The Battle of Bunker Hill
(The Battle of Breed's Hill)

June 17, 1775

The Battle at Breed's Hill, which is usually incorrectly called the Battle at Bunker Hill, was the first major battle of the American Revolutionary War.

The Battles at Lexington and Concord in April 1775 were only skirmishes. After those battles, the British Army led by General William Howe continued to have a strong presence in Boston. This upset the Patriots and hostilities continued.

The British knew they needed to fortify their position. By taking control of Dorchester Heights and the Charleston peninsulas, they could watch over all of the Boston Harbor. This would protect them from any assaults from sea.

The Americans found out about the British plan and decided beat the English to the Charleston peninsula. On June 16, 1775, Colonel Israel Putnam and Colonel Samuel Prescott led the Patriots to the Charleston Peninsula. Their mission was to settle in at Bunker Hill on a small peninsula on the Charles River north of Boston. For some reason, they ended up on Breed's Hill closer to the waterfront.

On the morning of June 17, 1775, the British troops were surprised to see the Patriots in control of Breed's Hill. Immediately, they began to attack from the sea. Then, later in the day, General William Howe led his men in an assault on ground.

Colonel Putnam had told the Patriot army, "Don't fire until you can see the whites of their eyes." (This quote was again used by General Andrew Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812.) The first two times the British attacked, they were bombarded with heavy artillery and had to retreat. On the third attack, the British were more successful. The Patriots had run out of gun powder and could only fight them by hitting them with their muskets. The Patriots finally retreated. The British took Breed's Hill and then captured Bunker Hill.

This was a costly battle for the British. They had 226 soldiers killed during the battle and another 828 were wounded. The 145 American Patriots died and 274 were wounded with 30 captured.

One of the American men killed was Major General Joseph Warren. He was an American leader who was respected almost as much as John and Samuel Adams. He was president of the Massachusetts Congress in 1775. Today there is a statute of him near where he was killed.

Even though the Americans lost men, they realized the British lost more. General Nathanael Greene said "I wish we could sell them another hill at the same price." The Americans were starting to see that they might have a chance against the British and a spirit of national pride developed because of it. They were now confident they could fight the British rule and win!