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fire of their artillery, which forced the enemy to keep within his intrenchments.
This corps consisted of ten companies of grenadiers, as many of lightinfantry, and a proportionate artillery; the whole under the command of Major-general Howe and Brigadiergeneral Pig'ot. The troops, on landing, began to display, the light infantry upon the right, the grenadiers upon the left:-but, having observed the strength of the position, and the good countenance of the Americans, General Howe made a halt, and sent for a re-enforcement.
The same, concluded.
On being re-enforced, the English formed themselves in two columns. Their plan was, that the left wing, under General Pigot, should attack the rebels in Charlestown, while the centre should assault the redoubt, and the right wing, consisting of light infantry, force the passage near the River Mystic, and thus assail the Americans in flank and rear; which would have given the English a complete victory. It appears, also, that General Gage had formed the design of setting fire to Charlestown, when evacuated by the enemy, in order that the corps destined to assail the redoubt, thus protected by the flame and smoke, might be less exposed to the fire of the provincials.
The dispositions having all been completed, the English put themselves in motion. The provincials that were stationed to defend Charlestown, fearing lest the assailants should penetrate between this town and the redoubt, and cut them off from the rest of the army, retreated. The left wing of the English army immediately entered the town, and tired the buildings: as they were of wood, in a moment the combustion became general.
The centre of the British force continued a slow march against the redoubt and trench; halting, from time to time, for the artillery to come up, and act with some effect, previous to the assault. The flames and smoke of Charlestown were of no use to them, as the wind turned them in a contrary direction. Their gradual advance, and the extreme clearless of the air, permitted the Americans to level their
muskets. They, however, suffered the enemy to approach, before they commenced their fire ; and waited for the assault in profound tranquillity.
It would be difficult to paint the scene of terror presented by the actual circumstances ;ma large town, all enveloped in flames, which, excited by a violent wind, rose to an immense height, and spread every moment more and more;an innumerable multitude, rushing from all parts, to witness so unusual a spectacle, and see the issue of the sanguinary conflict that was about to commence;—the Bostonians, and soldiers of the garrison, not in actual service, mounted upon the spires, upon the roofs, and upon the heights ;-and the hills, and circumjacent fields, from which the dread arēna could be viewed in safety, covered with swarms of spectators of every rank, and age, and sex; each agitated by fear or hope, according to the party he espoused.
The English having advanced within reach of musketry, the Americans showered upon them a volley of bullets. This terrible fire was so well supported, and so well directed, that the ranks of the assailants were soon thinned and broken: they retired in disorder to the place of their landing : some threw themselves precipitately into the boats.
The field of battle was covered with the slain. The officers were seen running hither and thither, with promises, with exhortations, and with menaces, attempting to rally the soldiers, and inspirit them for a second attack. Finally, after the most painful efforts, they resumed their ranks, and marched up to the enemy. The Americans reserved their fire, as before, until their approach, and received them with the same deluge of balls. The English, overwhelmed and routed, again fled to the shore.
In this perilous moment, General Howe remained for some time alone upon the field of battle : all the officers who surrounded him were killed or wounded. It is related, that, at this critical conjuncture, upon which depended the issue of the day, General Clinton, who, from Copp's Hill, examined all the movements, on seeing the destruction of his troops, immediately resolved to fly to their succour.
This experienced commander, by an able movement, reestablished order; and, seconded by the officers, who felt all the importance of success, to English honour and the course of events, he led the troops to a third attack. It was directed against the redoubt, at three several points.
The artillery of the ships not only prevented all re-enforce
ments from coming to the Americans by the isthmus of Charlestown, but even uncovered and swept the interior of the trench, which was battered in front at the same time. The ammunition of the Americans was nearly exhausted, and they could have no hopes of a recruit. Their fire must, of necessity, languish.
Meanwhile, the English had advanced to the foot of the sedoubt. The provincials, destitute of bayonets, defended themselves valiantly with the butt-ends of their muskets. But, the redoubt being already full of enemies, the American general gave the signal of retreat, and drew off his men.
While the left wing and centre of the English army were thus engaged, the light infantry had impetuously attacked the palisades, which the provincials had erected, in haste, upon the bank of the River Mystic. On each side the combat was obstinate; and, if the assault was furious, the resistance was not feeble.
In spite of all the efforts of the royal troops, the provincials still maintained the battle in this part; and had no thoughts of retiring, until they saw the redoubt and upper part of the trench in the power of the enemy.
Their retreat was executed with an order not to have been expected from new-levied soldiers.
This strenuous resistance of the left wing of the American army, was, in effect, the salvation of the rest; for, if it had given ground but a few instants sooner, the enemy's light infantry would have taken the main body and right wing in the rear, and their situation would have been hopeless. But the Americans had not yet reached the term of their toils and dangers. The only way that remained of retreat, was by the isthmus of Charlestown, and the English had placed there a ship of war and two floating batteries, the balls of which raked every part of it. The Americans, however, issued from the peninsula without any considerable loss.
The possession of the peninsula of Charlestown was much less useful than prejudicial to the royalists. was not sufficiently numerous to guard, conveniently, all the posts of the city and of the peninsula. The fatigues of the soldiers multiplied in an excessive manner; and, added to the heat of the season, which was extreme, they generated numerous and severe maladies, which paralyzed the movements of the army, and enfeebled it from day to day. The greater part of the wounds became mortal, from the influence of the climate, and the want of proper food.
Thus, besides the honour of having conquered the field of battle, the victors gathered no real fruit from this action; and, if its effects be considered, upon the opinion of other nations, and even of their own, as also upon the force of the army, it was even of serious detriment.
In the American camp, on the contrary, provisions of every sort were in abundance, and, the troops being accustomed to the climate, the greater part of the wounded were eventually cured: their minds were animated with the new ardour of vengeance, and the blood they had lost exacted a plěn'ary expiation. These dispositions were fortified not a little by the firing of Charlestown, which, from a flourishing town, of signal commercial importance, was thus reduced to a heap of ashes and of ruins. The Americans could never turn their eyes in this direction, without a thrill of indignation, and without execrating the European soldiers.
But the loss they felt the most sensibly was that of General Warren. He was one of those men, who are more attached to liberty than to existence; but not more ardently the friend of freedom, than a foe to avarice and ambition. He was endowed with a solid judgement, a happy genius, and a brilliant eloquence. In all private affairs, his opinion was reputed authority, and in all public counsels, a decision.
Friends and enemies, equally knowing his fidelity and rectitude in all things, reposed in him a confidence without limits. Opposed to the wicked, without hatred; propitious to the good, without adulation; affable, courteous, and humane, towards each ;-he was beloved, with reverence, by all, and respected by envy itself.
Though in his person somewhat spare, his figure was peculiarly agreeable. He mourned, at this epoch, the recent loss of a wife, by whom he was tenderly beloved, and whom he cherished with reciprocal affection. In dying so gloriously for his country, on this memorable day, he left several orphans still in childhood; but a grateful country assumed the care of their education.
Thus was lost to the state, and to his family, in so important a crisis, and in the vigour of his days, a man equally qualified to excel in council or in the field. As for ourselves, faithful to the purpose of history, which dispenses praise to the good and blame to the perverse, we have not been willing that this virtuous and valiant American should be deprived, among posterity, of that honourable remembrance so rightfully due to his eminent qualities.
Warren's Address to the American Soldiers, before the Battle
of Bunker's Hill.-ORIGINAL.
STAND! the ground's your own, my
look for greener graves ?
Ask it-ye who will.
Fear ye foes who kill for hire ?
And, before you, see
Let their welcome be!
In the God of battles trust!
Be consigned so well,
Of his deeds to tell !
Extract from an Address at the Laying of the Corner Stone of
the Bunker Hill Monument, 17th June 1825.-D. WEBSTER.
The great event in the history of the continent, which we are now met here to commemorate; that prodigy of
* On the 17th of June, 1825, half a century from the day of the battle, the corner stone of a granite monument was laid on the ground where Warren fell.