4 – Battle of Bunker Hill (1775)
This battle took place early during the Revolutionary War between America and Britain. When the colonial forces learned that the British were planning to occupy the high ground and control Boston Harbor, they responded with William Prescott taking a group of 1,200 men to occupy Bunker Hill and Breed’s Hill. The Redcoats learned of their enemy’s plans, and on June 17, 1775, they mounted an attack on the colonists stationed at the Charlestown Peninsula.
The size of both forces is disputed, although the British probably had 3,000 men against approximately 2,400 colonists since Prescott was aided by other leaders. The British, under the command of William Howe and Robert Pigot, moved towards the enemy.
Prescott supposedly told his men not to fire until they saw the whites of the British soldiers’ eyes; this is mainly because he wanted to preserve ammunition. Once the Redcoats came into range, the Americans opened fire and forced an immediate retreat.
The British regrouped and foolishly tried to attack once again, and as you would expect, the Americans successfully drove them back and inflicted heavy casualties. After a third attempt, the British finally climbed the hill and forced hand-to-hand combat.
The outnumbered colonists sensibly retreated, and the enemy took control of Charlestown Peninsula. However, it was a hollow victory as the Redcoats lost over 1,000 men in terms of deaths and wounded men. Critically, 19 British officers died at Bunker Hill.
Although the Redcoats earned a strategic victory, the heavy losses sustained prevented them from continuing towards the outskirts of Boston. Despite losing the fight, the Revolutionary Forces gained confidence; they had faced a numerically superior opponent and held their own for the most part. Howe lamented the high cost of the battle while Nathaniel Greene of the Patriots wrote that he would like to sell another hill to the enemy at the same cost.
If the British believed the Revolutionary War would be over quickly, Bunker Hill made them realize that it was set to be a long and torrid affair. It also had an impact on future encounters; instead of quickly seizing on an opportunity, the British were hesitant, and this new tactic gave the American forces time to retreat from several battles.