June 17th 2022 marks 247 years since the Battle of Bunker Hill (aka How Many Kids From New England Learned About the Concept of a Pyrrhic Victory). Considered by many to be the first true battle of the American Revolution, many thought the events starting the evening of June 16th would not result in a battle at all.British Army Commander General Thomas Gage was under pressure to end the colonial rebellion once and for all. Along with his fellow Commanders, he decided that the best plan of action would be to seize the high grounds surrounding Boston and use the positions to strategically crush and uprisings in occupied Boston. The plan was leaked and 1,000 colonial soldiers mobilized to seize the high ground in Charlestown, and fortify both Bunker Hill and Breed’s Hill (the hill where the Bunker Hill Monument stands is actually Breed’s Hill; Bunker Hill is a few blocks away and is home to the Roman Catholic church St. Francis de Sales). While colonial revolutionaries worked through the night to reinforce their hold on the hills, well over 2,000 British soldiers were mobilized to Charlestown.
When the time came to engage, it is estimated that approximately 2,400 trained British soldiers faced off against 1,500 colonists, a mix of militiamen and locals. The bloody battle that ensued lasted approximately two hours, and resulted in massive casualties, numbering over 1,000 British fighters and more than 400 Revolutionaries. While British forces did seize the hills, the casualties they suffered facing off against the colonists were devastating, and led to substantial rethinking of how the occupying British would engage with colonial forces in battle.
There is so much more to tell about this pivotal battle of American Revolution, so if you are interested, check out this National Park Service article, this Timeline of the Revolution, and this Smithsonian Magazine piece debunking some of the tales you may have learned about the battle in history class.
Of course, the best way to learn about the Battle of Bunker Hill is to visit the Boston National Historic Park sites in Charlestown! There is major renovation work taking place in the Monument and Lodge, but you can still visit the site and the Museum across the street.
June 17, 2019 is the 244th anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill, an event we mark in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as Bunker Hill Day. It falls just after Father’s Day this year, so instead of watching war reenactments on the History Channel, why not take Dad out to bone up on some local history?
- Celebrate the belated birthday of Bunker Hill Hero Joseph Warren today or any day (his birthday is June 11) with a trip to his namesake landmark the Warren Tavern, a fine establishment dating back to 1780 and frequented back in the day by Warren’s good friend, Paul Revere.
- Kick off the weekend early and celebrate a turning point in the Revolution by joining Mayor Marty Walsh at City Hall Plaza to witness the raising of the Bunker Hill Flag on June 14th at noon.
- Visit Charlestown on Saturday June 15 for Bunker Hill Family Fun Day and a concert at the Monument. There will be music, art projects for kids, and much more. And it’s free! All Dads love free things!
- Visit the Bunker Hill Monument for the “Decisive Day” guided tour offered by the Boston National Historic Park, which departs daily every half hour.
- Head out to Quincy to the Adams National Historical Park on Monday June 17 for the special event “Bunker Hill to Penn’s Hill,” where you can learn about Abigail Adams and young John Quincy Adams, who watched the battle rage from ten miles away atop Penn’s Hill.
If you don’t have time to get out this weekend, here are the Top Ten Things You Should Know About Charlestown and the Battle of Bunker Hill according to our Head of Research & Instruction and Charlestown denizen, Becky Morin
1) The Battle of Bunker Hill was mostly fought on Breed’s Hill. That’s where the Monument is. Bunker Hill is actually taller and steeper, and is home to the lovely Saint Francis de Sales, a beautiful Roman Catholic church dedicated in 1862. If you don’t know which hill is which, we know you’re a tourist.2) Charlestown was actually not part of the City of Boston when the Battle took place. Charlestown is OLDER than Boston (as any proud Townie will gladly inform you), and did not become part of the City until 1874.
3) Charlestown is where Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride really kicked off. He was ferried in a rowboat from Boston, landing near the Charlestown Battery, where he picked up a horse from his friend Deacon John Larkin, a lifelong Charlestown resident.
4) There is debate as to why the Colonial forces fortified Breed’s Hill instead of Bunker Hill, although many think it is because Breed’s Hill is closer to Boston. The British had planned the siege to capture Bunker Hill, as they wanted to dig in fortifications on the area’s highest points.
5) It took the British three attempts to capture Breed’s Hill, even though their numbers were far greater than the Colonial forces.
6) Charlestown burned after the Battle, the first of two major fires to strike the community.
7) Proud Charlestown residents still fly the Bunker Hill Battle Flag.8) While the British defeated the Colonists at the Battle of Bunker Hill, they suffered severe casualties and the Siege of Boston came to a stalemate.
9) The Bunker Hill Monument (which you now know is on Breed’s Hill) is 221 feet tall and was completed in 1842.
10) Beloved French hero of the American Revolution, the Marquis de Lafayette, is said to be buried beneath a sprinkling of soil from Bunker Hill, procured by his son.
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