In writing of the Battle of Bunker Hill, Abigail Adams called it the Decisive Day. In many ways this first major battle of the Revolutionary War predicted the character and outcome of the rest of the war.
On June 17, 1775 it took a force of 3000 Redcoats three assaults to dislodge the Colonial Militia from a hastily constructed redoubt atop Breed’s Hill in Charlestown. It was largely due to a lack of ammunition that the Militia was forced to give up defense of the hill. The supposed shortage of ammunition led to the famous order Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes, variously attributed to different commanders involved in the battle. At battle’s end, the British had 1000 casualties, a staggering number including one quarter of the officers they would lose in the entire war.
While technically a British victory, the Battle of Bunker Hill proved that Colonial forces could fight effectively against the British. American General Nathanael Greene wrote of the battle, I wish I could sell them another hill at the same price. The cornerstone of the Bunker Hill monument was laid in 1825 by Revolutionary War hero Marquis De Lafayette on the 50th anniversary of the battle. The 221 foot granite obelisk, located on the Freedom Trail, would not be completed until 1842. Learn more at the Bunker Hill Museum, just across the street from the Bunker HIll Monument.
WHAT’S IN A NAME? Confusion about the name of the hill where the battle occurred goes back to the battle itself. Colonel William Prescott’s orders were to fortify Bunker’s Hill but he chose Breed’s Hill instead. A detailed map of the battle prepared by British Army Lieutenant Page reversed the two hills. Whatever the original error, the conflict was always known as the Battle of Bunker Hill.
BUNKER HILL MUSEUM Located across from the Monument is the Battle of Bunker Hill Museum. Along with dioramas and murals, artifacts from the battle itself on display include a cannonball; a snare drum; a sword; a masonic apron belonging to revolutionary leader Dr. Joseph Warren, who perished in the fight; and a trowel used by the Marquis de Lafayette in the groundbreaking for the monument on the 50th anniversary of the battle.
Freedom Trail Foundation tours that feature this site:
Walk Into Hisitory Tours — North End
School and Private Tours. Call (617) 357-8300 for details.
Boston National Historical Park - National Park Service Ranger Tours
Bunker Hill Monument, Boston National Historical Park
Bunker Hill Monument Museum open daily 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.; July-August 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Monument open: Sept.-June 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.; July - August 9:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
617.242.5641 (tours 617.242.5689)