What was Bunker Hill?
Battle of Bunker Hill, first large-scale engagement of the American Revolution, fought on June 17, 1775, in Charlestown (now part of Boston), Massachusetts. At issue in the battle was possession of Bunker Hill (34 m/110 ft) and Breed’s Hill (23 m/75 ft), adjoining heights dominating Boston Harbor.
About 1200 American troops, led by Colonel William Prescott, occupied and fortified Breed’s Hill during the night of June 16 as part of a strategic plan to compel the British to evacuate Boston. After daybreak on June 17 the British commander in chief Thomas Gage began preparations for an attack on the American position. Naval units were brought within shelling range of Breed’s Hill and about 2200 troops under the command of General William Howe were dispatched from Boston. Meanwhile, about 300 additional volunteers, including General Joseph Warren, had joined the American force.
The British troops, heavily supported by cannonading from naval guns, launched their initial assault on the American earthworks on Breed’s Hill about 3 pm. Colonel Prescott allegedly issued the famous order: “Don’t one of you fire until you see the whites of their eyes.” The Americans allowed the British to advance almost to the base of the earthworks and then opened fire.
Sustaining severe losses, the British retreated in confusion to the base of the hill. Gage ordered a second charge, which was similarly repulsed. During the third British assault the American troops, having exhausted their ammunition, were forced to withdraw. The British then attacked and captured both hills. American losses in the battle totaled about 400 dead (including Warren), wounded, or taken prisoner. In the course of the engagement Charlestown was set on fire by British shells and burned to the ground. The British suffered about 1000 killed and wounded, many of them officers. Although Howe’s victory enabled the British to retain their hold on Boston, the American defense action demonstrated that hastily organized militiamen, if entrenched, could at times trade blow for blow with British regulars, thereby strengthening the spirit of resistance throughout the rebelling colonies. An obelisk, the Bunker Hill Monument, stands on Breed’s Hill in commemoration of the battle.
on: 12th November 09