BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL
In June of 1775, American colonists were informed that the British Army intended to send soldiers to occupy the hills overlooking Boston and the Charlestown Peninsula which included both Breed’s Hill and Bunker Hill. In response to this, Colonel William Prescott lead 1,000 militiamen of the Colonists’ army to build fortifications on Bunker Hill in order to protect against the incoming army. In the end, the colonists built on Breed’s hill, which was smaller, and closer to Boston.
The British arrived to the Charlestown Peninsula on June 17, 1775 with twenty-two hundred strong, under the command of Major General William Howe and Brigadier General Robert Pigot. The American forces knew that they were going to be outmatched in terms of both soldiers and ammunition, but they were intent on having an impact that thwarted the further movement of the enemy. One often forgotten aspect of this battle was that it easily could have been avoided. General Howe could have had his ships surround Breed’s Hill and won the battle with far less casualties. Maybe this was due to him thinking the American’s would most likely retreat, or if they chose to fight, would not stand a chance against the mighty British foot soldiers. In either case, Howe was mistaken.
As they saw the British Army approaching, Prescott famously said “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes!” He was intent on not wasting what little ammunition they had. As soon as they were within a few dozen yards, the Colonists began firing and had success with their musket fire. The British had to retreat and regroup, reforming their lines and approaching once more. The same results occurred with the only difference being that ammunition had begun to run low on the American end of the battle. Instead of retreating, the Patriots attempted to fight in hand-to-hand combat where they honorably fought until the realization of the British’s sheer numbers would overwhelm them, meaning a full retreat off of Breed’s Hill was imminent.
The end result for the conflict was that the British seized control of the Charlestown Peninsula, capturing both Breed’s Hill and Bunker Hill in the process, but it was not at a low cost. The British killed more than 100 patriots, and wounded 300 other, but had 200 of their own men killed, with a large sum of 800 wounded. Technically, The British accomplished their goal of seizing the peninsula, meaning that they won the war, but by all accounts, this battle was bigger for the Colonists’ side than it was for their opponents.
The legacy of the Battle of Bunker Hill is that it gave the colonists some confidence that they could battle with the militarily superior British. Prior to the battle, there was some fear that this was end with many dead and injured colonists and not much else, the Battle of Bunker Hill helped change that opinion. On the other end of things, this one day battle opened the eyes of the British, and showed them that this was going to be a tough, long, and drawn out war with what was previously considered their inferior counterparts.