Friday, June 17, 2011

June 17, 1775: Battle of Bunker Hill

On this day in 1775, British troops stormed colonial fortifications on Breed's Hill in Charleston, Massachusetts, seeking to expel the local militia from that strategic high ground that overlooked the city of Boston. The colonial troops were dug in and well led and so the first two British assaults failed with heavy casualties. The third British assault captured the hilltop but only after the colonists had expended all of their ammunition. The unwounded militia fled across Charlestown Neck and reformed in Cambridge. Given the length of the engagement and the high casualties received, the British did not pursue but withdrew into Boston where they remained until March of 1776 when they departed Boston for good (on Evacuation Day!).

While the confrontation at Lexington and Concord in April 1775 had resulted in casualties on both sides, many in England and in the southern colonies dismissed that engagement as an unfortunate and unintended mistake, believing that reconciliation was still possible. But after Bunker Hill, with its high casualties, attitudes hardened in favor of a protracted war and any hope of a rapidly negotiated peace ended.

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