Famous Battles in History Battle of Bunker Hill and the American Revolution

About the famous Battle of Bunker Hill between the British and the American colonists in the American Revolution.

MORE FAMOUS BATTLES--ON LAND AND AT SEA

BUNKER HILL, 1775

After his unsuccessful foray against Lexington and Concord in April, 1775, British Gen. Thomas Gage had drawn his troops back within the confines of Boston. Meanwhile thousands of American militia poured into the rebel camps surrounding the city. Although the British navy controlled the harbor, the Americans had imposed a loose land siege on Boston.

To tighten the siege, the American commanders decided to occupy the Charleston peninsula, a half-mile to the north of Boston across the Charles River. On the night of June 16, Col. William Prescott and Gen. Israel Putnam, with 1,600 men, slipped onto the peninsula. In the dark, they advanced past their intended objective of Bunker Hill to a more exposed, forward position on Breed's Hill. From midnight into the next day, the Americans constructed fortifications.

Realizing that the Americans could shell Boston and the harbor from their new position, Gage ordered an immediate attack. That afternoon of June 17, 2,100 British soldiers under Gen. William Howe landed on the Charleston peninsula. At 3:00 P.M., the shoulder-to-shoulder British lines began their ascent of Breed's Hill, through the knee-high summer grass. Fifty yards from the American trenches, the British were flayed by a murderous volley. Well disciplined the Americans were not, but deadly marksmen they were. The decimated British ranks faltered, then broke and fled down the hill. They regrouped for a second attack, but this too was repulsed.

Receiving 400 reinforcements, the British advanced up the slope a third time. Low on gunpowder and bullets, the Americans were finally driven from their position. They retreated west to Bunker Hill, but were pushed back by the momentum of the British assault. The rebels hastily withdrew from the peninsula. However, the exhausted British did not pursue. The Americans lost 140 killed, 271 wounded, and 30 captured. British casualties were 226 dead and 828 wounded.

The Battle of Bunker Hill was a costly military victory for the British. For the Americans, it provided a tremendous psychological boost. Untrained colonial farmers had stood up against the best professional soldiers of Europe. The blood shed on Breed's Hill affirmed British and American resolve to settle their differences on the battlefield. A peaceful solution was now out of the question; both sides were committed to war.

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