Logo   Battle of Bunker Hill (or Breed's Hill)
The first major aggressive action by the Continental Army ended in a British victory...but at what price? The British regulars learned that the American Revolutionary War would be costly.

Dr Joseph Warren statue, Bunker Hill, Boston MA
Dr Joseph Warren, who
died in the final moments
of the battle...



(Continued from: Battle at Concord's North Bridge)

In June 1775, two months after the battles of Lexington and Concord, the Continental (American) army besieging Boston learned that the British were about to send troops out to occupy the hills surrounding the town, including Bunker's Hill in Charlestown.

On June 17, 1775, Colonel William Prescott of the Continental army ordered his force of 1200 men secretly to march from Cambridge via the isthmus of Charlestown Neck and occupy Bunker's Hill during the night and construct a small earthwork fortification.

When the British awoke, they found the Americans in command not only of Charlestown Neck, but indeed in a position to shoot into the town of Boston itself.

A force of 2200 British regulars was dispatched by longboat from Boston across the Charles River to Charlestown to take the hill. Landing near where the USS Constitution is now moored, the regulars then sat down and ate lunch, giving the American forces more time to build defenses.

In mid-afternoon the regulars attacked, only to be driven back by American fire.

Another British attack was ordered, and again it was thrown back.

The ammunition of the defenders running low, Colonel Prescott cried to his men, "Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes!"

It was not long before the Americans' ammunition was exhausted. The third British assault brought the attackers to the top of the hill and into hand-to-hand combat with the defenders.

The British muskets had bayonets. Most of the colonial muskets did not. The Americans, outnumbered and outgunned, were able to retreat in good order across Charlestown Neck to fortified positions in Cambridge, carrying most of their wounded with them.

Though the British then took possession of the hill and all Charlestown, the Battle of Bunker Hill was for them a Pyrrhic victory: 226 regulars were killed and 800 wounded—nearly half their force—including 100 commissioned officers, a grievous blow to the British military command in North America.

American losses were lighter: 140 killed, about 310 wounded—about 1/3 of their force.

(The Battle of Bunker Hill heartened the American forces and their cause, and was still in living memory when, in 1827, a campaign was begun to raise money for a fitting monument to the battle. More...)

Next: Declaration of Independence

Colonial New England

The Boston Tea Party

Battle of Lexington

Battle of Concord

Patriots' Day

Declaration of Independence

Early America

Timeline of New England History

New England Geology

New England History

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Bunker Hill Monument & Colonel William Prescott Statue, Charlestown (Boston) MA

Statue of Colonel William Prescott
in front of the Bunker Hill Monument,
Charlestown, Boston MA.

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