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History >> American Revolution
Battle of Bunker Hill
The Battle of Bunker Hill took place on June 17, 1775, just a few months after the start of the American Revolutionary War.
Boston was being besieged by thousands of American militia. The British were trying to keep control of the city and control its valuable sea ports. The British decided to take two hills, Bunker and Breeds, in order to gain a tactical advantage. The American forces heard about it and went to defend the hills.
Where did it take place?
This seems like the easiest question ever, doesn't it? Well, not really. There were two hills that the British wanted to take in order to be able to bombard the Americans from a distance. These were Breeds Hill and Bunker Hill. The Battle of Bunker Hill actually took place mostly on Breeds Hill. It's only called the Battle of Bunker Hill because the army thought they were on Bunker Hill. Sort of a funny mistake and it makes for a good trick question.
The British were led up the hill by General William Howe. The Americans were led by Colonel William Prescott. Maybe this should have been called the Battle of the Williams! Major John Pitcairn was also one of the British leaders. He was in command of the troops that started the fighting at Lexington that began the Revolutionary War. From the American side, Israel Putnam was the General in charge. Also, leading patriot Dr. Joseph Warren was part of the battle. He was killed during the fighting.
What happened at the battle?
The American forces learned that the British were planning on taking over the hills around Boston in order to gain a tactical advantage. As a result of this information, the Americans secretly moved their troops onto Bunker and Breeds Hill, two unoccupied hills just outside of Boston in Charlestown, Massachusetts. They built up fortifications during the night and prepared for battle.
The next day, when the British realized what had happened, the British attacked. Their commander William Howe led three charges up Breeds Hill. The Americans fought back the first two charges, but started to run out of ammunition and had to retreat at the third charge. The British gained the hill, but their costs were great. Around 226 British were killed and 800 wounded while the Americans did not suffer nearly as many casualties.
Battle Map - Click to see larger picture
Result of the Battle
Although the British won the hill and the battle, they paid heavy costs with so many soldiers dying, including many officers. This gave the Americans courage to know that they could stand up to the British in battle. Many more colonists joined the army after this battle and the revolution continued to grow in strength.
Interesting Facts about The Battle of Bunker Hill
- Because the Americans were low on ammunition, they were told "Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes."
- The American troops worked hard during the night building up the defenses. Much of the wall they built, called a redoubt, was nearly 6 feet high.
- British General William Howe was astonished at the American defenses saying "The rebels have done more work in one night than my whole army would have done in one month."
- The British suffered the most casualties of any single fight during the American Revolutionary War.
Take a ten question quiz at the Battle of Bunker Hill questions page.
Learn more about the Revolutionary War:
History >> American Revolution