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pieces of artillery, which had been brought to bear on the breast-work, raked it from end to end, The cross fire too from the ships and floating batteries not only annoyed the works on Breed's Hill, but deterred any considerable reinforcements from passing into the peninsula, and coming to their assistance. The ammunition of the Americans was now so nearly exhausted, that they were no longer able to keep up the same incessant stream of fire which had twice repulsed the enemy; and, on his third attempt, the redoubt, the walls of which the English mounted with ease, was carried at the point of the bayonet. Yet the Americans, many of whom were without bayonets, are said to have maintained the contest with clubbed muskets till the redoubt was half filled with the king's troops.
The redoubt being lost, the breast-work, which had been defended with equal courage and obstinacy, was necessarily abandoned, and the very hazardous operation undertaken, of retreating, in the face of a victorious enemy, over Charlestown Neck; where they were exposed to the same cross fire from the Glasgow man of war, and two floating batteries, which had deterred the reinforcements ordered to their aid from coming to their assistance, and had probably presented their receiving proper supplies of ammunition.
In this enterprise about three thousand men, composing the flower of the British army, were
engaged, and high encomiums were bestowed on the resolution they manifested. Their killed and wounded amounted, according to the returns of General Gage, to one thousand and fifty-four, an immense proportion of the number engaged in the action. Notwithstanding the danger of their retreat over Charlestown Neck, the loss of the Americans
was stated at only four hundred and fifty men, including the killed, wounded, and missing; among the former was Doctor Warren, a gentleman greatly beloved and regretted, who fell just after the provincials began their retreat from the breast-work.
The colonial force engaged in this action was stated through the country at fifteen hundred ; by some it has been supposed to have amounted to four thousand.
Although the ground was lost, the Americans claimed the victory. Their confidence in themselves was greatly increased; and it was universally asked, how many more such triuniphs the British army could afford ?
The enemy had been treated too roughly in the action to attempt further offensive operations, and they contented themselves with seizing and fortifying Bunker's Hill, which secured to them the peninsula of Charlestown, in which, however, they semained as closely blockaded as in that of Boston. The Americans were greatly elated by the in
trepidity their raw troops had displayed, and the exécution which had been done by them in this engagement. Their opinion of the superiority of veterans over men untrained to the duties of a soldier, sustained no inconsiderable diminution; and they fondly cherished the belief, that courage and dexterity in the use of fire-arms would bestow advantages amply compensating the want of discia pline. Unfortunately for their country, this course of thinking was not confined to the soldiers. It seems to have extended to those who guided the public councils, and to have contributed to the adoption of a system, which more than once brought the cause for which they had taken up arms to the brink of ruin. They did not distinguish sufficiently between the momentary efforts of a few brave men, brought together by a higli sense of the injuries with which their country was threatened, and carried into action while under the influence of keen resentments, and continued suffering, and those steady persevering exertions, which must be necessary to bring so serious and so important a contest to a happy termination. Nor did they examine with sufficient accuracy, nor allow sufficient influence, to several striking circumstauces attending the battle which had been fought. It is not easy to read the accounts given of that action without being persuaded, that liad the Americans on Breed's Hill been supplied with ammunition and properly supported, had the reinforcements ordered to their assistance actually en. tered the peninsula, as soldiers in habits of obedience would have done, and displayed the same heroic courage which was exhibited by their countrymen engaged in defence of the works; the assailants must have been defeated, and the flower of the British army cut to pieces. It ought also to have been remarked, that, while the many were prevented by the danger which presented itself to them from executing the orders they had received, only the few, who were endowed with more than a usual portion of bravery, encountered that danger, and that it is not by the few, great victories are to he obtained, or a country to be saved.
Amidst these preparations for war, the voice of peace was yet heard. Allegiance to the king was still acknowledged, and a lingering hope remained that an accommodation was not impossible. The petition voted to his majesty was full of professions of duty and attachment; and a letter to the people of England, in which they are conjured, by the endearing appellations of friends, country. men, and brethren, to prevent the dissolution of " that connexion, which the remembrance of former friendships, pride in the glorious achievements of common ancestors, and affection for the heirs of their virtues, had heretofore maintained.” In all their addresses they disclaimed the idea of
independence, and professed themselves to consider a union with England, on constitutional principles, as the greatest blessing which could be bestowed on them.
But Britain had determined to maintain, by force, the legislative supremacy of Parliament; and America had determined, by force, to repel the claim.