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England’s First Victory 1775


The British in Boston had no reason for suspecting anything unusual on the night of June 16, 1775 but across the Charles River, a column of colonial soldiers was moving quietly toward the twin hills overlooking the town. Behind the soldiers came wagons loaded with picks and shovels. The grass-covered hills they were approaching served as pastures‚ one owned by a Mr. Bunker and the other by a Mr. Breed. Washington had already been elected commander by the Congress in Philadelphia, but the news had not yet reached Boston and the colonial forces knew nothing about it. Their colonial high command had given the order that Bunker’s hill was to be fortified. By some mistake, the troops were instead led up Breed’s hill, which was closer to the water and just across the river from Boston. The men began digging. From the top of the hill they could look down on the lighted windows of Boston and could make out the dark hulls of British warships lying at anchor in the harbour. If they could fortify the hill with a few cannon, they would have Boston and the ships in the harbour at their mercy and the British would be forced to leave the city. Colonel William Prescott and the other officers gave their commands in whispers. There was no moon. No one was allowed to smoke. The troops dug in silence. Some made trenches, some stacked hay behind a rail fence that ran down the slope to the water’s edge and some threw up walls of fresh earth and sod and stone. At dawn the following morning, British sentries were amazed to discover the activity on Breed’s hill and the long breastwork of freshly turned earth that crowned its top. After General Gage met with Sir William Howe and …

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