The Battle of Bunker Hill
Following the events in Massachusetts at Lexington and Concord, April 19, 1775, state militiamen from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Vermont gathered in Cambridge and the area surrounding Boston. British General Gage and 6,500 soldiers and marines were in possession of Boston proper, while the American force consisted of over 16,000 men. Sickness and missing brought the number of available soldiers closer to 9,000. In addition the American force was extremely short of gunpowder, having only some 30 or so half barrels of powder beyond that carried in the horns of the citizen soldiers.
In the two months following Concord, efforts were made to bring organization and order to the United States Army. But the work was difficult and the progress slow. By mid-June the army was still a collection of individual Militia regiments, headed by officers who were viewed more as friends and fellow citizens of the common soldier rather than trained and capable leaders. The Continental Congress was working on legislation to regularize the militia and see that they were paid by the Congress, but by mid-June still had not acted. To make matters worse, militia units were responsible only to their own militia commanders and their own state governments. General Artemus Ward was commanding general of the Massachusetts militia, leading the largest contingent of troops, and held nominal authority over the non-Massachusetts forces.
General Gage considered his force too small to effectively attack the Rebels and hold the countryside outside of Boston. At the same time he became concerned that the surrounding heights of Dorchester and Charlestown provided an excellent opportunity for Rebels to place cannon and threaten Boston. Consequently, he began to plan measures to secure these strategic positions. But word leaked out and the Boston Committee of Safety recommended to Ward that he beat the British to their own move and seize Bunker Hill above Charlestown. Col. William Prescott supported the plan and was asked to lead a night mission to establish a redoubt (small fort) on Bunkers Hill. Together with 300 men of Prescott's regiment, and parts of Ebenezer Bridge's and Colonel James Frye's regiment were added 200 Connecticut men under Captain Thomas Knowlton from Putnam's regiment and Captain Samuel Gridley's artillery company with two light guns. About 5 o’clock in the evening of June 16th this force assembled on the common in Cambridge and after a prayer set off quietly for the Horse's Neck.
Positioned like a drop of ink extending into the harbor just to the north of Boston, the Charlestown peninsula is approximately one and a quarter miles long and lies between the Charles River on the West and the Mystic river on the East. On the north, the peninsula is joined to the mainland by a narrow stretch of land (called the Neck), which is only thirty feet wide at high tide. Bunker's Hill rises across the narrow western end...