Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Sunday Afternoon History Lesson

Bunker Hill
Bunker Hill Monument, Boston, Massachusetts

On this date in history 232 years ago, American forces fought and lost one of the more important battles of the American Revolution on a 75-foot high spot of land called Breed’s Hill on the Charlestown Peninsula section of Boston, Massachusetts. Even though the battle was fought on Breed’s Hill it has always been referred to as The Battle of Bunker Hill, which was the 110-foot high hill standing behind Breed’s Hill.

The Battle of Bunker Hill was fought between 2,500 British regulars under General William Howe and 1,400 New England militiamen under the command of Colonel William Prescott, of Massachusetts, and General Israel Putnam, of Connecticut fame.

On a cloudless afternoon on June 17th, 1775, British troops struggled up the hill over uneven soil in knee-deep grass with each man loaded down with a knapsack, blanket, and ammunition totaling 125 pounds. With General Howe leading, the British troops launched an attack up the slope on the waiting American forces.

After three frontal assaults against accurate sharp-shooters, the battle finally ended with the British victorious but at great cost to them. Of the 2,500 British troops engaged in battle their losses stood at 42% with 228 dead and 826 wounded; 92 of those were officers. On the American side losses totaled approximately 450 of which 140 were killed and 30 were captured.

Even though Bunker Hill was a loss for the Americans it changed the attitude of Britain significantly. The ferocity with which the Americans fought and the losses that their own troops suffered gave Britain pause to sit up and take notice of what they had previously thought to be simply a small group of upstarts who could easily be squashed with their superior forces.

The American Revolution raged on until the surrender of Lord Charles Cornwallis, British Commander of the Southern Campaign, at Yorktown, Virginia on October 19th, 1781 but didn’t officially end until the Treaty of Paris was signed on September 3, 1783.

Most Americans don’t realize that it took over nine years for our country to emerge as an independent nation. From the time of the first battle on October 10th, 1774 at Point Pleasant, Virginia until the British troops occupying New York left in November of 1783 it was just a little over nine years. Nine years.

People seem to be under the misguided impression that America gained her independence on July 4th, 1776 as that is the date we celebrate our birthday as a nation but that just goes to show that it’s easier to say “We’re free! We’re independent!” then to actually be free and independent. Nine years is a long time - no matter how you look at it.

Freedom doesn’t come easy nor does it come fast which is something our forefathers learned the hard way. It also seems to be something that we currently seem to have forgotten while we take for granted those very same freedoms that so many lost their lives for over 230 years ago and continue to lose their lives for today.

Just something to think about on a Father's Day afternoon.

Israel Putnam
Israel Putnam, Connecticut Revolutionary War Hero


  1. Wow, what a nice Father's Day Tribute to our Founding Fathers, whom I believe to be all, male & female, who struggled over those nine years to secure the freedom that had been proclaimed nearly a decade before.

    I think most of us (certainly me!) rarely think about the reason a holiday is celebrated; most of them are indistinguishable these days, at least in the way we celebrate them. The vast majority involve buying something for someone or everyone you care for after enduring weeks of commercial advertisements screaming buy, buy, buy.

    Sometimes we get a day off work; always, we're supposed to get together with friends & family to party & eat too much. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it's nice to stop and think about why we do it all.

    Guess we can all thank Sonora Smart Dodd and/or the congregation of Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church South in Fairmont, West Virginia (depending on which version you take as being the first) for kicking off Father's Day in the U.S. Personally, I'd like to wish your father and mine a good one. They were something special!

    PS: If you ever want to start a special day to note the accomplishments of parents who really should have taken up gardening or knitting instead, let me know. Maybe we can go down in history...

  2. What an interesting post, Linda! Nice and informative. :)

    Loved it!!

  3. And it was 12 years before the first official Presidential election in 1789. Until then the President of the Continental Congress held the executive position. So there were quite a few "Presidents" before George W. was elected, and 23 years later, England tried to take it all back and failed again in the war of 1812 though they did manage to burn the White House.

  4. Anonymous10:29 PM EDT

    I came too late to my love of history. Better late than never I suppose. I had a historically enlightening Saturday in Minnesota, thanks to my friend Kirk. I've come to love history. And apparently, you have too! Congratulations (although belatedly) on your Rising Blogger, Linda.

  5. Nicely done, Linda. You are truely a woman after my own heart - with your love of history & all. Last summer, "Mrs. Bulldog" & I, along with her sister and our nephew walked Boston's "Freedom Trail". Pretty awesome! Yes, the 4th of July should be a day of reflection and thankfulness for all of our freedoms!

  6. Anonymous9:54 AM EDT

    Being in Boston, I see the Bunker Hill monument all the time. I forgot about the day. Thanks for the reminder.

  7. I love early American History.
    Thanks for this post!

  8. Great post and a lot of insightful comments too. Like you Linda, I love history - reading about it, seeing places of historical value. I've been researching through old newspapers a "history" of sorts of the people who once populated this small area where I live, not because this area holds some spectacular claim to fame, but rather the reverse. The people here, ordinary as they were, hardscrabble poor too the most of them, deserve a means to be remembered even for the mundane lives they lived but without them, a lot of others lived and still do live, better. Probably doesn't explain my stance all that well, but history is simply "his story" regardless of where one observes it -in great, marked events in time, or small lives lived too.

  9. I didn't know this. What a wonderful history lesson. Nine years huh? My. Have a great day Linda. :)


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