The American Revolution ended two centuries of British rule for most of the North American colonies and created the modern United States of America. It lasted for eight years, from 1775-1783. The Battle of Lexington and Concorde is the battle that kicked off the American Revolution, however, the first large-scale engagement of the war was The Battle of Bunker (Breed’s) Hill. After retreating from Lexington in 1775, the British Army occupied Boston for several months.
After realizing the need to strengthen their position because of anti-British sentiment in and around the area, plans were developed to seize nearby Dorchester Heights and Charlestown, in present day Massachusetts. These two peninsulas offered a commanding view of the seaport and harbor and were important to preserving the security of Boston. The Americans caught word of the British plan and decided to get to the Charlestown peninsula first, fortify it, and present enough threat to cause the British to leave Boston. On June 16, 1775, under the leadership of Colonels Putnam and Prescott, about twelve hundred American troops arrived at the Charlestown Peninsula with instructions to establish defensive positions on Bunker Hill, however, Colonel Prescott instead chose the neighboring Breed’s Hill to the southeast.
The next morning, the British were astonished to see the rebel fortification upon the hill and set out to reclaim the peninsula. Thomas Gage was the British commander and chief. Naval units were brought within shelling range of Breed’s Hill and about twenty-two hundred troops, under the command of General William Howe, were dispatched from Boston. Colonel Prescott, of the Continental Army allegedly issued the famous order, “Don’t one of you fire until you see the white’s of their eyes.” The Americans allowed the British to advance almost to the bases of the fortifications and then opened fire.
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Boston Tea Party When the Boston Tea Party occurred on the evening of December 16, 1773, it was the culmination of many years of bad feeling between the British government and her American colonies. The controversy between the two always seemed to hinge on the taxes, which Great Britain required for the upkeep of the American colonies. Starting in 1765, the Stamp Act was intended by Parliament to ...
General Howe led two costly and ineffective charges against the American’s fortifications but failed to inflict serous casualties. After obtaining two hundred reinforcements, which included greatly needed ammunition for his artillery, Howe ordered a bayonet charge to seize Breed’s Hill. In his third attempt, the British were finally able to force the Americans, who were out of gunpowder, to retreat back to the mainland. In the course of the engagement, Charlestown was set on fire by British shells and burned to the ground.
This battle, though victorious, proved costly for the British. Of the twenty-four hundred British soldiers in Howe’s command, one thousand and fifty-four died. This accounted for nearly forty percent of their ranks. The American casualties were four hundred and forty-one, including thirty captured.
The battle served to prove to the American people that the British Army was not invincible. It became a symbol of national pride and a rally point of resistance against British rule. The effect of this battle was to electrify both sides of the Atlantic. The Yankee farmers had held their ground. They had been defeated, not by the professional soldiers drawn up against them, but by a lack of ammunition. Throughout the colonies, Americans began to believe that independence from Britain was not only desirable but possible.
The official British report of the battle arrived almost two weeks after the American version and was, by comparison, so dull that almost no one paid any attention to it. Gage was called home in disgrace, leaving Howe in command. The British in Boston made no further attempt to leave the safety of the city until the following April, when they woke one morning to find Dorchester Heights crowned with Ticonderoga’s cannons. Realizing that their position had become untenable, they took to their ships and sailed away from Boston.
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Some years later, the British Army, commanded by General Cornwallis, became surrounded in Yorktown, Virginia. They were forced to surrender, causing the Thirteen Original Colonies to win the war, therefore gaining their independence from Britain. Today, on top of Breed’s Hill in Massachusetts stands a Bunker Hill Monument in commemoration of the battle.