The Battle of Bunker Hill
The Battle of Bunker Hill
The Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia on May 10, three weeks after the Battles of Lexington and Concord. The British use of arms against their fellow citizens had united the colonies, which immediately took steps for their defense. First, Congress formally created the Continental Army and ordered it to raise six companies of soldiers in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. Second, it unanimously chose George Washington as commander in chief. With his newly appointed staff officers, Washington rode north toward Boston, arriving in early July, just in time to hear of the battles of Breed’s Hill and Bunker Hill.
The Americans knew that if they had heavy artillery, they might fire on the redcoats and force them to surrender. There were French and Indian War can- non at far-off Fort Ticonderoga, New York; acting independently of one another, both the Connecticut Assembly and the leaders of Massachusetts made plans to bring the artillery to Boston. New Hampshire’s Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys joined forces with Massachusetts patriot Benedict Arnold and his friends; together they captured the cannon and hauled them toward Boston.
In June, British General John Burgoyne brought reinforcements to Boston and planned an attack on the Americans from the high ground overlooking the city. The watchful Sons of Liberty discovered the plan and informed the American troops. On the night of June 16, American commanders General Israel Putnam and Colonel William Prescott led a thousand soldiers to Bunker Hill, the location that gave its name to the ensuing battle. A last-minute change of plans moved them to nearby Breed’s Hill, where they dug trenches and built a barricade. When the sun rose the next morning and the British saw what had happened, they fired on the Americans, who held their ground. In their scarlet and white uniforms, glittering in the morning sun, the British made easy targets for the minutemen, one of whom later remembered General Putnam’s warn- ing, “Reserve your fire until the enemy approaches so near as to enable you to see the whites of their eyes!” Many British fell, but when the Americans began to run out of bullets, they were chased out of Charlestown, which the redcoats burned to the ground. The British had gained control of the heights, but had lost more than twice as many men as the Americans.
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