Battle Of Bunker Hill

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Battle of Bunker Hill

Battle of Bunker Hill


The Battle of Bunker Hill is often considered the first major battle of the Revolutionary War (1775-83). After the Battles of Lexington and Concord (April 19, 1775), the British army in Boston found itself besieged by an ad hoc army of New England militia that filled the surrounding countryside. Recognizing the need to occupy the nearby high ground outside Charlestown—Bunker and Breed's Hills—to secure Boston Harbor, the British planned to move in mid-June. Report of the British plan reached the revolutionary commanding officer, General Artemas Ward, who hesitantly decided to strike before the British.

Both Bunker and Breed's Hills stood on the Charlestown Peninsula, a small stretch of land shaped like a tadpole connected to the mainland by a narrow neck. Revolutionary forces on the peninsula could be subject to cannon fire on three sides from the British navy in the harbor. Likewise, an attack focused on the neck could cut the revolutionaries off from reinforcements or retreat. Ward ordered Colonel William Prescott to fortify Bunker Hill on the night of June 16. Once the force of about 1,000 revolutionaries reached the Charlestown Peninsula, however, General Israel Putnam and Colonel Richard Gridley, chief engineer of the army, decided that Prescott should fortify the lower Breed's Hill that was closer to Boston. Putnam remained at Bunker Hill and began to entrench there. By morning, to the surprise of the British, Prescott had built a redoubt on Breed's Hill, and the entire Charlestown Peninsula was in the hands of the revolutionaries.

Battle between British and Americans

The fierce battle between British regulars and American militiamen at Breed's Hill, on the Charlestown peninsula across from Boston, was the first great, formal passage of arms of the Revolution and influenced battlefield fighting for years to come.After the first clashes in April 1775 at Lexington and Concord and along the road to Boston, the British, under their commander in chief, Maj. Gen. Thomas Gage, remained holed up in the city with several regiments of regulars and a number of warships in the harbor and on the Charles River. Gage was joined in May by three other major generals: John Burgoyne, Henry Clinton, and William Howe.

The British reacted quickly. Warships soon began a bombardment, and more than 2,000 regulars prepared to dislodge the revolutionaries. Rather than placing his men behind Prescott's position, General William Howe, who had command of the attack, opted for a frontal assault. There are several possible explanations for this tactic. Conventional military wisdom suggested that it was best not to place your men between two lines of the enemy. Had the British attacked Breed's Hill from the rear, their own rear would have been subject to enemy fire. Second, the British believed that the revolutionaries were untrained and unprepared to face professional soldiers. British officers argued that if they were to be successful in putting down a rebellion, they had to demonstrate the absolute superiority of their soldiers in battle.

Finally, and connected to the second point, ...
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