Friday, October 18, 2013

I said Bunker you fool! Bunker, not Breeds!

The revolution was off to a shaky start. The fate of a nation walked on legs as stable as a newborn horse and the slightest mis-step would send thousands back into subjugation beneath the British Crown. The British had been defeated at Lexington, though the victory meant little considering the British still occupied the whole of Boston Harbor and Proper. The Rebels needed a sound victory if they were going to establish their cause as a right and just one. They would get their first chance on a small peninsula overlooking Boston Harbor, a place called Breeds Hill.
Bunker and Breed's Hill

 The peninsula served little importance from a tactical standpoint but for the fact that the two hills, Breed's and Bunker, overlooked Charleston and the rest of Boston Harbor. Rebel artillery could easilly be placed on those hills and pose a great threat to the British ships who held Boston in an economic choke-hold. It was for this reason and out of hope for redemption that Gage chose to engage the Rebel forces there. On the 16th of June, elements of rebel militia under numerous commanders began marching into the peninsula, a gutsy move as a landing force would easilly trap them on the thin neck of land were they to land in the flanks.

the Redoubt at Breed's Hill
Original orders were to have the men set up defensive positions on Bunker hill, the hill closest to the narrow neck of land that would allow the rebels to withdraw should the British attempt to flank and block them in the peninsula. To say that there were miscommunications would be a generous understatement. New York officers sent orders to New Hampshire troops and Connecticut militia received orders from officers from Massachusetts. In the end, the men ended up at the smaller of the hills and began their preparations. Their numbers stated at nearly 3,000 men from varying places. They dug all night, throwing up earth to make a rampart (redoubt) with a wooden breastwork to protect from any advancing enemy.
HMS Somerset

Long into the night the men toiled with little sleep, less food and even less water. They were exhausted, but they had done it. The sight to which the British awoke on the morning of the 17th alarmed the British high command. Over night the rebels had thrown up what appeared to be an insurmountable fortification. The first order of the day was "FIRE!"

Asa Pollard Memorial, Billerica MA
The command, bellowed from the lungs of the surely gunnery mates aboard the HMS Somerset set match to fuse and the cannons belched their brimstone, fire and damnation upon the unsuspecting rebels. The first round did little in the way of actual physical damage, but the headless form of Asa Pollard served as a gory foreshadowing of what the rebels were about to face. The man was quickly interred and the rebels went on with their preparations. Men began to desert to behind the lines; fatigue, thirst and fear driving them far from the almost certain clash to come.

The next six hours would be the most tense of those men's lives as the British formed on the opposite shore and began their ferry trip to their staging grounds near the base of Breed's hill.

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