Battle of Bunker Hill, June 17, 1775

June 17, 2011

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


Remembering April 18 and 19: Paul Revere’s Ride, and the “shot heard ’round the world”

April 18, 2011

This is mostly an encore post.

April 18 19. Do the dates have significance? Paul Revere's ride, from Paul Revere House

Among other things, it is the date of the firing of the “shot heard ’round the world,” the first shots in the American Revolution. On April 19, 1775, American Minutemen stood to protect arsenals they had created at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, against seizure by the British Army then occupying Boston.

April is National Poetry Month. What have we done to celebrate poetry?

What have we done to properly acknowledge the key events of April 18 and 19, 1775? Happily, poetry helps us out in history studies, or can do.

In contrast to my childhood, when we as students had poems to memorize weekly throughout our curriculum, modern students too often come to my classes seemingly unaware that rhyming and rhythm are used for anything other than celebrating materialist, establishment values obtained sub rosa. Poetry, to them, is mostly rhythm; but certainly not for polite company, and never for learning.

Poems slipped from our national curriculum, dropped away from our national consciousness.

And that is one small part of the reason that Aprils in the past two decades turned instead to memorials to violence, and fear that violence will break out again. We have allowed darker ideas to dominate April, and especially the days around April 19.

You and I have failed to properly commemorate the good, I fear. We have a duty to pass along these cultural icons, as touchstones to understanding America.

So, reclaim the high ground. Reclaim the high cultural ground.

Read a poem today. Plan to be sure to have the commemorative reading of “Paul Revere’s Ride” in your classes next April 18 or 19, and “The Concord Hymn” on April 19.

We must work to be sure our heritage of freedom is remembered, lest we condemn our students, our children and grandchildren to having to relearn these lessons of history, as Santayana warned.

Texts of the poems are below the fold, though you may be much better off to use the links and see those sites, the Paul Revere House, and the Minuteman National Historical Park.

Read the rest of this entry »


Boston Tea Party: An anti-corporation protest?

April 3, 2011

Thom Hartmann said so.  In Hartmann’s reading, the 1773 Boston Tea Party was as much a protest against corporate oligarchy as a protest against government — quite the opposite of the way most Neo Tea Partiers see things.   Is he right?  Historians, what say you?

Hartmann relies on his copy of George R. T. Hewes’ book, A retrospect of the Boston tea-party, with a memoir of George R. T. Hewes, a survivor of the little band of patriots who drowned the tea in Boston harbour in 1773 (1834). Are you familiar with the book?

George R. T. Hewes in 1835, a veteran of the 1773 Boston Tea Party - CUNY image

George Robert Twelves Hewes in 1835 at age 93, a veteran of the 1773 Boston Tea Party. Painting by Joseph G. Cole. CUNY image

More, and resources:


Paul Revere’s Ride, read by Longfellow

April 19, 2010

Almost.

Least creepy of the animated YouTube versions I could find, and not a bad reading (though I wish some readers would pay more attention to the text and less attention to meter and rhyme).

What do you think?

So, early on the morning of April 19, Paul Revere finished his ride.  John Hancock and Samuel Adams had been alerted, and so had the Minutemen who had pledged and practiced to defend the arsenals laid in to defend colonists against British tyranny  . . .


%d bloggers like this: