Battle of Bunker Hill

Battle of Bunker Hill
Battle of Bunker Hill
Part of the American Revolutionary War
The death of general warren at the battle of bunker hill.jpg
The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker Hill by John Trumbull
Date June 17, 1775
Location Charlestown, Massachusetts
42°22′34.9″N 71°3′38.8″W / 42.376361°N 71.060778°W / 42.376361; -71.060778Coordinates: 42°22′34.9″N 71°3′38.8″W / 42.376361°N 71.060778°W / 42.376361; -71.060778
Result British Pyrrhic victory[1]
British capture Charlestown peninsula
 Great Britain United States Militias of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island
Commanders and leaders
British Army:
William Howe
Sir Robert Pigot
James Abercrombie +
John Pitcairn 
Henry Clinton
Royal Navy:
Samuel Graves
Israel Putnam
William Prescott
Joseph Warren 
Seth Pomeroy
John Stark
(Warren and Pomeroy declined command and fought as individuals)
3,000+[2] about 2,400[3]
Casualties and losses
226 killed,
(including 19 officers)
828 soldiers wounded,
(including 62 officers)
Total: 1,054[4]
115 killed,
305 wounded,
30 captured (20 POWs died)
Total: 450[5]

The Battle of Bunker Hill took place on June 17, 1775, mostly on and around Breed's Hill, during the Siege of Boston early in the American Revolutionary War. The battle is named after the adjacent Bunker Hill, which was peripherally involved in the battle and was the original objective of both colonial and British troops, and is occasionally referred to as the "Battle of Breed's Hill."

On June 13, 1775, the leaders of the colonial forces besieging Boston learned that the British generals were planning to send troops out from the city to occupy the unoccupied hills surrounding the city. In response to this intelligence, 1,200 colonial troops under the command of William Prescott stealthily occupied Bunker Hill and Breed's Hill, constructed an earthen redoubt on Breed's Hill, and built lightly fortified lines across most of the Charlestown Peninsula.

When the British were alerted to the presence of the new position the next day, they mounted an attack against them. After two assaults on the colonial lines were repulsed with significant British casualties, the British finally captured the positions on the third assault, after the defenders in the redoubt ran out of ammunition. The colonial forces retreated to Cambridge over Bunker Hill, suffering their most significant losses on Bunker Hill.

While the result was a victory for the British, they suffered heavy losses: over 800 wounded and 226 killed, including a notably large number of officers. The battle is seen as an example of a Pyrrhic victory, because the immediate gain (the capture of Bunker Hill) was modest and did not significantly change the state of the siege, while the cost (the loss of nearly a third of the deployed forces) was high. Meanwhile, colonial forces were able to retreat and regroup in good order having suffered few casualties. Furthermore, the battle demonstrated that relatively inexperienced colonial forces were willing and able to stand up to regular army troops in a pitched battle.



Boston, situated on a peninsula,[6] was largely protected from close approach by the expanses of water surrounding it, which were dominated by British warships. In the aftermath of the battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, the colonial militia, a force of about 15,000 men[7] had surrounded the town, and effectively besieged it. Under the command of Artemas Ward, they controlled the only land access to Boston itself (the Roxbury Neck), but, lacking a navy, were unable to control or even contest British domination of the waters of the harbor. The British troops, a force of about 6,000 under the command of General Thomas Gage, occupied the city, and were able to be resupplied and reinforced by sea.[8] They were thus able to remain in Boston indefinitely.

However, the land across the water from Boston contained a number of hills, which could be used to advantage.[9] If the militia could obtain enough artillery pieces, these could be placed on the hills and used to bombard the city until the occupying army evacuated it or surrendered. It was with this in mind that the Knox Expedition, led by Henry Knox, later transported cannon from Fort Ticonderoga to the Boston area.[10]

The Charlestown Peninsula, lying to the north of Boston, started from a short, narrow isthmus (known as the Charlestown Neck) at its northwest, extending about 1 mile (1.6 km) southeastward into Boston Harbor. Bunker Hill, with an elevation of 110 feet (34 m), lay at the northern end of the peninsula. Breed's Hill, at a height of 62 feet (19 m), was more southerly and nearer to Boston.[11] The town of Charlestown occupied flats at the southern end of the peninsula. At its closest approach, less than 1,000 feet (305 m) separated the Charlestown Peninsula from the Boston Peninsula, where Copp's Hill was at about the same height as Breed's Hill. While the British retreat from Concord had ended in Charlestown, General Gage, rather than immediately fortifying the hills on the peninsula, had withdrawn those troops to Boston the day after that battle, turning the entire Charlestown Peninsula into a no man's land.[12]

British planning

The Battle of Bunker Hill, by Howard Pyle, 1897.

Throughout May, in response to orders from Gage requesting support, the British received reinforcements, until they reached a strength of about 6,000 men. On May 25, three Generals arrived on HMS Cerberus: William Howe, John Burgoyne, and Henry Clinton. Gage began planning with them to break out of the city,[13] finalizing a plan on June 12.[14] This plan began with the taking of the Dorchester Neck, fortifying the Dorchester Heights, and then marching on the colonial forces stationed in Roxbury. Once the southern flank had been secured, the Charlestown heights would be taken, and the forces in Cambridge driven away. The attack was set for June 18.[15]

On June 13, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress was notified, by express messenger from the Committee of Safety in Exeter, New Hampshire, that a New Hampshire gentleman "of undoubted veracity" had, while visiting Boston, overheard the British commanders making plans to capture Dorchester and Charlestown.[16] On June 15, the Massachusetts Committee of Safety decided that additional defenses needed to be erected.[17] General Ward directed General Israel Putnam to set up defenses on the Charlestown Peninsula, specifically on Bunker Hill.[18]

Prelude to battle

The first British attack on Bunker Hill. Shaded areas are hills.

Fortification of Breed's Hill

On the night of June 16, colonial Colonel William Prescott led about 1,200 men onto the peninsula in order to set up positions from which artillery fire could be directed into Boston.[19] This force was made up of men from the regiments of Prescott, Putnam (the unit was commanded by Thomas Knowlton), James Frye, and Ebenezer Bridge.[20] At first, Putnam, Prescott, and their engineer, Captain Richard Gridley, disagreed as to where they should locate their defense. Some work was performed on Bunker Hill, but Breed's Hill was closer to Boston and viewed as being more defensible. Arguably against orders, they decided to build their primary redoubt there.[21] Prescott and his men, using Gridley's outline, began digging a square fortification about 130 feet (40 m) on a side with ditches and earthen walls. The walls of the redoubt were about 6 feet (1.8 m) high, with a wooden platform inside on which men could stand and fire over the walls.[22]

The works on Breed's Hill did not go unnoticed by the British. General Clinton, out on reconnaissance that night, was aware of them, and tried to convince Gage and Howe that they needed to prepare to attack the position at daylight. British sentries were also aware of the activity, but most apparently did not think it cause for alarm.[23] Then, in the early predawn, around 4:00 am, a sentry on board HMS Lively spotted the new fortification, and notified her captain. Lively opened fire, temporarily halting the colonists' work. Aboard his flagship HMS Somerset, Admiral Samuel Graves awoke, irritated by the gunfire that he had not ordered.[24] He stopped it, only to have General Gage countermand his decision when he became fully aware of the situation in the morning. He ordered all 128 guns in the harbor, as well as batteries atop Copp's Hill in Boston, to fire on the colonial position, which had relatively little effect.[25] The rising sun also alerted Prescott to a significant problem with the location of the redoubt – it could easily be flanked on either side.[23] He promptly ordered his men to begin constructing a breastwork running down the hill to the east, deciding he did not have the manpower to also build additional defenses to the west of the redoubt.[26]

1775 map of the Boston area (contains some inaccuracies)

British preparations

When the British generals met to discuss their options, General Clinton, who had urged an attack as early as possible, recommended an attack beginning from the Charlestown Neck that would cut off the colonists' retreat, reducing the process of capturing the new redoubt to one of starving out its occupants. However, he was outvoted by the other three generals. Howe, who was the senior officer present and would lead the assault, was of the opinion that the hill was "open and easy of ascent and in short would be easily carried".[27] Orders were then issued to prepare the expedition.[28]

When General Gage surveyed the works from Boston with his staff, Loyalist Abijah Willard recognized his brother-in-law Colonel Prescott. "Will he fight?" asked Gage. "[A]s to his men, I cannot answer for them;" replied Willard, "but Colonel Prescott will fight you to the gates of hell."[29] Prescott lived up to Willard's word, but his men were not so resolute. When the colonists suffered their first casualty, Asa Pollard of Billerica,[30] a young private killed by cannon fire, Prescott gave orders to bury the man quickly and quietly, but a large group of men gave him a solemn funeral instead, with several deserting shortly thereafter.[29]

It took almost six hours for the British to organize an infantry force and to gather up and inspect the men on parade. General Howe was to lead the major assault, drive around the colonial left flank, and take them from the rear. Brigadier General Robert Pigot on the British left flank would lead the direct assault on the redoubt, and Major John Pitcairn led the flank or reserve force. It took several trips in longboats to transport Howe's initial forces (consisting of about 1,500 men) to the eastern corner of the peninsula, known as Moulton's Point.[31][32] By 2 pm, Howe's chosen force had landed.[31] However, while crossing the river, Howe noted the large number of colonial troops on top of Bunker Hill. Believing these to be reinforcements, he immediately sent a message to Gage, requesting additional troops. He then ordered some of the light infantry to take a forward position along the eastern side of the peninsula, alerting the colonists to his intended course of action. The troops then sat down to eat while they waited for the reinforcements.[32]

Colonists reinforce their positions

The second British attack on Bunker Hill.

Prescott, seeing the British preparations, called for reinforcements. Among the reinforcements were Joseph Warren, the popular young leader of the Massachusetts Committee of Safety, and Seth Pomeroy, an aging Massachusetts militia leader. Both of these men held commissions of rank, but chose to serve as infantry.[31] Prescott ordered the Connecticut men under Captain Knowlton to defend the left flank, where they used a crude dirt wall as a breastwork, and topped it with fence rails and hay. They also constructed three small v-shaped trenches between this dirt wall and Prescott's breastwork. Troops that arrived to reinforce this flank position included about 200 men from the 1st and 3rd New Hampshire regiments, under Colonels John Stark and James Reed. Stark's men, who did not arrive until after Howe landed his forces (and thus filled a gap in the defense that Howe could have taken advantage of, had he pressed his attack sooner),[33] took positions along the breastwork on the northern end of the colonial position. When low tide opened a gap along the Mystic River to the north, they quickly extended the fence with a short stone wall to the water's edge.[33][34] Colonel Stark placed a stake about 100 feet (30 m) in front of the fence and ordered that no one fire until the regulars passed it.[35] Just prior to the action, further reinforcements arrived, including portions of Massachusetts regiments of Colonels Brewer, Nixon, Woodbridge, Little, and Major Moore, as well as Callender's company of artillery.[36]

Behind the colonial lines, confusion reigned. Many units sent toward the action stopped before crossing the Charlestown Neck from Cambridge, which was under constant fire from gun batteries to the south. Others reached Bunker Hill, but then, uncertain about where to go from there, milled around. One commentator wrote of the scene that "it appears to me there never was more confusion and less command".[37] While General Putnam was on the scene attempting to direct affairs, unit commanders often misunderstood or disobeyed orders.[37]


By 3 pm, the British reinforcements, which included the 47th Foot and the 1st Marines, had arrived, and the British were ready to march.[38] Brigadier General Pigot's force, gathering just south of Charlestown village, were taking casualties from sniper fire, and Howe asked Admiral Graves for assistance in clearing out the snipers. Graves, who had planned for such a possibility, ordered incendiary shot fired into the village, and then sent a landing party to set fire to the town.[39] The smoke billowing from Charlestown lent an almost surreal backdrop to the fighting, as the winds were such that the smoke was kept from the field of battle.[40]

Pigot, commanding the 5th, 38th, 43rd, 47th, and 52nd regiments, as well as Major Pitcairn's Marines, were to feint an assault on the redoubt. However, they continued to be harried by snipers in Charlestown, and Pigot, when he saw what happened to Howe's advance, ordered a retreat.[41]

General Howe led the light infantry companies and grenadiers in the assault on the American left flank, expecting an easy effort against Stark's recently arrived troops.[42] His light infantry were set along the narrow beach, in column, in order to turn the far left flank of the colonial position.[43] The grenadiers were deployed in the middle. They lined up four deep and several hundred across. As the regulars closed, John Simpson, a New Hampshire man, prematurely fired, drawing an ineffective volley of return fire from the regulars.[citation needed] When the regulars finally closed within range, both sides opened fire. The colonists inflicted heavy casualties on the regulars, using the fence to steady and aim their muskets, and benefit from a modicum of cover. With this devastating barrage of musket fire, the regulars retreated in disarray, and the militia held their ground.[44]

The third and final British attack on Bunker Hill

The regulars reformed on the field and marched out again. This time, Pigot was not to feint; he was to assault the redoubt, possibly without the assistance of Howe's force. Howe, instead of marching against Stark's position along the beach, marched instead against Knowlton's position along the rail fence. The outcome of the second attack was much the same as the first. One British observer wrote, "Most of our Grenadiers and Light-infantry, the moment of presenting themselves lost three-fourths, and many nine-tenths, of their men. Some had only eight or nine men a company left ..."[45] Pigot did not fare any better in his attack on the redoubt, and again ordered a retreat.[46] Meanwhile, in the rear of the colonial forces, confusion continued to reign. General Putnam tried, with only limited success, to send additional troops from Bunker Hill to Breed's Hill to support the men in the redoubt and along the defensive lines.[47]

The British rear was also in some disarray. Wounded soldiers that were mobile had made their way to the landing areas, and were being ferried back to Boston, and the wounded lying on the field of battle were the source of moans and cries of pain.[48] General Howe, deciding that he would try again, sent word to General Clinton in Boston for additional troops. Clinton, who had watched the first two attacks, sent about 400 men from the 2nd Marines and the 63rd Foot, and then followed himself to help rally the troops. In addition to the new reserves, he also convinced about 200 of the wounded to form up for the third attack.[49] During the interval between the second and third assaults, General Putnam continued trying to direct troops toward the action. Some companies, and leaderless groups of men, moved toward the action; others retreated. John Chester, a Connecticut captain, seeing an entire company in retreat, ordered his company to aim muskets at that company to halt its retreat; they turned about and headed back to the battlefield.[50]

The third assault, concentrated on the redoubt (with only a feint on the colonists' flank), was successful, although the colonists again poured musket fire into the British ranks, and it cost the life of Major Pitcairn.[51] The defenders had run out of ammunition, reducing the battle to close combat. The British had the advantage once they entered the redoubt, as their troops were equipped with bayonets on their muskets while most of the colonists were not. Colonel Prescott, one of the last colonists to leave the redoubt, parried bayonet thrusts with his normally ceremonial sabre.[52] It is during the retreat from the redoubt that Joseph Warren was killed.[53]

The retreat of much of the colonial forces from the peninsula was made possible in part by the controlled retreat of the forces along the rail fence, led by John Stark and Thomas Knowlton, which prevented the encirclement of the hill. Their disciplined retreat, described by Burgoyne as "no flight; it was even covered with bravery and military skill", was so effective that most of the wounded were saved;[54] most of the prisoners taken by the British were mortally wounded.[54] General Putnam attempted to reform the troops on Bunker Hill; however the flight of the colonial forces was so rapid that artillery pieces and entrenching tools had to be abandoned. The colonists suffered most of their casualties during the retreat on Bunker Hill. By 5 pm, the colonists had retreated over the Charlestown Neck to fortified positions in Cambridge, and the British were in control of the peninsula.[53]


The Bunker Hill Monument

The British had taken the ground but at a great loss; they suffered 1,054 casualties (226 dead and 828 wounded), with a disproportionate number of these officers. The casualty count was the highest suffered by the British in any single encounter during the entire war.[55] General Clinton, echoing Pyrrhus of Epirus, remarked in his diary that "A few more such victories would have shortly put an end to British dominion in America."[1] British dead and wounded included 100 commissioned officers, a significant portion of the British officer corps in North America.[56] Much of General Howe's field staff was among the casualties.[57] Major Pitcairn had been killed, and Lieutenant Colonel James Abercrombie fatally wounded. General Gage, in his report after the battle, reported the following officer casualties (listing lieutenants and above by name):[58]

  • 1 lieutenant colonel killed
  • 2 majors killed, 3 wounded
  • 7 captains killed, 27 wounded
  • 9 lieutenants killed, 32 wounded
  • 15 sergeants killed, 42 wounded
  • 1 drummer killed, 12 wounded

The colonial losses were about 450, of whom 140 were killed. Most of the colonial losses came during the withdrawal. Major Andrew McClary was technically the highest ranking colonial officer to die in the battle; he was hit by cannon fire on Charlestown neck, the last person to be killed in the battle. He was later commemorated by the dedication of Fort McClary in Kittery, Maine.[59] A serious loss to the Patriot cause, however, was the death of Dr. Joseph Warren. He was the President of Massachusetts' Provincial Congress, and he had been appointed a Major General on June 14. His commission had not yet taken effect when he served as a volunteer private three days later at Bunker Hill.[60] Only thirty men were captured by the British, most of them with grievous wounds; twenty died while held prisoner. The colonials also lost numerous shovels and other entrenching tools, as well as 5 out of the 6 cannon they had brought to the peninsula.[61]

Political consequences

When news of the battle spread through the colonies, it was reported as a colonial loss, as the ground had been taken by the enemy, and significant casualties were incurred. George Washington, who was on his way to Boston as the new commander of the Continental Army, received news of the battle while in New York City. The report, which included casualty figures that were somewhat inaccurate, gave Washington hope that his army might prevail in the conflict.[62]

"We have ... learned one melancholy truth, which is, that the Americans, if they were equally well commanded, are full as good soldiers as ours."[63]

A British officer in Boston, after the battle

The Massachusetts Committee of Safety, seeking to repeat the sort of propaganda victory it won following the battles at Lexington and Concord, commissioned a report of the battle to send to England. Their report, however, did not reach England before Gage's official account arrived on July 20. His report unsurprisingly caused friction and argument between the Tories and the Whigs, but the casualty counts alarmed the military establishment, and forced many to rethink their views of colonial military capability.[64] King George's attitude toward the colonies hardened, and the news may have contributed to his rejection of the Continental Congress' Olive Branch Petition, the last substantive political attempt at reconciliation. Sir James Adolphus Oughton, part of the Tory majority, wrote to Lord Dartmouth of the colonies, "the sooner they are made to Taste Distress the sooner will [Crown control over them] be produced, and the Effusion of Blood be put a stop to."[65] This hardening of the British position also led to a hardening of previously weak support for the rebellion, especially in the southern colonies, in favor of independence.[65]

Gage's report had a more direct effect on his own career. His dismissal from office was decided just three days after his report was received, although General Howe did not replace him until October 1775.[66] Gage wrote another report to the British Cabinet, in which he repeated earlier warnings that "a large army must at length be employed to reduce these people", that would require "the hiring of foreign troops."[67]


Much has been written in the wake of this battle over how it was conducted. Both sides made strategic and tactical missteps which could have altered the outcome of the battle. While hindsight often gives a biased view, some things seem to be apparent after the battle that might reasonably have been within the reach of the command of the day.

Colonial faults

The colonial forces, while nominally under the overall command of General Ward, with General Putnam leading in the field, often acted quite independently. This was evident in the opening page of the drama, when a tactical decision was made that had strategic implications. Colonel Prescott and his staff, apparently in contravention of orders, decided to fortify Breed's Hill rather than Bunker Hill.[21] The fortification of Breed's Hill was more provocative; it would have put offensive artillery closer to Boston. It also exposed the forces there to the possibility of being trapped, as they probably could not properly defend against attempts by the British to land troops and take control of Charlestown Neck. If the British had taken that step, they might have had a victory with many fewer casualties.[68]

A historic map of Bunker Hill featuring military notes

While the front lines of the colonial forces were generally well managed, the scene behind them, especially once the action began, was significantly disorganized, due at least in part to a poor chain of command. Only some of the militias operated directly under Ward's and Putnam's authority,[69] and some commanders also disobeyed orders, staying at Bunker Hill rather than joining in the defense on the third British assault. Several officers were subjected to court martial and cashiered.[70] Colonel Prescott was of the opinion that the third assault would have been repulsed, had his forces in the redoubt been reinforced with either more men, or more supplies of ammunition and powder.[71]

British faults

The British leadership, for its part, was slow to act once the works on Breed's Hill were spotted. It was 2 pm when the troops were ready for the assault, roughly ten hours after the Lively first opened fire. This leisurely pace gave the colonial forces time to reinforce the flanking positions that had been poorly defended.[72] Gage and Howe decided that a frontal assault on the works would be a simple matter, when an encircling move (gaining control of Charlestown Neck), would have given them a more resounding victory.[68] (This move would not have been without risks of its own, as the colonists could have made holding the Neck expensive with fire from the high ground in Cambridge.) But the British leadership was excessively optimistic, believing that "two regiments were sufficient to beat the strength of the province".[73]

"View of the Attack on Bunker's Hill with the Burning of Charlestown" by Lodge

Once in the field, Howe, rather than focusing on the redoubt, opted (twice) to dilute the force attacking the redoubt with a flanking maneuver against the colonial left. It was only with the third attack, when the flank attack was merely a feint,[74] and the main force (now also reinforced with additional reserves) was squarely targeted at the redoubt, that the attack succeeded.[75]

Following the taking of the peninsula, the British arguably had a tactical advantage that they could have used to press into Cambridge. General Clinton proposed this to Howe; having just led three assaults with grievous casualties, he declined the idea.[76] Howe was eventually recognized by the colonial military leaders to be a tentative decision-maker, to his detriment; in the aftermath of the Battle of Long Island, he again had tactical advantages that might have delivered Washington's army into his hands, but again refused to act.[77]

"The whites of their eyes"

The famous order "Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes" was popularized in stories about the battle of Bunker Hill. It is uncertain as to who said it there, since various histories, including eyewitness accounts,[78] attribute it to Putnam, Stark, Prescott or Gridley, and it may have been said first by one, and repeated by the others. It was also not an original statement. It was used by General James Wolfe on the Plains of Abraham, when his troops defeated Montcalm's army on September 13, 1759.[79][page needed] The earliest similar quote came from the Battle of Dettingen on June 27, 1743, where Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Andrew Agnew of Lochnaw warned his Regiment, the Royal Scots Fusiliers, not to fire until they could "see the white's of their e'en."[80] The phrase was also used by Prince Charles of Prussia in 1745, and repeated in 1755 by Frederick the Great, and may have been mentioned in histories the colonial military leaders were familiar with.[81] Whether or not it was actually said in this battle, it was clear that the colonial military leadership were regularly reminding their troops to hold their fire until the moment when it would have the greatest effect, especially in situations where their ammunition would be limited.[82]

Notable participants

According to the John Trumbull painting, this flag of New England was carried by the colonists during the battle.
This flag, known as the Bunker Hill flag, is also associated with the battle.

A significant number of notable people fought in this battle. Henry Dearborn and William Eustis, for example, went on to distinguished military and political careers; both served in Congress, the Cabinet, and in diplomatic posts. Others, like John Brooks, Henry Burbeck, Christian Febiger, Thomas Knowlton, and John Stark, became well known for later actions in the war.[83][84] Stark became known as the "Hero of Bennington" for his role in the 1777 Battle of Bennington. Free African-Americans also fought in the battle, notable examples include Barzillai Lew, Salem Poor, and Peter Salem[85][86] (the leadership would not allow slaves to fight, as this was anathema to the very idea of the freedom for which they were fighting). Another notable participant was Daniel Shays, who later became famous for his army of protest in Shays' Rebellion.[87] Israel Potter was immortalized in Israel Potter: His Fifty Years of Exile, a novel by Herman Melville.[88][89] Colonel John Patterson (New York), commanded the Massachusetts First Militia, served in Shay's Rebellion, and became a US Congressman from New York.[90] Lt. Col. Seth Read, who served under John Patterson at Bunker Hill, went on to settle Geneva, New York and Erie, Pennsylvania, and was said to have been instrumental in the phrase E Pluribus Unum being added to US Coins.[91] [92] [93][1] </ref>[94]


John Trumbull's painting, The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker Hill (pictured above), while an idealized and inaccurate depiction of Warren's death, shows a number of participants in the battle. John Small, a British officer who was among those storming the redoubt, was a friend of Israel Putnam's and an acquaintance of Trumbull. He is depicted holding Warren and preventing a redcoat from bayoneting him.[95]

The Bunker Hill Monument is an obelisk that stands 221 feet (67 m) high on Breed's Hill. On June 17, 1825, the fiftieth anniversary of the battle, the cornerstone of the monument was laid by the Marquis de Lafayette and an address delivered by Daniel Webster.[96] (When Lafayette died, he was buried next to his wife at the Cimetière de Picpus under soil from Bunker Hill, which his son Georges sprinkled upon him.)[97] The Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge was specifically designed to evoke this monument.[98] There is also a statue of William Prescott showing him calming his men down.

The National Park Service operates a museum dedicated to the battle near the monument, which is part of the Boston National Historical Park.[99] A cyclorama of the battle was added in 2007 when the museum was renovated.[100]

Bunker Hill clipper ship

Bunker Hill Day, observed every June 17, is a legal holiday in Suffolk County, Massachusetts (which includes the city of Boston), as well as Somerville in Middlesex County. Prospect Hill, site of colonial fortifications overlooking the Charlestown neck, is now located in Somerville, which was previously part of Charlestown.[101][102] State institutions in Massachusetts (such as public institutions of higher) located in Boston also celebrate the holiday.[103][104] However, the state's FY2011 budget requires all state and municipal offices in Suffolk County be open on Bunker Hill Day and Evacuation Day.[105]

On June 16 and 17, 1875, the centennial of the battle was celebrated with a military parade and a reception featuring notable speakers, among them General William Tecumseh Sherman and Vice President Henry Wilson. It was attended by dignitaries from across the country.[106] Celebratory events also marked the sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) in 1925 and the bicentennial in 1975.[107][108]

See also


  1. ^ a b Clinton, p. 19. General Clinton's remark is an echoing of Pyrrhus of Epirus's original sentiment after the Battle of Heraclea, "one more such victory and the cause is lost".
  2. ^ Chidsey p. 90 says the initial force requested was 1,550, but Howe requested and received reinforcements before the battle began. Frothingham p. 137 puts the total British contingent likely to be over 3,000. Furthermore, according to Frothingham p. 148, additional reinforcements arrived from Boston after the second attack was repulsed. Frothingham, p. 191 notes the difficulty in attaining an accurate count of British troops involved.
  3. ^ Chidsey p. 122 counts 1,400 in the night-time fortification work. Frothingham is unclear on the number of reinforcements arriving just before the battle breaks out. In a footnote on p. 136, as well as on p. 190, he elaborates the difficulty in getting an accurate count.
  4. ^ Frothingham pp. 191, 194.
  5. ^ Chidsey, p. 104
  6. ^ 18th century Boston was a peninsula. Primarily in the 19th century, much land around the peninsula was filled, giving the modern city its present geography. See the history of Boston for details.
  7. ^ Chidsey, p. 72 New Hampshire 1,200, Rhode Island 1,000, Connecticut 2,300, Massachusetts 11,500
  8. ^ Alden, p. 178
  9. ^ Visitors to Boston, upon seeing the nearby hills, may conclude that they are too low. The hills were once higher, but were lowered by excavations to obtain landfill used to expand Boston in the 19th century.
  10. ^ Martin, James Kirby (1997). Benedict Arnold: Revolutionary Hero. New York: New York University Press. p. 73. ISBN 9780814755600. OCLC 36343341. 
  11. ^ Chidsey p. 91 has an historic map showing elevations.
  12. ^ French, p. 220
  13. ^ French, p. 249
  14. ^ Brooks, p. 119
  15. ^ Ketchum, pp. 45–46
  16. ^ Ketchum, p. 47
  17. ^ Ketchum, pp. 74–75
  18. ^ French, p. 255
  19. ^ Frothingham, pp. 122–123
  20. ^ Ketchum, pp. 102, 245
  21. ^ a b Frothingham, pp. 123–124
  22. ^ Frothingham, p. 135
  23. ^ a b Ketchum, p. 115
  24. ^ Frothingham, p. 125
  25. ^ Brooks, p. 127
  26. ^ Ketchum, p. 117
  27. ^ Ketchum, pp. 120–121
  28. ^ Ketchum, p. 122
  29. ^ a b Graydon, p. 424
  30. ^ Chidsey, p. 84
  31. ^ a b c Frothingham, p. 133
  32. ^ a b Ketchum, p. 139
  33. ^ a b Ketchum, p 143
  34. ^ Chidsey p. 93
  35. ^ Chidsey p. 96
  36. ^ Frothingham, p. 136
  37. ^ a b Ketchum, p. 147
  38. ^ Ketchum, pp. 152–153
  39. ^ Ketchum, pp. 151–152
  40. ^ Frothingham, pp. 144–145
  41. ^ Ketchum, p. 160
  42. ^ Ketchum, p. 152
  43. ^ Fusillers, Mark Urban p38
  44. ^ Frothingham, pp. 141–142
  45. ^ Ketchum, p. 161
  46. ^ Ketchum, p. 162
  47. ^ Frothingham, p. 146
  48. ^ Ketchum, p. 163
  49. ^ Ketchum, p. 164
  50. ^ Ketchum, pp. 165–166
  51. ^ Chidsey p. 99
  52. ^ Frothingham, p. 150
  53. ^ a b Frothingham, p. 151
  54. ^ a b Ketchum, p. 181
  55. ^ Brooks, p. 237
  56. ^ Brooks, pp. 183–184
  57. ^ Frothingham, pp. 145, 196
  58. ^ Frothingham, pp. 387–389 lists the officer casualties by name, as well as this summary
  59. ^ Bardwell, p. 76
  60. ^ Ketchum, p. 150
  61. ^ Ketchum, p. 255
  62. ^ Ketchum, pp. 207–208
  63. ^ Ketchum, p. 209
  64. ^ Ketchum, pp. 208–209
  65. ^ a b Ketchum, p. 211
  66. ^ Ketchum, p. 213
  67. ^ Scheer, p. 64
  68. ^ a b Frothingham, p. 155
  69. ^ Frothingham, pp. 158–159
  70. ^ French, pp. 274–276
  71. ^ Frothingham, p. 153
  72. ^ French, pp. 263–265
  73. ^ Frothingham, p. 156
  74. ^ French, p. 277
  75. ^ Frothingham, p. 148
  76. ^ Frothingham pp. 152–153
  77. ^ Jackson, p. 20
  78. ^ Lewis, John E., ed. The Mammoth Book of How it Happened. London: Robinson, 1998. Print. P. 179
  79. ^ R. Reilly, "The Rest to Fortune: The Life of Major-General James Wolfe" (1960)
  80. ^ Anderson, p. 679
  81. ^ Winsor, p. 85
  82. ^ French, pp. 269–270
  83. ^ Abbatt, p. 252
  84. ^ Ketchum, pp. 132,165
  85. ^ Woodson, p. 204
  86. ^ Ketchum, p. 260
  87. ^ Richards, p. 95
  88. ^ Ketchum, p. 257
  89. ^ Melville
  90. ^ Congressional bio of John Patterson
  91. ^ Buford, Mary Hunter (1895). Seth Read, Lieut.-Col.Continental Army; Pioneer at Geneva, New York, 1787, and at Erie, Penn., June, 1795. His Ancestors and Descendants.. Boston, Mass.. pp. 167 Pages on CD in PDF Format.. 
  92. ^ Marvin, p. 425, 436
  93. ^ "Massachusetts Coppers 1787-1788: Introduction". University of Notre Dame. Retrieved 2007-10-09. 
  94. ^ "e pluribus unum FAQ #7". Retrieved 2007-09-29. 
  95. ^ Bunce, p. 336
  96. ^ Hayward, p. 322
  97. ^ Clary
  98. ^ MTA Bridges
  99. ^ Bunker Hill Museum
  100. ^ McKenna
  101. ^ MA List of legal holidays
  102. ^ Somerville Environmental Services Guide
  103. ^ University of Massachusetts, Boston, observed holidays
  104. ^ Bunker Hill Day closings
  105. ^ "Commonwealth of Massachusetts FY2011 Budget, Outside Section 5". July 14, 2010. Retrieved August 6, 2010. 
  106. ^ See the Centennial Book for a complete description of the events.
  107. ^ Sesquicentennial celebration
  108. ^ New York Times, June 15, 1975

Major sources

Most of the information about the battle itself in this article comes from the following sources.

Minor sources

Specific facts not necessarily covered by the major sources come from the following sources.


Various commemorations of the battle are described in the following sources.

Further reading

External links

Pages about the battle

Pages about people in the battle

Other external pages

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  • Battle of Bunker Hill — first major battle of the American Revolutionary War which took place on the 17th of June 1775 …   English contemporary dictionary

  • (the) Battle of Bunker Hill — the Battle of Bunker Hill [the Battle of Bunker Hill] the first major battle of the ↑American Revolution. It is named wrongly because the battle was actually fought on Breed’s Hill. It was on 17 June 1775 near ↑Boston. Although the British won,… …   Useful english dictionary

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  • Bunker Hill, Battle of — Important colonial victory early in the American Revolution. Two months after the battles of Lexington and Concord, more than 15,000 colonial troops assembled near Boston to prevent the British army from occupying several hills around the city.… …   Universalium

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  • Bunker Hill — Bun′ker Hill′ n. amh. geg gov a hill in Charlestown, Mass.: the first major battle of the American Revolution, known as the Battle of Bunker Hill, was fought on adjoining Breed s Hill on June 17, 1775 …   From formal English to slang

  • Bunker Hill — noun the first important battle of the American War of Independence (1775) which was fought at Breed s Hill; the British defeated the colonial forces • Syn: ↑battle of Bunker Hill • Regions: ↑Boston, ↑Hub of the Universe, ↑Bean Town, ↑Beantown,… …   Useful english dictionary

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