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and swore he 'would cut down the next man that fired contrary to orders. When the British arrived within the stated distance a sheeted fire opened upon them from rifles, muskets, and fowling-pieces, all levelled with deadly aim. The carnage, as in the other instance, was horrible. The British were thrown into confusion and foil back; some even retreated to the boats.
There was a general pause on the part of the British. The American officers availed themselves of it to prepare for another attack, which must soon bo made. Prescott mingled among his men in the redoubt, who were all in high spirits at the severe check they had given " the regulars." He praised them for their stedfastness in maintaining their post, and their good conduct in reserving their fire until the word of command, and exhorted them to do the same in the next attack.
Putnam rode about Bunker's Hill and its skirts, to rally and bring on reinforcements which had been checked or scattered in crossing Chariestown Neck by tho raking fire from the ships and batteries. Before many could be brought to the scene of action the British had commenced their second attack. They again ascended the hill to storm the redoubt; their advance was covered as before by discharges of artillery. Chariestown, which had annoyed them on their first attack by a flanking fire, was in flames, by shells thrown from Copp's Hill, and by marines from the ships. Being built of wood, the place was soon wrapped in a general conflagration. The thunder of artillery from batteries and ships, the bursting of bomb-shells; the sharp discharges of musketry; the shouts and yells of the combatants; the crash of burning buildings, and the dense volumes of smoke, which obscured the summer sun, all formed a tremendous spectacle. "Sure I am," said Bnrgoyne in one of his letters,—" Sure I am nothing ever has or ever can be more dreadfully terrible than what was to be seen or heard at this time. The most incessant discharge of guns that ever was heard by mortal ears."
The American troops, although unused to war, stood undismayed amidst a scene where it was bursting upon them with all its horrors. Eeserving their fire as before, until the enemy was close at hand, they again poured forth 1775.)
THE THIRD ATTACK.
repeated volleys with the fatal aim of sharpshooters. The British stood the first shock, and continued to advance; but the incessant stream of fire staggered them. Their officers remonstrated, threatened, and even attempted to goad them on with their swords, but the havoc was too deadly; whole ranks were mowed down; many of the officers were either slain or wounded, and among them several of the staff of General Howe. The troops again gave way and retreated down the hill.
All this passed under the eye of thousands of spectators of both sexes and all ages, watching from afar every turn of a battle in which the lives of those most dear to them were at hazard. The British soldiery in Boston gazed with astonishment and almost incredulity at the resolute and protracted stand of raw militia whom they had been taught to despise, and at the havoc made among their own veteran troops. Every convoy of wounded brought over to the town increased their consternation, and General Clinton, who had watched the action from Copp's Hill, embarking in a boat, hurried over as a volunteer, taking with him reinforcements.
A third attack was now determined on, though some of Howe's officers remonstrated, declaring it would be downright butchery. A different plan was adopted. Instead of advancing in front of the redoubt, it was to be taken in flank on the left, where the open space between the breastwork and the fortified fence presented a weak point. Tt having been accidentally discovered that the ammunition of the Americans was nearly expended, preparations were made to carry the works at the point of the bayonet; and the soldiery threw off their knapsacks, and some even their coats, to be more light for action.
General Howe, with the main body, now made a feint of attacking the fortified fence, but while a part of his force was thus engaged, the rest brought some of the fieldpieces to enfilade the breastwork on the left of the redoubt. A. raking fire soon drove the Americans out of this exposed place into the enclosure. Much damage, too, was done in the latter by balls which entered the sallyport.
The troops were now led on to assail the works; those who flinched were, as before, goaded on by the swords of the officers. The Americans again reserved their fire until their assailants were close at hand, and then made a murderous volley, by which several officers were laid low, and General Howe himself was wounded in the foot. The British soldiery this time likewise reserved their fire and rushed on with fixed bayonet. Clinton and Pigot had reached the southern and eastern sides of the redoubt, and it was now assailed on three sides at once. Prescott ordered those who had no bayonets to retire to the back part of the redoubt and fire on the enemy as they showed themselves fin the parapet. The first who mounted exclaimed in triumph, "The day is ours!" He was instantly shot down, and so were several others who mounted about the same time. The Americans, however, had fired their last round, their ammunition was exhausted; and now succeeded a desperate and deadly struggle, hand to hand, with bayonets, stones, and the stocks of their muskets. At length, as the British continued to pour in, Prescott gave the order to retreat. His men had to cut their way through two divisions of the enemy who were getting in rear of the redoubt, and they received a destructive volley from those who had formed on the captured works. By that volley fell the patriot Warren, who had distinguished himself throughout the action. He was among the last to leave the redoubt, and had scarce done so when he was shot through the head with a musket-ball, and fell dead on the spot.
While the Americans were thus slowly dislodged from the redoubt, Stark, Eead, and Knowlton maintained their ground at the fortified fence; which, indeed, had been nobly defended throughout the action. Pomeroy distinguished himself here by his sharpshooting until his musket was shattered by a ball. The resistance at this hastily constructed work was kept up after the troops in the redoubt had given way, and until Colonel Prescott had left the hill; thus defeating General Howe's design of cutting off the retreat of the main body; which would have produced a scene of direful confusion and slaughter. Having effected their purpose, the brave associates at the fence abandoned their weak outpost, retiring slowly, and disputing the ground inch by inch, with a regularity remarkable in troops many of whom had never before been in action.
The main retreat was across Bunker's Hill, where Putnam had endeavoured to throw up a bieastwork. The veteran, sword in hand, rode to the rear of the retreating troops, regardless of the balls whistling about him. His only thought was to rally them at the unfinished works. "Halt! make a stand here!" cried he, "we can check them yet. In God's name, form and give them one shot more."
Pomeroy, wielding his shattered musket as a truncheon, seconded him in his efforts to stay the torrent. It was impossible, however, to bring the troops to a stand. They continued on down the hill to the Neck and across it to Cambridge, exposed to a raking fire from the ships and batteries, and only protected by a single piece of ordnance. The British were too exhausted to pursue them; they contented themselves with taking possession of Bunker's Hill, were reinforced from Boston, and threw up additional works during the night.
We have collected the preceding facts from various sources, examining them carefully, and endeavouring to arrange them with scrupulous fidelity. We may appear to have been more minute in the account of the battle than the number of troops engaged would warrant; but it was one of the most momentous conflicts in our revolutionary history. It was the first regular battle between the British and the Americans, and most eventful in its consequences. The former had gained the ground for which they contended; but, if a victory, it was more disastrous and humiliating to them than an ordinary defeat. They had ridiculed and despised their enemy, representing them as dastardly and inefficient; yet here their best troops, led on by experienced officers, had repeatedly been repulsed by an inferior force of that enemy,—mere yeomanry,—from works thrown up in a single night, and had suffered a loss rarely paralleled in battle with the most veteran soldiery; for, according to their own returns, their killed and wounded, out of a detachment of two thousand men, amounted to one thousand and fifty-four, and a large proportion of them officers. The loss of the Americans did not exceed four hundred and fifty.
To the latter this defeat, if defeat it might be called, had the effect of a triumph. It gave them confidence in themselves and consequence in the eyes of their enemies. They had proved to themselves and to others that they could measure weapons with the disciplined soldiers of Europe, and inflict the most harm in the conflict.
Among the British officers slain was Major Pitcairne, who, at Lexington, had shed the first blood in the Eevolutionary war.
In the death of Warren the Americans had to lament the loss of a distinguished patriot and a most estimable man. It was deplored as a public calamity. His friend Elbridge Gerry had endeavoured to dissuade him from risking his life in this perilous conflict. "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori," replied Warren, as if he had foreseen his fate—a fate to be envied by those ambitious of an honourable fame. He was one of the first who fell in the glorious cause of his country, and his name has become consecrated in its history.
There has been much discussion of the relative merits of the American officers engaged in this affair—a difficult question where no one appears to have had the general command. Presoott conducted the troops in the night enterprise; he superintended the building of the redoubt,' and defended it throughout the battle; his name, therefore, will ever shine most conspicuous, and deservedly so, on this bright page of our Eevolutionary history.
Putnam, also, was a leading spirit throughout the affair; one of the first to prompt and of the last to maintain it. He appears to have been active and efficient at every point; sometimes fortifying, sometimes hurrying up reinforcements; inspiriting the men by his presence while they were able to maintain their ground, and fighting gallantly at the outpost to cover their retreat. The brave old man, riding about in the heat of the action, on this sultry day, "with a hanger belted across his brawny shoulders, over a waistcoat without sleeves," has been sneered at by a contemporary, "as much fitter to head a band of sickle-men or ditchers than musketeers." But this very description illustrates his character, and identifies him with the times and the service. A yeoman warrior fresh from the plough, in the garb of rural labour;