The Battle Of Bunker Hill Essay Research

The Battle Of Bunker Hill Essay, Research Paper

The Battle of Bunker Hill Boom, Bang, Crack! The sounds of muskets being fired, its ammunitionricocheting off rocks and splintering trees are heard all around. The pungent smell of gunpowder stings the nose, and its taste makes the mouth dry and sticky. The battle is stillyoung, but blood soaked uniforms and dead or dying men can already be seen, causing thefear of death to enter many of the soldiers’ minds. It is remembered that freedom is whatthe fight is for, so we must continue to gain independence. The battle has been going onfor a short time now, although vision is already obscured from all the smoke and dust inthe air. It is becoming increasingly difficult to breathe, with all of these air bornesubstances entering my lungs. People are still being struck by musket balls for the cries ofagony rise above the many guns’ explosions. This is how the battle to be known asBunker Hill began. On June 17, 1775 the Battle of Bunker Hill took place. It is one of the mostimportant colonial victories in the U.S. War for Independence. Fought during the Siege ofBoston, it lent considerable encouragement to the revolutionary cause. This battle madeboth sides realize that this was not going to be a matter decided on by one quick anddecisive battle. The battle of Bunker Hill was not just an event that happened overnight. Thebattle was the result of struggle and hostility between Great Britain and the colonies formany years. Many of the oppressive feelings came as a result of British laws andrestrictions placed on them. It would not be true to say that the battle was the beginningof the fight for independence. It is necessary to see that this was not a rash decision thatoccurred because of one dispute, but rather that the feelings for the British had beengetting worse for a long time and were finally released. Perhaps two of the most notable injustices, as perceived by the colonists, were theStamp Act and the Intolerable Acts. The Stamp Act was passed by the British Parliamentto raise money for repaying its war debt from the French and Indian War. The Act levieda tax on printed matter of all kinds including newspapers, advertisements, playing cards,and legal documents. The British government was expecting protest as result of the taxbut the level of outcry they received. The colonists were so angry because they had novoice in Parliament which passed the law, thus came the famous cry, “No taxation withoutrepresentation!” The colonists would protest these laws with the Boston Tea Party. TheBritish responded to this open act of rebellion by imposing the Intolerable Acts, four lawsdesigned to punish Boston and the rest of Massachusetts while strengthening Britishcontrol over all the colonies. These were not the only incidents that caused unrest to exist between the twocountries. There had been friction between British soldiers and colonists for some timebecause of the Quartering Act, a law which required townspeople to house soldiers. Thisunrest and tension resulted in the Boston Massacre, an event that resulted in colonistsdeath and both sides being more untrusting of each other. These feelings of discontentand the growing fear of an uprising would lead the British to proceed to Lexington andConcord and destroy colonial military supplies. This left the colonists with the feeling ofhatred and total malice towards the British. Because of these incidents neither side trustedthe other, and had concerns that the opposition would launch an attack upon them. When the British planned to occupy Dorchester Heights on the Boston Peninsula,the colonists became alarmed at the build up of British troops off of the coast. Thecolonists decided that action had to be taken so as to stop the threatening Britishmovement in this territory to protect themselves from an attack. It was because of thislast situation as well as the bad blood that had accumulated over the years, which wouldlead the colonies into a confrontation with the British. The Battle of Bunker Hill started when the colonists learned about the British planto occupy Dorchester Heights. The colonists were understandably shaken by this news.They thought of this as the last straw, and they had to protect their land and freedom. Acrude “army” was made to defend the hill. The army was not a national one, for no nationexisted. Instead, the army was made up of men from Cambridge, New England,Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. Also, this hastilycombined force of men had no assigned commander in chief, but did what their reveredGenerals instructed them to carry out. On June 15, 1775 the American colonists heard news that the British planned tocontrol the Charleston peninsula between the Charles and Mystic Rivers. Bunker’s andBreed’s Hill on this peninsula overlooked both Boston and its harbor, thus making the hillscritical vantage points. In order to beat the British to the high ground, General Prescotttook 1,200 of his often times undisciplined, disobedient, and sometimes intoxicatedsoldiers to dig into and fortify Bunker Hill with the cover of night on June 16. Whendawn broke, the British were stunned to see Breed’s Hill fortified overnight with a160-by-30-foot earthen structure. The British General, Gage, dispatched 2,300 troopsunder the command of Major General Howe to take control of the hill. So it came to be that General Prescott did not actually fortify Bunker’s Hill, butBreed’s Hill instead. How did this happen? One proposed idea is that Colonel WilliamPrescott, since fortifying the hill in the middle of the night, chose the wrong hill. Anothertheory is that the map the Colonel used was incorrect, since many maps during this period

had commonly misidentified the hills. Another suggestion, and probably the mostpractical, is that Breed’s Hill is closer to where the British ships were positioned allowingthe colonists a better attacking position than at Bunker Hill. Regardless of the reason, theBattle of Bunker Hill actually took place on Breed’s Hill. The fighting began as soon as the day did. As soon as the men on British frigateawoke they opened fire on the colonial fortifications. Carol McCabe states that onesoldier wrote there would be firing for about twenty minutes, then a lull, then the shipswould start firing again. At about 3:00 PM Thomas Gage, the British commander,ordered men to try and take control of the hill. It took Gage this long to issue a commanddue to a shortage of boats and an unfavorable tide. Peter Brown, an American soldier,would later write about this, There was a matter of 40 barges full of Regulars comingover to us; it is supposed there were about 3,000 of them and about 700 of us left notdeserted, besides 500 reinforcements. . . the enemy landed and fronted before us andformed themselves in an oblong square. . . and after they were well formed they advancedtowards us, but they found a choakly [sic] mouthful of us. When the British forces were firmly established on the ground at the base of thehill they proceeded to charge. The British just expected to march up the hill and just scarethe colonists away. The British Regulars advanced with bayonets fixed; many of theirmuskets were not even loaded. The British troops, wearing their bright red wool jacketsand weighed down by heavy equipment, marched up hill over farm fields and low stonewalls hidden in the tall grass. As the colonists saw this massive red line approach slowlyand steadily, they remained calm and did not open fire. The fact they waited so long tocommence an attack was that General Prescott has been assumed to have given thefamous order, “Don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes.” If this command wasgiven it would have been to either help preserve their already low ammunition supplies,and to help keep the men from shooting out of their capable ranges. Once the British came within range, the colonists began firing, and the Britishsoldiers stated to fall rapidly. The British forces were driven back twice, but on their thirdand final thrust forward the British were able to break through the colonists’ line,overrunning the tentative American fortifications, thus taking the hill. The colonists hadrun out of ammunition and supplies. The colonists fled back up the peninsula since it wasthere only escape route. This battle, which lasted for approximately three hours, was oneof the deadliest of the Revolutionary War. Although the British technically won the battle because they took control of thehill, they suffered too many losses to fully benefit from it. The British had suffered morethan one thousand casualties out of the 2,300 or so who fought. While the colonists onlysuffered 400 to 600 casualties from an estimated 2,500 to 4,000 men. Besides havingfewer deaths than the British, the colonists believe they had won in other ways as well.The Americans had proved to themselves, and the rest of the world that they could standup to the British army in traditional warfare. And only a few days later, GeorgeWashington would lead a group of men up to Dorchester Heights, aiming their cannons atthe British, and then watched the Red Coats retreat from the hill. So even though theBritish had won the battle, it was a short lived victory since the colonists took control ofthe hill again, but this time with more soldiers to defend it. The Battle of Bunker Hill was important for a variety of reasons. The first onebeing that it was the first battle of the Revolutionary War, and because of the fiercefighting that defined the battle it foreshadowed that it was going to be a long, close war.Another important event that came from the battle was that it allowed the Americantroops to know that the British army was not invincible, and that they could defeat theBritish in traditional warfare. The losses experienced on the British side also helped tobolster the colonists confidence. So it came to be that the Battle of Bunker Hill would be the foundation that thecolonists would look back to for the many battles that occurred during the AmericanRevolution. The first being that the British suffered heavy losses and would no longerconvinced of a victory when they went to battle the colonists. Fifty years after the battle a movement began to rise in the young United States tocreate a memorial to the battle atop Breed’s Hill. So, the Bunker Hill MemorialAssociation was formed and they bought fifteen acres of land atop of Breed’s Hill. Thenin 1825 the cornerstone to the monument was laid. Chronology of the battleTime AMERICANS BRITISH midnight Colonists begin construction of fortifications on Breeds Hill 4am British warships fire on the newly discovered fortification 2pm American reinforcements arrive; rail fence construction Begins. British soldiers land on Moulton’s point 3:30pm First battle is repulsed at the rail fence 4pm Second assault is repulsed at flashes and at redoubt 4:30pm Colonists withdraw. Final assault succeeds at redoubt 5:30pm End of battle Bibliography 1. 2. 3. ddillaby/bunker_hill.html 4. 5. Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 1996


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