Prelude toThe Battle of Bunker Hill June 17 1775

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Prelude toThe Battle of Bunker Hill June 17 1775The last stop on the British escape route from the Battles of Lexington and Concord wasCharlestown. They threw up hasty fortifications but a few days later General Thomas Gage decidedhe was spread out too thin and withdrew over the Charles River into Boston. It was the first of manytragic mistakes by the Commander in Chief of Britain's American Forces. Two months later, theBritish high Command, now augmented by General's William Howe, Henry Clinton and JohnBurgoyne, decided they actually did need to occupy the heights of Charlestown. Two hills dominatedthe peninsula, which was only attached to the mainland by the Charlestown Neck and became anisland when the neck was covered by water at high tide. They were Bunker's Hill at an elevation of105' above sea level and Breed's Hill at 70' but about 700 yards closer to Boston.MassachusettsCouncil of Safety RespondsUnfortunately for the British Army, the patriot intelligence network was still quite strong. TheCommittee of Safety had been debating whether to preemptively take the heights as long as Gage'sstaff had. On Thursday, June 15sources confirmed that the British would begin operations onSunday, June 18. Immediately the Rebels mad plans to take Charlestown first. There was somedispute as to whether to fortify Bunker Hill or Breed's Hill. General Israel Putnam favored Breed's ashe felt it would provoke more of a response because it was closer. General Artemus Ward, wary ofthe mission altogether, favored Bunker Hill. History shows that Putnam won out. All night on theJune 16, Rebel shovels and pick axes flew. At dawn on the 17th, The British Ship Lively woke up allof Boston when she fired on the newly discovered Rebel redoubt on Breed's Hill.British Council of WarIn a hastily gathered council of war, General Henry Clinton proposed to circle the east side ofCharleston on the Mystic River and land troops on the Neck to cut off any chance of retreat. Thiscommon sense plan was overruled by General Gage with the support of General Howe. They bothfavored a full frontal assault. This revealed an extreme disrespect for the Rebel's military abilitieswhich would be short lived. Gages political reason for this stand was that he felt if the governmentwould show great firepower and overwhelming force he could bring the rebellion to an end. Hispersonal reasons came from being accused of showing weakness by London.The Rebel DefensesWhile the British generals were waiting for favorable tides to begin their operation, the Rebels hadanother 6-8 hours to shore up their defenses. They added a breastwork on the east side of the mainredoubt. Well to the rear of the redoubt they established a fence line made of pickets, posts andstraw that led down to the beach. The only defense between the breastwork and the fence were 3small V shaped entrenchments called fletches. When Colonel John Stark and his regiment arrived asreinforcements they extended the fence line with a rock wall across the beach to the waters edge.The Americans were now as ready as they would ever be for the coming assault!Read about the Battle of Bunker Hill here!SourcesPatriot Battles, How the War of Independence was Fought by Michael Stephenson, 2007, HarperCollinsThe War for American Independence by Samuel B. Griffiths II, 1976, University of IllinoisThe Spirit of Seventy-Six by Henry Commager and Richard Morris, 2002, Castle BooksThe War of the Revolution by Christopher Ward, 1952, MacMillan Company here for more information.


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