United States and American History: Mid 1775 and the Battle of Bunker Hill

About the year 1775 in United States history, the Battle of Bunker Hill, George Washington assumes command, the Revolution moves on, Prescott orders his troops to wait to fire until they see 'the whites of their eyes.'


U.S.A.--Year by Year


May 20 The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence was allegedly approved. North Carolina, whose State seal and flag carry this date, has celebrated the day as a State holiday.

June 7 Landmark Day. From this day forward, the "United Colonies" would be called the "United States."

June 15 Congress selected George Washington to be military commander in chief. The choice was basically political: a Virginian, to gain support of the Southern Colonies.

June 17 Milestone Battle: Bunker Hill. General Israel Putnam's decision to dig in on Breed's Hill, where the battle actually took place, probably forced the British attack. Breed's Hill, although lower in elevation than Bunker Hill, commanded the sea approach to Boston harbor, an intolerable situation for a military commander to accept.

Credit for the famous war cry, "Don't fire till you see the whites of their eyes!" is usually given to the American colonel William Prescott. But he did not originate the phrase.

Pietro Duodo, Venetian Ambassador to France in the 17th century, wrote of a new cavalry charge called the "pistolade." The horsemen, he wrote, withheld the use of pistols or sword "until they could see the whites of their eyes." In 1745, Prince Charles of Prussia is believed to have said to his officers, "Silent, till you see the whites of their eyes." A decade later, during the Prussian attack on the Austrians at Prague, Frederick the Great gave his soldiers a general order, "By push of bayonets; no firing until you see the whites of their eyes."

The Battle for "Bunker" Hill lasted 90 minutes. Proportionately, for the total number of men engaged, the British army casualties were the heaviest in its history: 1,054 out of 2,400, almost 50%.

June 22 The 2nd Continental Congress issued its 1st money, paper currency with a face value of $3 million.

June 25 In a letter from Boston, British general John Burgoyne, writing after the battle of Bunker Hill, where he commanded artillery, said: "The British Empire in America is overturned. If the confederacy of this continent is general as I am now to believe, & you determine to subdue it by arms, such a pittance of troops as Great Britain & Ireland can supply will only serve to protract the war." His letter was not brought to the attention of George III by its recipient.

June 25 A nervous New York City staged 2 official welcoming parades: one for the new commander in chief, General Washington, the other for Royal Governor Tryon. The small town of 20,000 had only one street, Broadway, long enough for a line of march. To keep the celebrators from meeting, Washington's welcoming affair was assigned the upper half, Tryon's the downtown half of Broadway. Tryon, told of the dilemma while still aboard his ship in the harbor, agreed to postpone his landing by 4 hours, to avoid an embarrassing meeting in midtown Manhattan.

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