The Battle of Bunker Hill The Battle of Bunker Hill was one of the critical turning points in the Revolutionary War. Interestingly enough, the battle was not actually fought on Bunker Hill, but on Breed's Hill. The original orders to the American Colonel William Prescott, was to fortify Bunker Hill, but he decided to fortify Breed's Hill because it was closer to Boston. Because of the original orders, after the battle was over everyone continued to refer to it as the Battle of Bunker Hill.
The British force that was trying to occupy Boston was made up of 2,500 of the king's best soldiers. This force was led by General Thomas Gage who was the former governor of Montreal and had fought in The French and Indian war. Gage also commanded all the British forces in North America. On April 18-19, 1775 he sent an army to Concord to destroy military stores belonging to the Americans.
The resulting battle of Lexington and Concord was one of the major starters of the Revolutionary war. The second in command was William Howe. He was widely believed to be a distant cousin of the king. He was a very talented and smart officer who did not want to fight the Americans but did when ordered to for fear of being branded a traitor. The final British officer in the battle was Henry Clinton. His military tactics where plausible, but he tried to get all of his superior officers to implement them in battle but only succeeded in irritating everybody.
The American army consisted of 1,000 troops. The leader of the militia was a man named William Prescott. Prescott was a farmer from Pepperel, Massachusetts and had fought in the French and Indian war. The American militia second in command was Israel Putnam, who was part of the Connecticut militia. The third American officer, a Colonel at half pay was Richard Gridley. While fighting in the French and Indian war Gridley moved two cannons up a steep hill and provided cover fire for the French. This was one of the main reasons they won the battle.
On June 17, 1775, the British were planning an assault on Massachusetts that would be concentrated on the American Headquarters in Boston and the supply depot at Cambridge. The British Major General William Howe planned to lead an amphibious attack, landing at Dorchester point. From there he would proceed to Cambridge and meet up with Henry Clinton and his troops. Clinton's job was to secure the high ground on the Charleston Peninsula until Howe and his troops got there. Once they met, the plan was to attack the poorly defended flank of Cambridge.
The Americans learned of the attack plan, but thought the plan was to seize Dorchester Heights. Believing they knew the British plan they formulated their attack to intercept the British army at Bunker Hill. When they reached Bunker Hill, Colonel William Prescott decided to go and defend Breed's Hill because it was closer to Boston. Once they reached Breed's Hill they started to build redoubt that would protect them from the British attack. While building the redoubt in half-hour shifts half the men would dig and the other half would stand watch for the British army.
The British landed on Charlestown Peninsula and brought along a cannon that was made to fire 6 lb. cannonballs, but brought cannonballs that weighted 12lb. The army consisted of 10 senior companies of grenadiers and 10 senior companies of light infantry. They marched to Long Wharf and boarded a boat the rest of the way to their destination, where they were to wait for further orders. Once the British troops started advancing toward Breed's Hill they intended to scare the Americans away from Breed's Hill. They marched toward the hill with bayonets attached to their muskets. When they came within 20 yards of the hill the Americans opened fire. The Americans concentrated their fire on the officers, killing many and wounding several. This was a major blow to the British army, because they where an army trained to obey commands like robots. The reason the Americans waited so long to fire was because a musket ball does not go in a straight line for very long, it tends to drop down to the ground. In the first volley of musket fire many of the British troops died and, the remaining troops continued to charge the hill. The Americans fired another volley of musket fire and the British troops retreated.
The British rallied the remaining troops and started a second charge. This time they had their muskets loaded. But their efforts where in vain. The troops where once again cut down by the massed fire of the Americans. The British troops begged the officers not to make another charge, but the British officers decided otherwise. On the third charge, the Americans had almost no ammunition left to fight the British with. During the third charge the American troops fired their remaining musket balls, and then had to retreat. They did not even have the long spears with which to stop the final British charge. During the retreat, the British troops had climbed over the redoubt. They could not fire their muskets for fear of hitting each other. Instead of firing, the British troops affixed bayonets to the ends of their muskets. The Americans fought back with what little strength they had left. The British troops had won the battle but had sustained severe casualties. Out of the 2,500 troops, 1,000 were either killed or wounded. Many of the casualties were officers. Out of the 1,000 Americans fighting only 400 were killed or wounded. This battle strengthened the American morale a lot. During the battle some of the American troops worried that the musket balls would not penetrate the "invincible" British army. Later in the war, the French started to help the Americans by giving them supplies. They where not fighting with the Americans, but against the British. Eventually the American Revolution sparked the French revolution, which led to the Napoleonic wars.
Each side learned several lessons in that battle, the Americans learned that waiting until the enemy is close to fire can cause great casualties. They also learned the great value of building redoubt. One of the most valuable lessons they learned was, the British army is not invincible. The British learned that they should not try to charge with bayonets intending to scare away their opponents. And to try to flank the enemy instead of attacking from one side and getting everybody killed.