The morning of June 17, 1775: Colonial Patriots await a battle in the heights above Boston Harbor. Approaching are the English Redcoats, the most feared fighting force in the world. Low on water and ammunition, the ragged band of farmers-turned-militiamen face a daunting task.
The ensuing battle is recounted in The Battle of Bunker Hill, a 90-minute docudrama suitable for family viewing that offers a historical perspective with story of the first major conflict of the American Revolution. Here are six famous moments that led into the battle, and from the actual showdown.
Taxation without Representation
American colonists resented being taxed by the British without their consent. Key figures behind the protests against the Sugar Act, which assessed six pence per gallon on imports of molasses and sugar included Samuel Adams and James Otis, with the slogan “Taxation without representation is tyranny” attributed to Otis. It was the tax imposed by the passage of the subsequent Stamp Act of 1765 that peaked tensions, and resulted in the Revolutionary War 11 years later.
Bunker Hill is a case where the name of a conflict didn't exactly match the geography. It is unknown whether Colonial leader Colonel William Prescott simply didn’t understand Boston geography or disobeyed orders, but instead of setting up his forces on Bunker Hill, he established the Colonials on Breed’s Hill, where the on the night before the battle, Colonists were ordered to build a 110-foot wall made of dirt reinforced with hay and fence rails. The wall proved to be impenetrable by the British until the Americans ran out of ammunition. The conflict retained the name of the original target, Bunker Hill.
“Do not fire until you see the whites of their eyes.”
This quote is usually attributed to Colonel Prescott, although it could have been uttered and repeated by several during the conflict. The idea of firing at extreme close range dates back to the 16th Century war tactics of Gustavus Adolphus. The strategy was particularly important for the Colonial Army because of their lack of ammunition.
The English won the battle, but at great cost with 226 Redcoats killed and 828 wounded. The Colonists saw 115 killed and 305 wounded. The casualty count was the highest suffered by the British in any single encounter during the entire war. There have been some reported discrepancies in these statistics, but the outcome remains; the Redcoats lost more men.
African American Patriots
One hundred fifty African Americans took their place among the Patriots who fought at The Battle of Bunker Hill. Upon his arrival in Boston in November of 1775, one of Washington's first orders was to expel all African American soldiers from the ranks, an action that represented the prejudices and fears that many white colonists held about their black counterparts.
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