Two hundred thirty-five years ago today, 2400 regular troops of the British Army seeking to drive 1200 American rebels off of a hill just north of Boston engaged in a deadly battle that left half the British and one-third of the Americans killed or wounded. It was just two months after the engagements at Lexington and Concord and in the interim, the British stood fast in the city of Boston and American militia gathered loosely in Cambridge, just far enough away to not pose an immediate threat. But on the evening of June 16, American forces quietly moved onto the high ground of Charleston, immediately across from Boston, and constructed a crude earthen fort. The sudden proximity of the Americans forced the British to act and the slaughter ensued.
According to historian Richard Ketchum in “Decisive Day: The Battle for Bunker Hill”, that day’s fight had far reaching consequences for both sides. When news of the enormous casualties reached London, any hope of reconciliation with the colonies ended, and England committed itself to war. Tactically, the British Army would never again attempt a full frontal assault against entrenched Americans, an attitude that perhaps diluted that Army’s aggressiveness in future engagements. For the Americans, Bunker Hill forced the newly created Continental Congress to act as a true governing body, and all individual Americans had to commit to one side or the other. Neutrality was no longer an option.
Notwithstanding the more recent notoriety of the Bunker Hill holiday as a symbol of government excess, please remember that on this day long ago occurred a decisive event that propelled America on its journey to freedom and independence.