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American Heritage: Continental Army unprepared for British

Published 11:19pm Wednesday, July 25, 2012

On June 17, 1775, another battle began. Maj. General Howe was leading the British troops. Gen. Artemas Ward and Gen. Israel Putnam led the American Continental Army. The British troops were better armed. They carried their muskets and bayonets.

However, they also had the support of their Navy ships that were in the waters just off shore. Those ships had heavy guns. The American troops had their muskets and whatever other weapons they could round up with no naval support and a few bayonets.

British General Gage found himself in a bit of a predicament. The Continental Army blockaded him. Gage decided that he would try to take over the Charlestown peninsula, which was across the Boston Harbor. As he was making his final preparations for fulfilling his plans, the American troops decided to make a strategic move of their own.

On the night of June 16, a group of Massachusetts and Putnam’s Connecticut regiments made their move. They moved on the Charlestown Peninsula on the north side of the Boston Harbor. Approximately 1,500 American troops occupied Breed’s Hill and Bunker Hill. As the American troops began to dig-in on Breed’s Hill, one of the British ships discovered the presence of the Americans on the hill and began to fire on the American troops, which had completed their work on their fortifications by the morning of June 17.

It was at this point that the British decided to attack the Americans. Howe was now given command. There was some confusion on the American side. The plan was to move some troops over to Bunker Hill as well. The movement began, but there were some who would not move to the forward positions on Breed’s Hill. This allowed for an opening for the British troops.

Howe decided that his strategy would be to land his troops on the southern shore of the peninsula. He would use his light infantry to attack the Americans at the seashore.

He and Gage seem to have underestimated the ability of the American troops to defend a frontal attack.

Their attack was repelled. The British suffered heavy casualties. It was time to change their plans.

We will continue with this battle in our next article.

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