The beginning of the Revolutionary War and America’s independence from England was simmering in New England in June of 1775. The Battles of Lexington and Concord had occurred just two months prior in April and the British were trying to break out of the city of Boston. General George Washington was on his way from New York at the time as the new head of the Continental Army but arrived too late before the battle was completed. But the clash would essentially pit the might of the British Empire against the Continental Army for the first time in a major battle.

While the Americans technically lost the battle and were forced off the heights in Charlestown, right next to Boston they showed the British that this was going to be a long, protracted war and their will to fight the mightiest army in the world was real. It was also the bloodiest engagement the British suffered in terms of officers lost in the war.

They under-estimated the plucky Colonials whom they thought of as rabble and the direct assault on the high ground of Charlestown would be the last time they would attempt that in the war. This was a story that every school in Massachusetts would teach but has sadly faded into an obscure footnote of our history.

The British Plan: British troops had been bottled up in Boston since Lexington and Concord. General Thomas Gage had been requesting reinforcements for his troops and they began arriving bring his force close to 6000 strong. Gage’s plan called for the British troops to take Dorchester Neck and once they reinforced the high ground on Dorchester Heights, the infantry would push the Colonials out of Roxbury. Then the British would turn their attention to heights in Charlestown. The attack was to begin on June 18.

Colonial spies found out about the plan and alerted the military and civilian leaders in New Hampshire. On June 15, General Ward ordered General Israel Putnam to set up defenses on the Charlestown Heights, specifically Bunker Hill.

On the evening of June 16th, the Colonials under the command of Col. William Prescott led 1200 troops onto the peninsula where they could set up artillery to bear fire on the city of Boston. Prescott’s Engineer CPT Richard Gridley advised Prescott not to fortify Bunker Hill but the smaller Breed’s Hill which was more defensible. It was also closer to Boston.

The British could see the work being done on Breed’s Hill and shelled the colonists with 128 guns from the HMS Somerset and Lively as well as from Copp’s Hill in Boston but with little effect.