,000 under the command of General Thomas Gage, occupied the city, and were able to be resupplied and reinforced by sea. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_20

In theory, they were thus able to remain in Boston indefinitely. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_21

However, the land across the water from Boston contained a number of hills, which could be used to advantage. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_22

If the militia could obtain enough artillery pieces, these could be placed on the hills and used to bombard the city until the occupying army evacuated it or surrendered. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_23

It was with this in mind that the Knox Expedition, led by Henry Knox, later transported cannon from Fort Ticonderoga to the Boston area. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_24

The Charlestown Peninsula, lying to the north of Boston, started from a short, narrow isthmus (known as the Charlestown Neck) at its northwest and extended about 1 mile (1.6 km) southeastward into Boston Harbor. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_25

Bunker Hill, with an elevation of 110 feet (34 m), lay at the northern end of the peninsula. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_26

Breed's Hill, at a height of 62 feet (19 m), was more southerly and nearer to Boston. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_27

Although at an advantage due to the height of Breed's Hill and Bunker Hill, it also essentially trapped the American soldiers at the top. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_28

The town of Charlestown occupied flats at the southern end of the peninsula. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_29

At its closest approach, less than 1,000 feet (300 m) separated the Charlestown Peninsula from the Boston Peninsula, where Copp's Hill was at about the same height as Breed's Hill. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_30

While the British retreat from Concord had ended in Charlestown, General Gage, rather than immediately fortifying the hills on the peninsula, had withdrawn those troops to Boston the day after that battle, turning the entire Charlestown Peninsula into a no man's land. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_31

British planning Battle of Bunker Hill_section_1

Throughout May, in response to orders from Gage requesting support, the British received reinforcements, until they reached a strength of about 6,000 men. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_32

On May 25, three generals arrived on HMS Cerberus: William Howe, John Burgoyne, and Henry Clinton. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_33

Gage began planning with them to break out of the city, finalizing a plan on June 12. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_34

This plan began with the taking of the Dorchester Neck, fortifying the Dorchester Heights, and then marching on the colonial forces stationed in Roxbury. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_35

Once the southern flank had been secured, the Charlestown heights would be taken, and the forces in Cambridge driven away. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_36

The attack was set for June 18. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_37

On June 13, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress was notified, by express messenger from the Committee of Safety in Exeter, New Hampshire, that a New Hampshire gentleman "of undoubted veracity" had, while visiting Boston, overheard the British commanders making plans to capture Dorchester and Charlestown. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_38

On June 15, the Massachusetts Committee of Safety decided that additional defenses needed to be erected. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_39

General Ward directed General Israel Putnam to set up defenses on the Charlestown Peninsula, specifically on Bunker Hill. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_40

Prelude to battle Battle of Bunker Hill_section_2

Fortification of Breed's Hill Battle of Bunker Hill_section_3

On the night of June 16, colonial Colonel William Prescott led about 1,200 men onto the peninsula in order to set up positions from which artillery fire could be directed into Boston. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_41

This force was made up of men from the regiments of Prescott, Putnam (the unit was commanded by Thomas Knowlton), James Frye, and Ebenezer Bridge. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_42

At first, Putnam, Prescott, and their engineer, Captain Richard Gridley, disagreed as to where they should locate their defense. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_43

Some work was performed on Bunker Hill, but Breed's Hill was closer to Boston and viewed as being more defensible. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_44

Arguably against orders, they decided to build their primary redoubt there. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_45

Prescott and his men, using Gridley's outline, began digging a square fortification about 130 feet (40 m) on a side with ditches and earthen walls. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_46

The walls of the redoubt were about 6 feet (1.8 m) high, with a wooden platform inside on which men could stand and fire over the walls. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_47

The works on Breed's Hill did not go unnoticed by the British. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_48

General Clinton, out on reconnaissance that night, was aware of them, and tried to convince Gage and Howe that they needed to prepare to attack the position at daylight. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_49

British sentries were also aware of the activity, but most apparently did not think it cause for alarm. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_50

Then, in the early predawn, around 4 a.m., a sentry on board HMS Lively spotted the new fortification, and notified her captain. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_51

Lively opened fire, temporarily halting the colonists' work. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_52

Aboard his flagship HMS Somerset, Admiral Samuel Graves awoke, irritated by the gunfire that he had not ordered. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_53

He stopped it, only to have General Gage countermand his decision when he became fully aware of the situation in the morning. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_54

He ordered all 128 guns in the harbor, as well as batteries atop Copp's Hill in Boston, to fire on the colonial position, which had relatively little effect. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_55

The rising sun also alerted Prescott to a significant problem with the location of the redoubt – it could easily be flanked on either side. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_56

He promptly ordered his men to begin constructing a breastwork running down the hill to the east, deciding he did not have the manpower to also build additional defenses to the west of the redoubt. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_57

British preparations Battle of Bunker Hill_section_4

When the British generals met to discuss their options, General Clinton, who had urged an attack as early as possible, preferred an attack beginning from the Charlestown Neck that would cut off the colonists' retreat, reducing the process of capturing the new redoubt to one of starving out its occupants. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_58

However, he was outvoted by the other three generals. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_59

Howe, who was the senior officer present and would lead the assault, was of the opinion that the hill was "open and easy of ascent and in short would be easily carried." Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_60

General Burgoyne concurred, arguing that the "untrained rabble" would be no match for their "trained troops". Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_61

Orders were then issued to prepare the expedition. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_62

When General Gage surveyed the works from Boston with his staff, Loyalist Abijah Willard recognized his brother-in-law Colonel Prescott. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_63

"Will he fight?" Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_64

asked Gage. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_65

"[A]s to his men, I cannot answer for them;" replied Willard, "but Colonel Prescott will fight you to the gates of hell." Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_66

Prescott lived up to Willard's word, but his men were not so resolute. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_67

When the colonists suffered their first casualty, Asa Pollard of Billerica, a young private killed by cannon fire, Prescott gave orders to bury the man quickly and quietly, but a large group of men gave him a solemn funeral instead, with several deserting shortly thereafter. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_68

It took six hours for the British to organize an infantry force and to gather up and inspect the men on parade. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_69

General Howe was to lead the major assault, drive around the colonial left flank, and take them from the rear. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_70

Brigadier General Robert Pigot on the British left flank would lead the direct assault on the redoubt, and Major John Pitcairn led the flank or reserve force. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_71

It took several trips in longboats to transport Howe's initial forces (consisting of about 1,500 men) to the eastern corner of the peninsula, known as Moulton's Point. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_72

By 2 p.m., Howe's chosen force had landed. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_73

However, while crossing the river, Howe noted the large number of colonial troops on top of Bunker Hill. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_74

Believing these to be reinforcements, he immediately sent a message to Gage, requesting additional troops. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_75

He then ordered some of the light infantry to take a forward position along the eastern side of the peninsula, alerting the colonists to his intended course of action. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_76

The troops then sat down to eat while they waited for the reinforcements. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_77

Colonists reinforce their positions Battle of Bunker Hill_section_5

Prescott, seeing the British preparations, called for reinforcements. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_78

Among the reinforcements were Joseph Warren, the popular young leader of the Massachusetts Committee of Safety, and Seth Pomeroy, an aging Massachusetts militia leader. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_79

Both of these men held commissions of rank, but chose to serve as infantry. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_80

Prescott ordered the Connecticut men under Captain Knowlton to defend the left flank, where they used a crude dirt wall as a breastwork, and topped it with fence rails and hay. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_81

They also constructed three small v-shaped trenches between this dirt wall and Prescott's breastwork. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_82

Troops that arrived to reinforce this flank position included about 200 men from the 1st and 3rd New Hampshire regiments, under Colonels John Stark and James Reed. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_83

Stark's men, who did not arrive until after Howe landed his forces (and thus filled a gap in the defense that Howe could have taken advantage of, had he pressed his attack sooner), took positions along the breastwork on the northern end of the colonial position. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_84

When low tide opened a gap along the Mystic River to the north, they quickly extended the fence with a short stone wall to the water's edge. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_85

Colonel Stark placed a stake about 100 feet (30 m) in front of the fence and ordered that no one fire until the regulars passed it. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_86

Just prior to the action, further reinforcements arrived, including portions of Massachusetts regiments of Colonels Brewer, Nixon, Woodbridge, Little, and Major Moore, as well as Callender's company of artillery. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_87

Behind the colonial lines, confusion reigned. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_88

Many units sent toward the action stopped before crossing the Charlestown Neck from Cambridge, which was under constant fire from gun batteries to the south. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_89

Others reached Bunker Hill, but then, uncertain about where to go from there, milled around. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_90

One commentator wrote of the scene that "it appears to me there never was more confusion and less command." Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_91

While General Putnam was on the scene attempting to direct affairs, unit commanders often misunderstood or disobeyed orders. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_92

British assault Battle of Bunker Hill_section_6

By 3 p.m., the British reinforcements, which included the 47th Foot and the 1st Marines, had arrived, and the British were ready to march. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_93

Brigadier General Pigot's force, gathering just south of Charlestown village, were taking casualties from sniper fire from the settlement, and Howe asked Admiral Graves for assistance in clearing out the snipers. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_94

Graves, who had planned for such a possibility, ordered incendiary shot fired into the village, and then sent a landing party to set fire to the town. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_95

The smoke billowing from Charlestown lent an almost surreal backdrop to the fighting, as the winds were such that the smoke was kept from the field of battle. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_96

General Howe led the light infantry companies and grenadiers in the assault on the American left flank along the rail fence, expecting an easy effort against Stark's recently arrived troops. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_97

His light infantry were set along the narrow beach, in column formation, in order to turn the far left flank of the colonial position. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_98

The grenadiers were deployed in the centre, lining up four deep and several hundred across. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_99

Pigot, commanding the 5th, 38th, 43rd, 47th, and 52nd regiments, as well as Major Pitcairn's Marines, were to feint an assault on the redoubt. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_100

Just before the British advanced, the American position along the rail fence was reinforced by two pieces of artillery from Bunker Hill. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_101

Howe had intended the advance to be preceded by an artillery bombardment from the field pieces present, however, it was soon discovered that these cannon had been supplied with the wrong caliber of ammunition, delaying the assault. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_102

Attacking Breed's Hill presented an array of difficulties; the hay on the hillside had not been harvested, requiring that the regulars marched through waist-high grass which concealed the uneven terrain beneath; the pastureland of the hillside was covered with crisscrossing rail fences hampering the cohesion of marching formations; the regulars were loaded down with gear wholly unnecessary for the attack; and the heat of the afternoon sun, compounded by the nearby inferno from Charlestown, presented a environment not conducive for the troops in their wool uniforms to conduct an efficient attack. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_103

For their part, to offset their shortage of powder, the colonists withheld their fire until the regulars were within at least 50 paces of their position. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_104

As the regulars closed in range, they suffered heavy casualties from colonial fire. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_105

The colonists benefited from the rail fence to steady and aim their muskets, and enjoyed a modicum of cover from return fire. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_106

Under this withering fire, the light companies melted away and retreated, some as far as their boats. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_107

James Abercrombie, commanding the Grenadiers, was fatally wounded. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_108

Pigot's attacks on the redoubt and breastworks fared little better; by stopping and exchanging fire with the colonists, the regulars were fully exposed and suffered heavy losses. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_109

They continued to be harried by snipers in Charlestown, and, after seeing what happened to Howe's advance, Pigot ordered a retreat. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_110

The regulars reformed on the field and marched out again, this time navigating a field strewn with dead and wounded comrades. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_111

This time, Pigot was not to feint; he was to assault the redoubt directly, possibly without the assistance of Howe's force. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_112

Howe, instead of marching against Stark's position along the beach, advanced instead against Knowlton's position along the rail fence. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_113

The outcome of the second attack was very much the same as the first. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_114

One British observer wrote, "Most of our Grenadiers and Light-infantry, the moment of presenting themselves lost three-fourths, and many nine-tenths, of their men. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_115

Some had only eight or nine men a company left ..." Pigot's attack did not enjoy any greater success than Howe; after almost thirty minutes of firing ineffective volleys at the colonial position, Pigot ordered a retreat. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_116

The second attack had failed. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_117

Meanwhile, in the rear of the colonial forces, confusion continued to reign. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_118

General Putnam tried, with only limited success, to send additional troops from Bunker Hill to the forward positions on Breed's Hill to support the embattled regiments. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_119

One colonial observer wrote to Samuel Adams afterwards, "it appears to me that there was never more confusion and less command". Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_120

Some companies and leaderless groups of men moved toward the field; others retreated. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_121

They were running low on powder and ammunition, and the colonial regiments suffered from a haemorrhage of deserters; by the time the third attack came, there were only 700-800 men left on Breed's Hill, with only 150 in the redoubt. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_122

John Chester, a Connecticut captain, seeing an entire company in retreat, ordered his company to aim muskets at that company to halt its retreat; they turned about and headed back to the battlefield. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_123

The British rear was also in disarray. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_124

Wounded soldiers that were mobile had made their way to the landing areas and were being ferried back to Boston, while the wounded lying on the field of battle were the source of moans and cries of pain. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_125

Howe, committing to a third attack, sent word to Clinton in Boston for additional troops. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_126

Clinton, who had observed the first two attacks, sent around 400 men from the 2nd Marines and the 63rd Foot, and followed himself to help rally the troops. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_127

In addition to these reserves, he convinced around 200 walking wounded to form up for the third attack. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_128

The third assault was to concentrate squarely on the redoubt, with only a feint on the colonist's flank. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_129

Howe ordered his men to remove their heavy packs and leave all unnecessary equipment behind. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_130

Howe arrayed his forces in column formation rather than the extended order of the first two assaults, exposing fewer men along the front to colonial fire. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_131

The third attack, this time made at the point of the bayonet, successfully carried the redoubt, however the final volleys of fire from the colonists cost the life of Major Pitcairn. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_132

The defenders had run out of ammunition, reducing the battle to close combat. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_133

The advantage turned to the British, as their troops were equipped with bayonets on their muskets, while most of the colonists were not. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_134

Colonel Prescott, one of the last men to leave the redoubt, parried bayonet thrusts with his normally ceremonial sabre. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_135

It is during the retreat from the redoubt that Joseph Warren was killed. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_136

The retreat of much of the colonial forces from the peninsula was made possible in part by the controlled withdrawal of the forces along the rail fence, led by John Stark and Thomas Knowlton, which prevented the encirclement of the hill. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_137

Their disciplined retreat, described by Burgoyne as "no flight; it was even covered with bravery and military skill", was so effective that most of the wounded were saved; most of the prisoners taken by the British were mortally wounded. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_138

General Putnam attempted to reform the troops on Bunker Hill; however the flight of the colonial forces was so rapid that artillery pieces and entrenching tools had to be abandoned. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_139

The colonists suffered most of their casualties during the retreat on Bunker Hill. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_140

By 5 p.m., the colonists had retreated over the Charlestown Neck to fortified positions in Cambridge, and the British were in control of the peninsula. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_141

Aftermath Battle of Bunker Hill_section_7

The British had taken the ground but at a great loss; they had suffered 1,054 casualties (226 dead and 828 wounded), with a disproportionate number of these officers. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_142

The casualty count was the highest suffered by the British in any single encounter during the entire war. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_143

General Clinton, echoing Pyrrhus of Epirus, remarked in his diary that "A few more such victories would have shortly put an end to British dominion in America." Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_144

British dead and wounded included 100 commissioned officers, a significant portion of the British officer corps in North America. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_145

Much of General Howe's field staff was among the casualties. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_146

General Gage, in his report after the battle, reported the following officer casualties (listing lieutenants and above by name): Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_147

Battle of Bunker Hill_unordered_list_0

  • 1 lieutenant colonel killedBattle of Bunker Hill_item_0_0
  • 2 majors killed, 3 woundedBattle of Bunker Hill_item_0_1
  • 7 captains killed, 27 woundedBattle of Bunker Hill_item_0_2
  • 9 lieutenants killed, 32 woundedBattle of Bunker Hill_item_0_3
  • 15 sergeants killed, 42 woundedBattle of Bunker Hill_item_0_4
  • 1 drummer killed, 12 woundedBattle of Bunker Hill_item_0_5

The colonial losses were about 450, of whom 140 were killed. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_148

Most of the colonial losses came during the withdrawal. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_149

Major Andrew McClary was technically the highest ranking colonial officer to die in the battle; he was hit by cannon fire on Charlestown Neck, the last person to be killed in the battle. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_150

He was later commemorated by the dedication of Fort McClary in Kittery, Maine. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_151

A serious loss to the Patriot cause, however, was the death of Dr. Joseph Warren. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_152

He was the President of Massachusetts' Provincial Congress, and he had been appointed a Major General on June 14. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_153

His commission had not yet taken effect when he served as a volunteer private three days later at Bunker Hill. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_154

Only thirty men were captured by the British, most of them with grievous wounds; twenty died while held prisoner. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_155

The colonials also lost numerous shovels and other entrenching tools, as well as five out of the six cannon they had brought to the peninsula. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_156

Political consequences Battle of Bunker Hill_section_8

When news of the battle spread through the colonies, it was reported as a colonial loss, as the ground had been taken by the enemy, and significant casualties were incurred. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_157

George Washington, who was on his way to Boston as the new commander of the Continental Army, received news of the battle while in New York City. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_158

The report, which included casualty figures that were somewhat inaccurate, gave Washington hope that his army might prevail in the conflict. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_159

The Massachusetts Committee of Safety, seeking to repeat the sort of propaganda victory it won following the battles at Lexington and Concord, commissioned a report of the battle to send to England. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_160

Their report, however, did not reach England before Gage's official account arrived on July 20. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_161

His report unsurprisingly caused friction and argument between the Tories and the Whigs, but the casualty counts alarmed the military establishment, and forced many to rethink their views of colonial military capability. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_162

King George's attitude toward the colonies hardened, and the news may have contributed to his rejection of the Continental Congress' Olive Branch Petition, the last substantive political attempt at reconciliation. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_163

Sir James Adolphus Oughton, part of the Tory majority, wrote to Lord Dartmouth of the colonies, "the sooner they are made to Taste Distress the sooner will [Crown control over them] be produced, and the Effusion of Blood be put a stop to." Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_164

About a month after receiving Gage's report the Proclamation of Rebellion would be issued in response; this hardening of the British position would also lead to a hardening of previously weak support for the rebellion, especially in the southern colonies, in favor of independence. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_165

Gage's report had a more direct effect on his own career. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_166

His dismissal from office was decided just three days after his report was received, although General Howe did not replace him until October 1775. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_167

Gage wrote another report to the British Cabinet, in which he repeated earlier warnings that "a large army must at length be employed to reduce these people", that would require "the hiring of foreign troops". Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_168

Analysis Battle of Bunker Hill_section_9

Much has been written in the wake of this battle over how it was conducted. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_169

Both sides made strategic and tactical missteps which could have altered the outcome of the battle. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_170

While hindsight often gives a biased view, some things seem to be apparent after the battle that might reasonably have been within the reach of the command of the day. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_171

Years after the battle, and after Israel Putnam was dead, General Dearborn published an account of the battle in Port Folio magazine, accusing General Putnam of inaction, cowardly leadership and failing to supply reinforcements during the battle, which subsequently sparked a long lasting and major controversy among veterans of the war, various friends, family members and historians. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_172

People were shocked by the rancor of the attack, and this prompted a forceful response from defenders of Putnam, including such notables as John and Abigail Adams. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_173

It also prompted Putnam's son, Daniel Putnam, to defend his father using a letter of thanks written by George Washington, and statements from Colonel John Trumbull and Judge Thomas Grosvenor in Putnam's defense. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_174

Historian Harold Murdock wrote that Dearborn's account "abounds in absurd misstatements and amazing flights of imagination." Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_175

The Dearborn attack received considerable attention because at the time he was in the middle of considerable controversy himself. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_176

He had been relieved of one of the top commands in the War of 1812 due to his mistakes. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_177

He had also been nominated to serve as Secretary of War by President James Monroe, but was rejected by the United States Senate (which was the first time that the Senate had voted against confirming a presidential cabinet choice). Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_178

Several contradictory accounts of the event sparked discourse, but New Englanders attempted to resolve conflicts by suggesting to erect memorials dedicated to Bunker Hill rather than a specific person. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_179

Disposition of Colonial forces Battle of Bunker Hill_section_10

The colonial regiments, while nominally under the overall command of General Ward, with General Putnam and Colonel Prescott leading in the field, often acted quite independently. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_180

This was evident in the opening stages of the battle, when a tactical decision was made that had strategic implications: after deliberating with General Putnam and Colonel Gridley, Colonel Prescott and his staff, apparently in contravention of orders, decided to fortify Breed's Hill rather than Bunker Hill. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_181

The fortification of Breed's Hill was more militarily provocative; it would have put offensive artillery closer to Boston, directly threatening the city. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_182

It also exposed the forces there to the possibility of being trapped, as they probably could not properly defend against attempts by the British to land troops and take control of Charlestown Neck. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_183

If the British had taken that step, they might have had a victory with many fewer casualties. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_184

The colonial fortifications were haphazardly arrayed; it was not until the morning that Prescott discovered the redoubt could be easily flanked, compelling the hasty construction of a rail fence. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_185

Furthermore, the colonists did not have the manpower to defend to the west. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_186

Manpower was a further problem on Breed's Hill; toward the northern end of the colonial position the defenses were thin and could have been easily exploited by the British (as they had already landed), had reinforcements not arrived in time. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_187

While the front lines of the colonial forces were generally well-managed, the scene behind them, especially once the fighting began, was significantly disorganized, due at least in part due to a poor chain of command and logistical organization. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_188

One commentator wrote: "it appears to me there never was more confusion and less command." Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_189

Only some of the militias operated directly under Ward's and Putnam's authority, and some commanders directly disobeyed orders, remaining at Bunker Hill rather than committing to the defense of Breed's Hill once fighting began. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_190

Subsequent to the battle, several officers were subjected to court martial and cashiered. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_191

Once combat began, desertion was a chronic issue for the colonial troops. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_192

By the time of the third British assault, there were only 700-800 troops left, with only 150 in the redoubt. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_193

Colonel Prescott was of the opinion that the third assault would have been repulsed, had his forces in the redoubt been reinforced with either more men, or if more supplies of ammunition and powder had been brought forward from Bunker Hill. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_194

Despite these issues, the withdrawal of the colonial forces was generally well-managed, recovering most of their wounded in the process, and elicited praise from British generals such as Burgoyne. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_195

However, the speed of the withdrawal precipitated leaving behind their artillery and entrenching tools. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_196

Disposition of British forces Battle of Bunker Hill_section_11

The British leadership, for its part, acted slowly once the works on Breed's Hill were spotted. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_197

It was 2 p.m. when the troops were ready for the assault, roughly ten hours after the Lively first opened fire. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_198

This leisurely pace gave the colonial forces ample time to reinforce the flanking positions that would have otherwise been poorly defended and vulnerable. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_199

Gage and Howe decided that a frontal assault on the works would be a simple matter, although an encircling move (i.e. gaining control of Charlestown Neck) would have given them a more rapid and resounding victory. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_200

(This move would not have been without risks of its own, as the colonists could have made holding the Neck expensive with fire from the high ground in Cambridge.) Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_201

However, the British leadership was excessively optimistic, believing that "two regiments were sufficient to beat the strength of the province". Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_202

The British attack was further delayed when the inefficiencies engendered by peacetime bore fruit; the artillery bombardment that was to have preceded the assault did not transpire, as it was discovered the field guns had been supplied with the wrong caliber of ammunition. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_203

Once in the field, Howe, rather than focusing on the redoubt, twice opted to dilute the force attacking the redoubt with flanking assaults against the colonial left. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_204

The formations the British used were not conducive to a successful assault; arrayed in long lines and weighed down by unnecessary heavy gear, many of the troops were immediately vulnerable to colonial fire, which resulted in heavy casualties in the initial attacks. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_205

The impetus of any British attack was further diluted when officers opted to concentrate on firing repeated volleys which were simply absorbed by the earthworks and rail fences. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_206

It was only with the third attack, when the forces were arrayed in deep columns; the troops were ordered to leave all unnecessary gear behind; the attacks were to be at the point of the bayonet; and the flanking attack was merely a feint, with the main force (now reinforced) squarely targeted the redoubt, that the effort succeeded. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_207

Following the taking of the peninsula, the British arguably had a tactical advantage that they could have used to press into Cambridge. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_208

General Clinton proposed this to Howe; having just led three assaults with grievous casualties (with most of his field staff among them), he declined the idea. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_209

The colonial military leaders eventually recognized Howe as a tentative decision-maker, to his detriment; in the aftermath of the Battle of Long Island (1776), he again had tactical advantages that might have delivered Washington's army into his hands, but again refused to act. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_210

Historian John Ferling maintains that had General Gage used the Royal Navy to secure the narrow neck to the Charleston peninsula, cutting the Americans off from the mainland, he could have achieved a far less costly victory, but he was motivated by revenge over patriot resistance at the Battles of Lexington and Concord and relatively heavy British losses, and also felt that the colonial militia were completely untrained and could be overtaken with little effort, opting for a frontal assault. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_211

"The whites of their eyes" Battle of Bunker Hill_section_12

The famous order "Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes" was popularized in stories about the battle of Bunker Hill. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_212

It is uncertain as to who said it there, since various histories, including eyewitness accounts, attribute it to Putnam, Stark, Prescott, or Gridley, and it may have been said first by one, and repeated by the others. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_213

It was also not an original statement. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_214

The idea dates originally to the general-king Gustavus Adolphus (1594–1632) who gave standing orders to his musketeers: "never to give fire, till they could see their own image in the pupil of their enemy's eye". Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_215

Gustavus Adolphus's military teachings were widely admired and imitated and caused this saying to be often repeated. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_216

It was used by General James Wolfe on the Plains of Abraham, when his troops defeated Montcalm's army on September 13, 1759. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_217

The earliest similar quote came from the Battle of Dettingen on June 27, 1743, where Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Andrew Agnew of Lochnaw warned his Regiment, the Royal Scots Fusiliers, not to fire until they could "see the white of their e'en." Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_218

The phrase was also used by Prince Charles of Prussia in 1745, and repeated in 1755 by Frederick the Great, and may have been mentioned in histories the colonial military leaders were familiar with. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_219

Whether or not it was actually said in this battle, it was clear that the colonial military leadership were regularly reminding their troops to hold their fire until the moment when it would have the greatest effect, especially in situations where their ammunition would be limited. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_220

Notable participants Battle of Bunker Hill_section_13

A significant number of notable American patriots fought in this battle. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_221

Henry Dearborn and William Eustis, for example, went on to distinguished military and political careers; both served in Congress, the Cabinet, and in diplomatic posts. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_222

Others, like John Brooks, Henry Burbeck, Christian Febiger, Thomas Knowlton, and John Stark, became well known for later actions in the war. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_223

Stark became known as the "Hero of Bennington" for his role in the 1777 Battle of Bennington. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_224

Free African-Americans also fought in the battle; notable examples include Barzillai Lew, Salem Poor, and Peter Salem. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_225

Another notable participant was Daniel Shays, who later became famous for his army of protest in Shays' Rebellion. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_226

Israel Potter was immortalized in Israel Potter: His Fifty Years of Exile, a novel by Herman Melville. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_227

Colonel John Paterson commanded the Massachusetts First Militia, served in Shays' Rebellion, and became a congressman from New York. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_228

Lt. Col. Seth Read, who served under John Paterson at Bunker Hill, went on to settle Geneva, New York and Erie, Pennsylvania, and was said to have been instrumental in the phrase E pluribus unum being added to U.S. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_229 coins. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_230

George Claghorn of the Massachusetts militia was shot in the knee at Bunker Hill and went on after the war to become the master builder of the USS Constitution, a.k.a. "Old Ironsides", which is the oldest naval vessel in the world that is still commissioned and afloat. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_231

Notable British participants in the battle were: Lt. Col. Samuel Birch, Major John Small, Lord Rawdon, General William Howe, Major John Pitcairn and General Henry Clinton. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_232

Commemorations Battle of Bunker Hill_section_14

John Trumbull's painting, The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker Hill (displayed in lede), was created as an allegorical depiction of the battle and Warren's death, not as an actual pictorial recording of the event. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_233

The painting shows a number of participants in the battle including a British officer, John Small, among those who stormed the redoubt, yet came to be the one holding the mortally wounded Warren and preventing a fellow redcoat from bayoneting him. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_234

He was friends of Putnam and Trumbull. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_235

Other central figures include Andrew McClary who was the last man to fall in the battle. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_236

The Bunker Hill Monument is an obelisk that stands 221 feet (67 m) high on Breed's Hill. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_237

On June 17, 1825, the fiftieth anniversary of the battle, the cornerstone of the monument was laid by the Marquis de Lafayette and an address delivered by Daniel Webster. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_238

The Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge was specifically designed to evoke this monument. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_239

There is also a statue of William Prescott showing him calming his men down. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_240

The National Park Service operates a museum dedicated to the battle near the monument, which is part of the Boston National Historical Park. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_241

A cyclorama of the battle was added in 2007 when the museum was renovated. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_242

In nearby Cambridge, a small granite monument just north of Harvard Yard bears this inscription: "Here assembled on the night of June 16, 1775, 1200 Continental troops under command of Colonel Prescott. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_243

After prayer by President Langdon, they marched to Bunker Hill." Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_244

See footnote for picture. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_245

(Samuel Langdon, a Congregational minister, was Harvard's 11th president.) Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_246

Another small monument nearby marks the location of the Committee of Safety, which had become the Patriots' provisional government as Tories left Cambridge. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_247

These monuments are on the lawn to the west of Harvard's Littaeur Center, which is itself the west of Harvard's huge Science Center. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_248

See footnote for map. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_249

Bunker Hill Day, observed every June 17, is a legal holiday in Suffolk County, Massachusetts (which includes the city of Boston), as well as Somerville in Middlesex County. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_250

Prospect Hill, site of colonial fortifications overlooking the Charlestown Neck, is now in Somerville, which was previously part of Charlestown. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_251

State institutions in Massachusetts (such as public institutions of higher education) in Boston also celebrate the holiday. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_252

However, the state's FY2011 budget requires that all state and municipal offices in Suffolk County be open on Bunker Hill Day and Evacuation Day. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_253

On June 16 and 17, 1875, the centennial of the battle was celebrated with a military parade and a reception featuring notable speakers, among them General William Tecumseh Sherman and Vice President Henry Wilson. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_254

It was attended by dignitaries from across the country. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_255

Celebratory events also marked the sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) in 1925 and the bicentennial in 1975. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_256

Over the years the Battle of Bunker Hill has been commemorated on four U.S. Postage stamps. Battle of Bunker Hill_sentence_257

See also Battle of Bunker Hill_section_15

Battle of Bunker Hill_unordered_list_1

Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: of Bunker Hill.