June 17

This Day in History

General Interest

Jun 17, 1775:

The Battle of Bunker Hill

During the American Revolution, British General William Howe lands his troops on the Charlestown peninsula overlooking Boston and leads them against Breed's Hill, a fortified American position just below Bunker Hill. As the British advanced in columns against the Americans, Patriot General William Prescott reportedly told his men, "Don't one of you fire until you see the whites of their eyes!" When the Redcoats were within 40 yards, the Americans let loose with a lethal barrage of musket fire, cutting down nearly 100 enemy troops and throwing the British into retreat. After reforming his lines, Howe attacked again, with much the same result. However, Prescott's men were now low on ammunition, and when Howe led his men up the hill for a third time, they reached the redoubts and engaged the Americans in hand-to-hand combat. The outnumbered Americans were forced to retreat.

The British had won the so-called Battle of Bunker Hill, and Breed's Hill and the Charlestown peninsula fell firmly under British control. Despite losing their strategic positions, the battle was a morale-builder for the Americans, who had suffered far fewer casualties than their enemy while demonstrating that they could conduct war effectively against the British.

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