The Battle of Bunker Hill

The Battle of Bunker Hill happened in Bunker Hill, Massachusetts, on June 17, 1775. Tensions were building among the colonists against the British for many years and the launch of the American Revolution.

Boston was the main location where the British had tried to establish their troops, and they knew that this city was key to maintaining control of the colonies. The colonists in Boston and in all of the colonies knew this as well, and they were adamant about getting the British out of the Boston area.

To set the scene as to what was going on that led to the Battle of Bunker Hill, the British were making every attempt at taking control of Boston and the seaport that was so valuable for trade and bringing troops in.

Civil War & Military Games
Civil War & Military Games

They knew that they would have to take two “hills” to accomplish this: Bunker Hill and Breed’s Hill. When the Colonial forces heard about the plans that the British had, they gathered their troops and headed to make sure that both hills were defended.

Many of the Colonial troops were unsure which hill was which, and although it’s called the Battle of Bunker Hill, the fighting actually happened at Breed’s Hill. This was due to the confusion as to which hill was Bunker Hill.

General William Howe led the British forces up the hill, and the Colonial forces were led by Colonel William Prescott. The Colonials had learned ahead of time of the British plan and had relocated their troops to both hills early on and fortified the area with a six-foot wall in preparation for the battle.

By the time the British learned what had happened, it was too late, but they forged on and attacked anyway. Howe led three charges at Breed’s Hill, and the Colonials successfully fought two of them back.

When Howe led the third charge, the Colonials were running out of ammunition, and this led to the famous line “don’t shoot ‘til you see the whites of their eyes.” Meaning, don’t shoot unless they are close so that you don’t waste ammunition. The Colonials couldn’t keep the hill with the third charge, and they had to retreat.

While the British succeeded in taking the hill, there were about 226 British soldiers that had been killed. This was a great loss for their troops, especially with another 800 that had been wounded. The Colonial forces didn’t experience near as many wounded or casualties. This battle cost more British lives than any other in the Revolutionary War.

The results of the Battle of Bunker Hill didn’t have a negative effect on the Colonials that you would expect. Instead, they were filled with more confidence that they could go up against the British in battle. This confidence spurred more colonists to join the Colonial army and to fight against the British that had oppressed them for so long.

The results of the Battle of Bunker Hill was also a lesson to the British. They once thought that fighting the colonial forces who were ill-equipped and untrained would be easy. This battle showed them that the Colonial were forces to be reckoned with and that defeating them would be difficult.

Q&A:

Why did the British want to take control of the Boston area?
It was key to maintaining control of the colonies

How tall was the fortification that the colonial troops built to defend the hill?
6 ft

Why was the battle at Breed’s Hill?
Because the troops were confused as to which hill was Breed’s and which was Bunker

How many British troops were lost at the Battle of Bunker Hill?
800

Why did the Colonial forces retreat at the Battle of Bunker Hill?
They were running out of ammunition

What were the famous Colonial forces quote about shooting at the British forces?
“Don’t shoot ‘til you see the whites of their eyes.”