Bunker Hill`s Battle

     The sounds of muskets being fired, its ammunition ricocheting off rocks
and splintering trees are heard all around. The pungent smell of gun powder
stings the nose, and its taste makes the mouth dry and sticky. The battle is
still young, but blood soaked uniforms and dead or dying men can already be
seen, causing the fear of death to enter many of the soldiers' minds. It is
remembered that freedom is what the fight is for, so we must continue to gain
independence. The battle has been going on for a short time now, although vision
is already obscured from all the smoke and dust in the air. It is becoming
increasingly difficult to breathe, with all of these air borne substances
entering my lungs. People are still being struck by musket balls for the cries
of agony rise above the many guns' explosions. This is how the battle to be
known as Bunker Hill began. On June 17, 1775 the Battle of Bunker Hill took
place. It is one of the most important colonial victories in the U.S. War for

Independence. Fought during the Siege of Boston, it lent considerable
encouragement to the revolutionary cause. This battle made both sides realize
that this was not going to be a matter decided on by one quick and decisive
battle. The battle of Bunker Hill was not just an event that happened overnight.

The battle was the result of struggle and hostility between Great Britain and
the colonies for many years. Many of the oppressive feelings came as a result of

British laws and restrictions placed on them. It would not be true to say that
the battle was the beginning of the fight for independence. It is necessary to
see that this was not a rash decision that occurred because of one dispute, but
rather that the feelings for the British had been getting worse for a long time
and were finally released. Perhaps two of the most notable injustices, as
perceived by the colonists, were the Stamp Act and the Intolerable Acts. The

Stamp Act was passed by the British Parliament to raise money for repaying its
war debt from the French and Indian War. The Act levied a tax on printed matter
of all kinds including newspapers, advertisements, playing cards, and legal
documents. The British government was expecting protest as result of the tax but
the level of outcry they received. The colonists were so angry because they had
no voice in Parliament which passed the law, thus came the famous cry, "No
taxation without representation!" The colonists would protest these laws
with the Boston Tea Party. The British responded to this open act of rebellion
by imposing the Intolerable Acts, four laws designed to punish Boston and the
rest of Massachusetts while strengthening British control over all the colonies.

These were not the only incidents that caused unrest to exist between the two
countries. There had been friction between British soldiers and colonists for
some time because of the Quartering Act, a law which required townspeople to
house soldiers. This unrest and tension resulted in the Boston Massacre, an
event that resulted in colonists death and both sides being more untrusting of
each other. These feelings of discontent and the growing fear of an uprising
would lead the British to proceed to Lexington and Concord and destroy colonial
military supplies. This left the colonists with the feeling of hatred and total
malice towards the British. Because of these incidents neither side trusted the
other, and had concerns that the opposition would launch an attack upon them.

When the British planned to occupy Dorchester Heights on the Boston Peninsula,
the colonists became alarmed at the build up of British troops off of the coast.

The colonists decided that action had to be taken so as to stop the threatening

British movement in this territory to protect themselves from an attack. It was
because of this last situation as well as the bad blood that had accumulated
over the years, which would lead the colonies into a confrontation with the

British. The Battle of Bunker Hill started when the colonists learned about the

British plan to occupy Dorchester Heights. The colonists were understandably
shaken by this news. They thought of this as the last straw, and they had to
protect their land and freedom. A crude "army" was made to defend the
hill. The army was not a national one, for no nation existed. Instead, the army
was made up of men from Cambridge, New England, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New

Hampshire, and Rhode Island. Also, this hastily combined force of men had no
assigned commander in chief, but did what their revered Generals instructed them
to carry out. On June 15, 1775 the American colonists heard news that the

British planned to control the Charleston peninsula between the Charles and

Mystic Rivers. Bunker's and Breed's Hill on this peninsula overlooked both

Boston and its harbor, thus making the hills critical vantage points. In order
to beat the British to the high ground, General Prescott took 1,200 of his often
times undisciplined, disobedient, and sometimes intoxicated soldiers to dig into
and fortify Bunker Hill with the cover of night on June 16. When dawn broke, the

British were stunned to see Breed's Hill fortified overnight with a

160-by-30-foot earthen structure. The British General, Gage, dispatched 2,300
troops under the command of Major General Howe to take control of the hill. So
it came to be that General Prescott did not actually fortify Bunker's Hill, but

Breed's Hill instead. How did this happen? One proposed idea is that Colonel

William Prescott, since fortifying the hill in the middle of the night, chose
the wrong hill. Another theory is that the map the Colonel used was incorrect,
since many maps during this period had commonly misidentified the hills. Another
suggestion, and probably the most practical, is that Breed's Hill is closer to
where the British ships were positioned allowing the colonists a better
attacking position than at Bunker Hill. Regardless of the reason, the Battle of

Bunker Hill actually took place on Breed's Hill. The fighting began as soon as
the day did. As soon as the men on British frigate awoke they opened fire on the
colonial fortifications. Carol McCabe states that one soldier wrote there would
be firing for about twenty minutes, then a lull, then the ships would start
firing again. At about 3:00 PM Thomas Gage, the British commander, ordered men
to try and take control of the hill. It took Gage this long to issue a command
due to a shortage of boats and an unfavorable tide. Peter Brown, an American
soldier, would later write about this, "There was a matter of 40 barges full
of Regulars coming over to us; it is supposed there were about 3,000 of them and
about 700 of us left not deserted, besides 500 reinforcements. . . the enemy
landed and fronted before us and formed themselves in an oblong square. . . and
after they were well formed they advanced towards us, but they found a choakly
[sic] mouthful of us." When the British forces were firmly established on the
ground at the base of the hill they proceeded to charge. The British just
expected to march up the hill and just scare the colonists away. The British

Regulars advanced with bayonets fixed; many of their muskets were not even
loaded. The British troops, wearing their bright red wool jackets and weighed
down by heavy equipment, marched up hill over farm fields and low stone walls
hidden in the tall grass. As the colonists saw this massive red line approach
slowly and steadily, they remained calm and did not open fire. The fact they
waited so long to commence an attack was that General Prescott has been assumed
to have given the famous order, "Don't shoot until you see the whites of
their eyes." If this command was given it would have been to either help
preserve their already low ammunition supplies, and to help keep the men from
shooting out of their capable ranges. Once the British came within range, the
colonists began firing, and the British soldiers stated to fall rapidly. The

British forces were driven back twice, but on their third and final thrust
forward the British were able to break through the colonists' line, overrunning
the tentative American fortifications, thus taking the hill. The colonists had
run out of ammunition and supplies. The colonists fled back up the peninsula
since it was there only escape route. This battle, which lasted for
approximately three hours, was one of the deadliest of the Revolutionary War.

Although the British technically won the battle because they took control of the
hill, they suffered too many losses to fully benefit from it. The British had
suffered more than one thousand casualties out of the 2,300 or so who fought.

While the colonists only suffered 400 to 600 casualties from an estimated 2,500
to 4,000 men. Besides having fewer deaths than the British, the colonists
believe they had won in other ways as well. The Americans had proved to
themselves, and the rest of the world that they could stand up to the British
army in traditional warfare. And only a few days later, George Washington would
lead a group of men up to Dorchester Heights, aiming their cannons at the

British, and then watched the Red Coats retreat from the hill. So even though
the British had won the battle, it was a short lived victory since the colonists
took control of the hill again, but this time with more soldiers to defend it.

The Battle of Bunker Hill was important for a variety of reasons. The first one
being that it was the first battle of the Revolutionary War, and because of the
fierce fighting that defined the battle it foreshadowed that it was going to be
a long, close war. Another important event that came from the battle was that it
allowed the American troops to know that the British army was not invincible,
and that they could defeat the British in traditional warfare. The losses
experienced on the British side also helped to bolster the colonists confidence.

So it came to be that the Battle of Bunker Hill would be the foundation that the
colonists would look back to for the many battles that occurred during the

American Revolution. The first being that the British suffered heavy losses and
would no longer convinced of a victory when they went to battle the colonists.

Fifty years after the battle a movement began to rise in the young United States
to create a memorial to the battle atop Breed's Hill. So, the Bunker Hill

Memorial Association was formed and they bought fifteen acres of land atop of

Breed's Hill. Then in 1825 the cornerstone to the monument was laid. Chronology
of the battle Time AMERICANS BRITISH midnight Colonists begin construction of
fortifications on Breeds Hill 4am British warships fire on the newly discovered
fortification 2pm American reinforcements arrive; rail fence construction

Begins. British soldiers land on Moulton's point 3:30pm First battle is repulsed
at the rail fence 4pm Second assault is repulsed at flashes and at redoubt

4:30pm Colonists withdraw. Final assault succeeds at redoubt 5:30pm End of


1. http://www.wpi.edu/Academics/Depts/MilSci/BTSI/hill/hill.html

2. http://www.greeceny.com/arm/welch/bunker.htm

3. http://www.bit-net.com/~ddillaby/bunker_hill.html

4. http://www.nps.gov/bost/bunkhill.htm

5. Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 1996