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British Account of the Battle of Breed’s Hill

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol I. Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

June 26. –The Massachusetts occasional newspaper of today, gives the following account of the action at Boston on the seventeenth: –“This town was alarmed at break of day, by a firing from the Lively ship-of-war; and a report was immediately spread that the provincials had broke ground, and were raising a battery on the heights of the peninsula of Charlestown, against the town of Boston. They were plainly seen, and in a few hours a battery of six guns played upon their works. Preparations were instantly made for the landing a body of men; and some companies of grenadiers and light infantry, with some battalions, and field artillery, amounting in the whole to about two thousand men, under the command of Major-General Howe and Brigadier-General Pigot, were embarked with great expedition, and landed on the peninsula without opposition, under cover of some ships-of-war and armed vessels.

The troops formed as soon as landed; the provincials on the heights were perceived to be in great force, and strongly posted. A redoubt thrown up on the 16th at night, with other works full of men, defended with cannon, and a large body posted in the houses of Charlestown, covered their right; and their left was covered by a breastwork, part of it cannon proof, which reached from the left of the redoubt to the Mystic river.

Besides the appearance of the provincials’ strength, large columns were seen pouring in to their assistance; but the king’s troops advanced. The attack began by a cannonade, and notwithstanding various impediments of fences, walls, &c., and the heavy fire they were exposed to, from the vast number of provincials, and their left galled from the houses of Charlestown, the troops made their way to the redoubt, mounted the works and carried it. The provincials were then forced from other strongholds, and pursued till they were driven clear of the peninsula, leaving five pieces of cannon behind them. Charlestown was set on fire during the engagement, and most part of it consumed. The loss they sustained must have been considerable, from the vast number they were seen to carry off during the action, exclusive of what they suffered from the shipping. About a hundred were buried the next day after, and thirty found wounded on the field, some of whom are since dead. About one hundred and seventy of the king’s troops were killed and since dead of their wounds; and a great many were wounded.

This action has shown the bravery of the king’s troops, who under every disadvantage, gained a complete victory over three times their number, strongly posted, and covered by breastworks. 1


1 Rivington’s Gazetteer, July 13: –Another account from Boston mentions, that the provincials occupied a post at Charlestown on a commanding ground, which overlooked Boston, at 1, 500 yards distance, which works they had constructed in the night. It consisted of a redoubt, with cannons mounted, and a continued intrenchment to a drained swamp on one side and defended by the houses in Charlestown on the other, which were filled with provincial troops. On the approach of day, the British artillery began to fire on the provincials’ works, from a battery of six 24-pounders, and a howitzer from Copp’s hill towards the north end, which played principally upon the redoubt. About two o’clock in the afternoon, the grenadiers and light infantry, consisting of twenty companies, with the 5th, 38th, 43d, and 52d regiments, embarked, and were landed on Charlestown point, about six hundred and fifty yards from the provincials’ works, which, being formed, the boats returned for the 63d and 47th regiments, the marines, and ten pieces of artillery, the whole under the command of Major-General Howe, who had a low swampy land to pass, and to surmount a higher piece of ground, formed by nature for defence. The fire of six field-pieces and a heavy one of musketry from the provincials continued without intermission, on the British troops, and they still poured in fresh men from Cambridge, from the moment the forces marched from the encampment; signals being made by three guns from Roxbury church, and smoke from hill to hill, and the bells ringing, so that before the action was over, they were reinforced with a large body of men. At last, after an obstinate attack of an hour, reaching the summit very gradually, the British troops stormed the redoubt, and the provincials retired. They were cautiously pursued until another rising ground was obtained, which entirely commands the whole peninsula, but more immediately the neck of land.

The loss in killed and wounded of the provincials cannot be accurately ascertained. Five field-pieces and four hundred intrenching tools, with twenty-nine prisoners, fell into the hands of the British troops.

One armed ship, two sloops, and five floating batteries fired on the neck, but they did not altogether answer the end intended, as they neither prevented reinforcing or retreating. —Rivington’s Gazetteer, July 13.