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American Revolution

Battle of Bunker Hill

History >> American Revolution

The Battle of Bunker Hill took place on June 17, 1775, just a few months after the start of the American Revolutionary War.

Battle of Bunker Hill by Pyle


Boston was being besieged by thousands of American militia. The British were trying to keep control of the city and control its valuable seaport. The British decided to take two hills, Bunker Hill and Breed's Hill, in order to gain a tactical advantage. The American forces heard about it and went to defend the hills.

Where did the battle 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 Breed's Hill and Bunker Hill. The Battle of Bunker Hill actually took place mostly on Breed's 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.
Monument to Bunker Hill
Bunker Hill Monument by Ducksters
You can visit Bunker Hill and climb to the top of
the monument for a view of the city of Boston


The Leaders

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 Breed's 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 Breed's 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 battle and gained control of the hills, they paid a heavy price. They lost hundreds of soldiers including several officers. This gave the Americans the courage and confidence 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.

Cannon Ball from Bunker Hill
Bunker Hill Cannon Ball by Ducksters
A cannon ball dug up from Bunker Hill
Interesting Facts about The Battle of Bunker Hill

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