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The Battle of Bunker Hill and Breed Hill - Essay Example

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The Battle of Bunker Hill which took place on 17th June 1775 during the American Revolution was immortalized in American history because it was the first significant defeat for the British and also due to a famous quote one of the American commanders mentioned…
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The Battle of Bunker Hill and Breed Hill
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The Battle of Bunker Hill and Breed Hill The Battle of Bunker Hill which took place on 17th June 1775 during the American Revolution was immortalized in American history because it was the first significant defeat for the British and also due to a famous quote one of the American commanders mentioned. In order to save gunpowder, he issued an order to the patriots, "Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes!"
It began after the British forces led by General Howe, Clinton and Burgoyne arrived in Boston harbor as a part of the siege of Boston, after a British withdrawal from Lexington and Concord. The British were aware how important Boston was to the colonists. The city was on a peninsula in Boston Harbor which was a vital trade link. Across the Charles River, just across from Boston, on another peninsula were two hills, Breed Hill and Bunker Hill. Although most of the fighting took place on Breed Hill, the battle took the name of Bunker Hill which had a higher eminence.
Due to the threat the surrounding hills might pose on their hold on Boston, the British decided to taken possession of them. The American Rebels led by General Prescott, Putnam and Warren attempted to fence in and stall the British in Boston by taking command of the hills. To this end they sent forces to fortify both hills with trenches and bales of cotton and hay. Warren assumed that the construction of works on Bunker Hill would lure the British into battle (Ketchum 1999).
When the British observed the Americans taking possession of the hills, they began to bombard American positions from their ships stationed outside the harbor, while waiting for reinforcements to arrive. Eventually with around 3000 troops the British stormed up Breed Hill. The daring of the British was apparent, as they could have marched to Charlestown and blocked supplies and reinforcements from reaching Prescott. Instead they soldiered up the hill. At this point the Americans only waited, obeying the orders of General Putnam not to fire until they see the whites of the enemy's eyes. When the British front line was close the Americans opened fire to cut the British soldiers to pieces, forcing the latter to retreat. The second time they attacked, they forged up with one main force, along with a minor one going east. Yet again the Americans thwarted the attack and the British were forced to retreat.
On their third attempt, the British removed their heavy packs and charged again. This time with the Americans running low on ammunition and firepower, fought an unequal battle with stones and clubbed muskets. But they were up against a determined enemy and scores of colonists were killed in the ensuing close fought combat over the parapet. General Prescott saw the futility of enduring the conflict and ordered a retreat, effectively giving possession of the hills to the British. At the end of the battle 1054 British soldiers had been shot, 226 killed and the rest wounded, while the Americans lost 140 (Wikipedia 2006).
The Battle of Bunker Hill was the bloodiest the revolution ever witnessed but it was ignited by the bravery the colonists showed in previous encounters with the British. Taking possession of territories was essential if the colonists had any chance against the British. The Colonists had deemed a chain of rivers and lakes joining the Hudson with St. Lawrence of vital importance. If Britain had possession of it, the colonies would be separated into two and trade between New England and the South would be hampered. This would enable Britain to have an easy access to a route to Canada by which troops and supplies could be sent. The Colonists managed to taken possession of the waterways for a time and this encouraged them to gain more territories. At Bunker Hill, the colonists proved their mettle.
Though the British forces won and for nine months were able to hold Boston, the devastation their army faced impacted them greatly and gave the American Revolutionaries a new found confidence in their own military capabilities in their quest to drive the British out of Middle America. The Battle of Bunker Hill symbolized a turning point in the American Revolution as it marked the first thrust by nation opposing colonial rule.
References
Wikipedia 2006. Battle of Bunker Hill. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Bunker_Hill (accessed Aug 4, 2006)
Ketchum, Richard M. 1999. Decisive Day: The Battle for Bunker Hill. Owl Books. p.78. Read More
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