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through a glass from Copp's Hill, the tall figure of Prescott, in military garb, walking the parapet, caught his eye. "Who is that officer who appears in command?" asked he. The question was answered by Counsellor Willard, Prescott's brother-in-law, who was at hand, and recognized his relative. "Will he fight?" demanded Gage, quickly. *' Yes, sir; he is an old soldier, and will fight to the last drop of blood; but I cannot answer for his men."
"The works must be earried!" exclaimed Gage.
He called a council of war. The Americans might intend to cannonade Boston from this new fortification; it was unanimously resolved to dislodge them. How was this to be done? A majority of the council, including Clinton and Grant, advised that a force should be landed on Charlestown Neck, under the protection of their batteries, so as to attack the Americans in rear, and cut off their retreat. General Gage objected that it would place his troops between two armies; one at Cambridge, superior in numbers, the other on the heights, strongly fortified. He was for landing in front of the works, and pushing directly up the hill; a plan adopted through a confidence that raw militia would never stand their ground against the assault of veteran troops; another instance of undervaluing the American spirit, which was to cost the enemy a lamentable loss of life.
The sound of drum and trumpet, the clatter of hoofs, the rattling of gun-carriages, and all the other military din and bustle in the streets of Boston, soon apprised the Americans on their rudely fortified height of an impending attack. They were ill fitted to withstand it, being jaded by the night's labour and want of sleep; hungry and thirsty, having brought but scanty supplies, and oppressed by the heat of the weather. Prescott sent repeated messages to General Ward, asking reinforcements and provisions. Putnam seconded the request in person, urging the exigencies of the case. Ward hesitated. He feared to weaken his main body at Cambridge, military stores were
deposited there, and it might have to sustain the principal attack. At length, having taken advice of the council of safety, he issued orders for Colonels Stark and Eead, then at Medford, to march to the relief of Prescott with their New Hampshire regiments. The orders reached Medford about eleven o'clock. Ammunition was distributed in all haste; two flints, a gill of powder, and fifteen balls to each man. The balls had to bo suited to the different calibres of the guns; the powder to be carried in powder-horns, or loose in the pocket, for there were no cartridges prepared. It was the rude turn out of yeoman soldiery destitute of regular accoutrements.
in the mean while, the Americans on Breed's Hill were sustaining the fire from the ships, and from the battery on Copp's Hill, which opened upon them about ten o'clock. They returned an occasional shot from one corner of the redoubt, without much harm to the enemy, and continued strengthening their position until about 11 o'clock, when they ceased to work, piled their intrenching tools in the rear, and looked out anxiously and impatiently for the anticipated reinforcements and supplies.
About this time General Putnam, who had been to headquarters, arrived at the redoubt on horseback. Some words passed between him and Prescott with regard to the intrenching tools, which have been variously reported. The most probable version is, that he urged to have them taken from their present place, where they might fall into the hands of the enemy, and carried to Bunker's Hill, to be employed in throwing up a redoubt, which was part of the original plan, and which would be very important should the troops be obliged to retreat from Breed's Hill. To this Prescott demurred that those employed to convey them, and who were already jaded with toil, might not return to his redoubt. A large part of the tools were ultimately carried to Bunker's Hill, and a breastwork commenced by order of General Putnam. The importance of such a work was afterwards made apparent.
About noon the Americans descried twenty-eight barges crossing from Boston in parallel lines. They contained a large detachment of grenadiers, rangers, and light infantry,
admirably equipped, and commanded by Major-general Howe. They made a splendid and formidable appearanco with their scarlet uniforms, and the sun flashing upon muskets and bayonets, and brass field-pieces. A heavy fire from the ships and batteries covered their advance, but no attempt was made to oppose them, and they landed about 1 o'clock at Moulton's Point, a little to the north of Breed's Hill.
Here General Howe made a pause. On reconnoitering the works from this point, the Americans appeared to be much more strongly posted than he had imagined. He descried troops also hastening to their assistance. These were the New Hampshire troops, led on by Stark. Howe immediately sent over to General Gage for more forces, and a supply of cannon-balls; those brought by him being found, through some egregious oversight, too large for the ordnance. While awaiting their arrival, refreshments were served out to the troops, with "grog," by tho bucketful; and tantalizing it was, to the hungry and thirsty provincials, to look down from their ramparts of earth, and see their invaders seated in groups upon the grass eating and drinking, and preparing themselves by a hearty meal for the coming encounter. Their only consolation was to take advantage of the delay, while the enemy were carousing to strengthen their position. The breastwork on the left of the redoubt extended to what was called the Slough, but beyond this, the ridge of the hill, and the slope towards Mystic Eiver, were undefended, leaving a pass by which the enemy might turn the left flank of the position, and seize upon Bunker's Hill, Putnam ordered his chosen officer, Captain Knowlton, to cover this pass with the Connecticut troops under his command. A novel kind of rampart, savouring of rural device, was suggested by the rustic general. About six hundred feet in the rear of the redoubt, and about one hundred feet to the left of the breastwork, was a post and rail-fence, set in a low foot-wall of stone, and extending down to Mystic Eiver. The posts and rails of another fence were hastily pulled up, and set a few feet in behind this, and the intermediate space was filled up with new-mown hay from the adjacent meadows. This double fence, it will be found, proved an important protection to the redoubt, although there still remained an unprotected interval of about seven hundred feet.
While Knowlton and his men were putting up this fence, Putnam proceeded with other of his troops to throw up the work on Bunker's Hill, despatching his son, Captain Putnam, on horseback, to hurry up the remainder of his men from Cambridge. By this time his compeer in French and Indian warfare, the veteran Stark, made his appearance with the New Hampshire troops, five hundred strong. Ho had grown cool and wary with age, and his march from Medford, a distance of five or six miles, had been in character. He led his men at a moderate pace to bring them into action fresh and vigorous. In crossing the Neck, which was enfiladed by the enemy's ships and batteries, Captain Dearborn, who was by his side, suggested a quick step. The veteran shook his head: "One fresh man in action is worth ten tired ones," replied he, and marched steadily on.
Putnam detained some of Stark's men to aid in throwing up the works on Bunker's Hill, and directed him to reinforce Knowlton with the rest. Stark made a short speech to his men now that they were likely to have warm work. He then pushed on, and did good service that day at the rustic bulwark.
About two o'clock, Warren arrived on the heights, ready to engage in their perilous defence, although he had opposed the scheme of their occupation. He had recently been elected a major-general, but had not received his commission; like Pomeroy, he came to serve in the ranks with a musket on his shoulder. Putnam offered him the command at the fence; he declined it, and merely asked where he could be of most service as a volunteer. Putnam pointed to the redoubt, observing there he would be under cover. "Don't think I seek a place of safety," replied Warren, quickly; "where will the attack be hottest?" Putnam still pointed to the redoubt. "That is the enemy's object; if that can be maintained, the day is ours."
Warren was cheered by the troops as he entered the redoubt. Colonel Prescott tendered him the command. He again declined. "I have come to serve only as a . 1775.] THE ASSAULT. 333
volunteer, and shall be happy to learn from a soldier of your experience." Such were the noble spirits assembled on these perilous heights.
The British now prepared for a general assault. An easy victory was anticipated; the main thought was, how to make it most effectual. The left wing, commanded by General Pigot, was to mount the hill and force the redoubt, while General Howe, with the right wing, was to push on between the fort and Mystic Eiver, turn the left flank of the Americans, and cut off their retreat.
General Pigot, accordingly, advanced up the hill under cover of a fire from field-pieces and howitzers planted on a small height near the landing-place on Moulton's Point. His troops commenced a discharge of musketry while yet at a long distance from the redoubts. The Americans within the works, obedient to strict command, retained their fire until the enemy were within thirty or forty paces, when they opened upon them with a tremendous volley. Being all marksmen, accustomed to take deliberate aim, the slaughter was immense, and especially fatal to officers. The assailants fell back in some confusion; but, rallied on by their officers, advanced within pistol shot. Another volley, more effective than the first, made them again recoil. To add to their confusion, they were galled by a flanking fire from the handful of provincials posted in Charlestown. Shocked at the carnage, and seeing the confusion of his troops, General Pigot was urged to give the word for a retreat.
In the meanwhile, General Howe, with the left wing, advanced along Mystic Eiver towards the fence where Stark, Eead, and Knowlton were stationed, thinking to carry this slight breastwork with ease, and so get in the rear of the fortress. His artillery proved of little avail, being stopped by a swampy piece of ground, while his columns suffered from two or three field-pieces with which Putnam had fortified the fence. Howe's men kept up a fire of musketry as they advanced; but, not taking aim, their shot passed over the heads of the Americans. The latter had received the same orders with those in the redoubt, not to fire until the enemy should be within thirty paces. Some few transgressed the command. Putnam rode up