Bunker Hill, Battle of

views updated May 18 2018

Bunker Hill, Battle of (1775).Two months after the Revolutionary War began, on the night of 16–17 June 1775, about 1,200 Massachusetts soldiers set out to fortify Bunker Hill on the Charlestown peninsula, across the Charles River from Boston; by fortifying a position overlooking Boston, they intended to force the British to evacuate the town. In the dark, they mistakenly erected a redoubt on Breed's Hill, closer to Boston than planned. Later in the day, about 2,000 men from New Hampshire and Connecticut reinforced them. Shocked by this display of audacity, Maj. Gen. Thomas Gage, the British commander in Boston, sent Maj. Gen. Sir William Howe with 1,500 men (later reinforced to 2,500) to oust the Rebels. Howe planned to feign an attack on the redoubt while sending a strong force around its northeast flank on the low land along the Mystic River.

Howe underestimated the military capacity of his opponent. Thanks to the leadership of French and Indian War veterans, the Americans blunted his plan. John Stark and his New Hampshire men destroyed the outflanking force on the Mystic River beach, forcing Howe to convert the feint in front of the redoubt into a full attack. Three times he led his troops up the slope, and twice from behind their earthwork William Prescott's soldiers forced the British to retreat. With the Americans running out of ammunition, the third British attack overran the redoubt and forced the Rebels off the peninsula.

Victory cost the British over 1000 casualties, 40 percent, a loss, Gage wrote, “greater than we can bear.” The New Englanders suffered over 400 casualties, heaviest among the defenders of the redoubt. Their skill and tenacity reassured colonists everywhere that the Revolution would not be strangled in its cradle.


Allen French , The First Year of the American Revolution, 1934.
Thomas J. Fleming , Now We Are Enemies, 1960.
Richard M. Ketchum , The Battle for Bunker Hill, 1962.

Harold E. Selesky

Bunker Hill, Battle of

views updated Jun 11 2018


BUNKER HILL, BATTLE OF. To force the British from Boston, on the night of 16 June 1775 the American militia besieging the town sent 1,200 men to seize Bunker Hill, on the peninsula of Charlestown. The detachment instead decided to build a small redoubt on Breed's Hill, which was closer to Boston but easily flanked. At day break, the British warships that were anchored in the Boston harbor opened an ineffective fire. To strengthen his left flank, Colonel William Prescott, commanding in the redoubt, built a rail fence stuffed with hay and manned the line with 2,000 men under Major General Israel Putnam. Meanwhile, under the command of Major General Sir William Howe, some 2,000 British infantry, with a few field guns, landed below the redoubt.

Early in the afternoon, Howe, along with Brigadier General Robert Pigot, led a simultaneous attack on the redoubt and the rail fence, which was bloodily repulsed by the provincials, chiefly New Hampshire men under Colonel John Stark. After another failed attempt to take these breastworks, Howe's third assault feinted against the fence and for the first time attacked the redoubt with bayonets. Prescott's troops, out of ammunition, were forced to retreat. The defenders of the fence covered the American retreat. After an engagement lasting less than two hours, the British were masters of the peninsula, but this victory came with heavy casualties. The British lost 1,054 men, while the Americans lost, in killed, wounded,

and captured, but 441. Although the engagement took place on Breed's Hill, it has come to be known as the Battle of Bunker Hill. At first regarded by the Americans as a defeat, Bunker Hill, because of the way the militia resisted regulars, came to be regarded as a moral victory.


Higginbotham, Don. The War of American Independence: Military Attitudes, Policies, and Practice, 1763–1789. New York: Macmillan, 1971. Rev. ed., Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1983.

Ketchum, Richard M. The Battle for Bunker Hill. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1962.

AllenFrench/a. r.

See alsoBoston, Siege of ; "Don't Fire Till You See the White of Their Eyes."

Bunker Hill, battle of

views updated Jun 08 2018

Bunker Hill, battle of, 1775. After the encounter at Lexington in April 1775, General Gage found himself trapped in Boston by the American rebels. The town was dominated by Dorchester heights to the south and the Charlestown peninsula to the north. On 16 June the Americans dug in on Bunker Hill, near Charlestown, and the following day Gage sent 2,000 troops to dislodge them. This they accomplished but at the cost of more than 1,000 killed and wounded. The British paid tribute to the courage and tenacity which the rebels had shown.

J. A. Cannon

Bunker Hill, battle of

views updated Jun 27 2018

Bunker Hill, battle of (June 17, 1775) Battle in the American Revolution fought on Boston's Charlestown peninsula. The first large-scale battle of the war, it was actually fought s of Bunker Hill on Breed's Hill. Although the Americans were driven from their position, they inflicted heavy losses on the British.

Bunker Hill

views updated May 17 2018

Bunker Hill the first pitched battle (1775) of the War of American Independence (actually fought on Breed's Hill near Boston, Massachusetts). Although the British won, the good performance of the untrained Americans gave considerable impetus to the Revolution.

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