Battle of Bunker Hill, June 17, 1775


Barely two months after the Battle of Lexington and the Battle of Concord (April 19, 1775), British regulars attacked American colonists holding high ground near Boston, at Bunker and Breed’s Hills.  The Library of Congress carries a suitable-for-the-classroom description of the events, with links to resources:

Battle of Bunker Hill
Battle of Bunker Hill,
E. Percy Moran, artist,
copyright 1909.
Prints & Photographs Online Catalog

On June 17, 1775, American troops displayed their mettle in the Battle of Bunker Hill during the siege of Boston, inflicting casualties on nearly half of the British troops dispatched to secure Breed’s Hill (where most of the fighting occurred).

Map showing the action at Bunkers-Hill
A plan of the action at Bunkers-Hill, on the 17th. of June, 1775…,
By Sir Thomas Hyde-Page, 1775.
Map Collections

Approximately 2,100 British troops under the command of General Thomas Gage stormed Breed’s Hill, where colonial soldiers were encamped. In their fourth charge up the hillside, the British took the hill from the rebels, who had run out of ammunition. After suffering more than 1,000 casualties during their attacks on Breed’s Hill, the British halted their assaults on rebel strongholds in Boston. The last rebels left on the hill evaded capture by the British thanks to the heroic efforts of Peter Salem, an African-American soldier who mortally wounded the British commanding officer who led the last charge.

When George Washington assumed command of colonial forces two weeks later, he garnered ammunition for Boston troops and secured Dorchester Heights and Bunker Hill.

Several speeches in the American Memory collection African American Perspectives: Pamphlets from the Daniel A. P. Murray Collection, 1818-1907, contain references to Peter Salem, the former slave and hero of the Battle of Bunker Hill:

Mr. Everett has described Peter Salem, a black man, and once a slave, as having been among the most prominent and meritorious characters at the battle of Bunker’s Hill. Indeed, the historical painting of that scene, by Col. Trumbull, an eyewitness, done in 1785, gives Peter Salem , with other black patriots, a conspicuous place. One of the latter is thus commemorated:

“To the Honorable General Court of the Massachusetts Bay: The subscribers beg leave to report to your Honorable House (which we do in justice to the character of so brave a man), that, under our own observation, we declare that a negro man, called Salem Poor, of Col. Frye’s regiment, Capt. Ames’ company, in the late battle at Charlestown, behaved like an experienced officer, as well as an excellent soldier. To set forth particulars of his conduct would be tedious. We would beg leave to say, in the person of this said negro, centres a brave and gallant soldier. The reward due to so great and distinguished a character, we submit to the Congress.”
Cambridge, Dec. 5, 1755.

“A Reading on Slavery, from the Early Presidents.”
Opinions of the Early Presidents, and of the Fathers of the Republic, upon Slavery and upon Negroes as Men and Soldiers.
Prepared for the Celebration of Washington’s Birthday at Lyceum Hall, Salem, February 22, 1863.
African American Perspectives: Pamphlets from the Daniel A. P. Murray Collection, 1818-1907

Learn more about the Battle of Bunker Hill in American Memory:

Spirit of '76
Spirit of ’76, American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, 1905.
The American Variety Stage: Vaudeville and Popular Entertainment, 1870-1920

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2 Responses to Battle of Bunker Hill, June 17, 1775

  1. Ed Darrell says:

    Good catch, Harry. I’ll blame it on the copy editor, since I had the text right.

    Of course, I’m the copy editor, too.

    Like

  2. HARRY SMITH says:

    YO!…Check your dates…JUNE 17,1775 (not ’76)…..
    AND….Peter Salem was born in 1750 and you have him being honored on Dec.5,1755…Have some coffee before you compose….

    Like

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