So what started this little fracas? Picture a small land’s head with a neck protruding into a bay from northwest to southeast, and another larger one from southwest to northeast. the larger one was Boston and the smaller Charlestown. The British in Boston had been besieged by 15,000 Yankee militia, a force growing by the day, ever since they poked the bees’ nest by sending troops out to Lexington and Concord in April (see previous posts). If the Yankees entrenched whatever cannon they could acquire on a fortified redoubt on the Charlestown peninsula, they could not only send shells into the town, but could hit royal navy ships in the harbor supplying the town.

Both sides knew this, and so when Dr. Warren’s intelligence network got word the British intended to secure the heights above Charlestown, the militia were ordered to beat them to it, and fortify Bunker Hill under cover of night. (The commanders in the field that night decided the main works should be placed on Breed’s Hill, because it was closer to the harbor.)
British ships observed the activity before the sun was up, but there was no haste – no panic. To the British commanders these were deluded farmers, shopkeepers and dull-witted artisans who had no concept of the professional and deadly force that could be thrown against them at will. General Clinton suggested taking the neck behind this rabble, thus cutting them off and destroying them at leisure, but Generals Gage, Howe and Burgoyne had other ideas. No, no, that won’t do… The opposition was not only rabble, it was thus far alone. No other American colony had yet directly placed forces in opposition to his Majesty’s troops. They must be made to feel the terror of the red lines bearing down upon them with the bayonet. And so a full frontal attack upon the redoubt was ordered.
One the third try, and with the Yankees running out of both powder and shot, the line of bayonets finally crested the redoubt. (Dr. Warren, who voluntarily joined the line as a private, was shot in the head and killed, as one of the last men to hold.) But the slopes leading to the redoubt were a sea of red uniforms – the British had suffered fifty percent casualties, eighty percent of whom were DEAD (including Major Pitcairn, who had commanded the troops that marched into Lexington). This was the worst casualty rate they would ever suffer throughout the entire American Revolution. General Clinton would later lament that "a few more such ‘victories,’ would have shortly put an end to British dominion in America."
The psychology had backfired. George Washington, appointed Commander-in-Chief of a newly formed Continental Army, was on his way to Massachusetts when news of the battle arrived. At Cambridge he would still find a drunken rabble, but there would be no question these drunks could fight. America, instead of being suffocated in the cradle, had a CHANCE.
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