Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Battle of Bunker Hill

Battle of Bunker Hill
Charlestown, Mass.

Today is the 224th anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill, the first major battle of the American Revolution. Although
the British won the battle, it was a very costly victory that gave hope to the American cause, as it showed Colonial troops could stand against Britain's best soldiers. The battle is also significant, I believe, for what might have happened to the new Rebellion if events had turned out just a little bit differently.

The initial plan was for the Colonial militia to fortify Bunker Hill, which is a higher promontory and is closer to the mainland than Breeds Hill on the Charlestown peninsula. For reasons unknown today it was decided to build a redoubt on Breeds Hill and this is where most of the actual fighting on that day took place. This placed the militia in a (potentially) very precarious position. It would have quite easy for the British Army, under the cover of the British Navy, to have made its amphibious landings behind the redoubt and attacked the fortification from the rear. This plan was advanced by General Clinton, but he was overruled.

The actual landings on the peninsula were made in front of the redoubt. The British troops were sent in a broad frontal attack, carrying full backpacks, that failed miserably. An attempt was made to turn the flank of the militia, but due to the timely arrival of Col. Stark and his men from New Hampshire, this also failed. It wasn't until a final third assault was made that the British finally succeeded in sending the militia fleeing to the rear. British forces had removed the threat to their position in Boston, but at a great cost.

What was a Pyrrhic victory for the British could easily have been a major disaster for the Colonial militia. If the assault had been made in a more timely matter and if a landing closer to the land bridge to the peninsula had been made, then the American forces would have found themselves trapped. They would have been forced to surrender in total or have been killed. A defeat of this size and nature, at this early date, may have been fatal to the American colonies fight for independence.

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