On June 16, 1775, the American patriots learned that the British were sending soldiers into the hills surrounding Boston. In response, they sent about 1,000 militiamen onto Breed’s Hill, where they built a redoubt, or fort. The next day, the British troops marched to Breed’s Hill. The Patriots fired at the British as they climbed the hill, temporarily pushing them back. After doing this three times, the Patriots could not hold them back anymore due to low ammunition. The British and the Patriots engaged in hand-to-hand combat and the Patriots were forced to retreat. Though they lost the battle, colonials were encouraged. Dr. Joseph Warren was a hero on the day, fighting as a private even though he was offered the position of general.
“Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes!”—Colonel William Prescott famously shouted this in an attempt to preserve ammunition.
“I wish we could sell them another hill at the same price.”—Nathanael Greene
Bunker Hill is the name of the hill the militiamen were originally sent to, but they decided instead to take the smaller Breed’s Hill as it is closer to Boston.
John Quincy Adams, future US President, stood by his mother Abigail as a 7-year-old and watched this battle from a nearby hill.
In this battle, Major General William Howe and Brigadier General Robert Pigot led the British, while Colonel William Prescott led the Patriots.