The Battle of Bunker Hill was fought on June 17, 1775, during the initial stages of the American Revolutionary War. The battle was part of a military campaign that led to independence and was the first significant military action taken by Patriots against British troops. It took place in Charlestown, Massachusetts, at a location that is now known as Bunker Hill.
- Most of the battle wasn’t fought on Bunker Hill but Breed’s Hill just to the south.
- Major John Simpson (December 1, 1748 – October 28, 1825) was an American Revolutionary War soldier who was one of several men described as having fired the first shot on the American side at the Battle of Bunker Hill.
- One thousand fifty-four redcoats (British soldiers) died at Bunker Hill.
- The reason the British won the battle was that the colonists ran out of ammunition and gunpowder.
- The colonists used muskets and guns, and the British used muskets and bayonets.
- Even though the colonists lost, it gave them a sense of hope and made them feel they could beat the British.
- This battle marked the beginning of what is referred to as the “war for independence.” Finally, on June 18, Great Britain officially declared war on its rebellious colony.
Colonel William Prescott, who was in charge of the colonist forces, said
“Do not fire until you see the whites of their eyes”, so the patriots wouldn’t waste their ammunition and were able to hit their targets.
During the early morning hours of the 17th, the British forces provided by General William Howe (he later became known as Lord Howe) marched toward Lexington. The purpose of this was to surround and isolate the militiamen who were camped at the town’s Green Hill, but they never reached it. They instead met with 400 rebel militiamen, including Ethan Allen (Allen was a former provincial army captain). These men formed ranks behind two lines of trees that stretched alongside them on either side. After seeing how outnumbered they were, they retreated to Charlestown, establishing the first Patriot fortification. This fortification became known as Breed’s Hill.
The British arrived at about 1:00 pm that day, where they began to deploy their troops outside of the fortification. When the patriots saw this, they took their positions. Combat began shortly after 2:00 pm when the British troops fired upon the patriots. They were met with return fire from the colonists. The battle continued into the night, and by the dawn of June 18, over 500 men had been killed or wounded. At 10:30 am, Howe ordered a cease-fire and sent in a flag of truce to negotiate terms for surrender with General Putnam; however, he was rejected. He later tried again in the afternoon, but negotiations were also unsuccessful.
At about 3:30 pm, British soldiers began another advance on the patriots. They had taken several hundred sharpshooters with them for this assault. This time they were met with heavy fire from the patriots, and they retreated to Boston. It was not until July 17 when Howe decided to launch another assault on Charlestown. During this battle, Major Pitcairn of Britain’s marines battalion was shot by a sniper, killing him instantly. Some of his men carried his body out of the line of fire and then began an intense volley of musket fire into the tops of the trees where the sniper had taken position. This legendary “Pitcairn’s Revenge” finally ended the fighting. The loss of Pitcairn was a significant blow for the British, having lost one of their best commanders.
The British withdrew back to Boston, where things remained relatively quiet until August 29, when another battle took place on Breed’s Hill near Boston. From there, another fighting would take place around Boston for the next few months, but none would prove decisive. Then, finally, on March 4, 1776, Washington made his first significant military move against exposed British positions at Dorchester Heights. The British evacuated Boston, and Bostonians celebrated the next day.
The outcome of this battle helped shape future events in America’s history, including preventing France from aiding Britain militarily, establishing armed resistance against British rule, and establishing George Washington as one of America’s most influential heroes.