New Page #43!
I’ve drawn a lot of battle scenes by now, but I’d never actually made myself nauseous until this page.
Some of my friends were joking with me at my birthday party at C2E2 last week about Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter (because they know it’s an easy way to ruffle my feathers) and they came up with a bunch of other titles for apocraphal Hollywood historical atrocities, their favorite being “Bunker Hell.”
Which, of course, was hilarious and we all laughed. But… it’s also actually very accurate.
Early in the day of the battle, American snipers positioned themselves in the empty buildings in Charlestown. They had unobstructed aim onto the battlefield and the British lines withered under their fire. Orders were given to the Royal Navy to set fire to the town in order to flush out the snipers and alleviate that advantage of the Americans. The burning of Charlestown was already mentioned in The Dreamer, way back when Frederick Knowlton stood up to his dad on the ethics of military tactics.
On the east side of the field, a column of British Light Infantry advanced, trying to make their way up the edge of the Mystic River along the riverbank which was sunken from the rest of the field of high grass, obscuring them from view from the American’s position. If successful, they could have easily come around behind the American works and ended the whole thing very quickly. The Americans had already spotted the gap, however, and Colonel John Stark’s men put a stone wall there, which they stood behind to fire directly into the advancing column of redcoats. You can imagine the rest.
The Americans were told to hold their fire, aim low, and to aim for the officers. General Howe lead two assaults against the rail fence (where Thomas Knowlton was stationed) and was repelled both times. On the third assault, he turned and marched up the hill instead of the fence, and with Pigot’s forces advancing on the Charlestown side, they were finally able to break into the redoubt. As it was explained to me, an eerie cease-fire happened at this point (probably so that the British entering on opposite sides of the redoubt weren’t caught in each other’s friendly fire.) Chaotic hand to hand combat ensued, which, if you were an infantryman in His Majesty’s Army, meant bayonets.
Colonel Prescott and the Americans made haste to get out of there. But, as we saw on the last page, the fighting in the redoubt was carnage. Col. Stark and the men along the rail fence covered Prescott’s retreat best they could. But most of the 450 casualties the Americans suffered happened then and there. The death of Dr. Joseph Warren among them.
The British suffered over 1,000 casualties at Bunker Hill. That was one fifth of the number of men they had in Boston and nearly half their number on the battlefield that day. As you can imagine, they were angry by the time they made it to the breastwork atop that hill.
Dr. Forman left this description from one of the British Generals present at Bunker Hill in the comments on Wednesday. I thought it was worth posting here incase you missed it:
“And now ensued one of the greatest scenes of war that can be conceived: if we look to the height, Howe’s corps ascending the hill in the face of entrenchments, and in a very disadvantageous ground, was much engaged; and to the left the enemy pouring in fresh troops by thousands, over the land; and in the arm of the sea our ships and floating batteries cannonading them: strait before us a large and a noble town in one great blaze; the church steeples, being of timber, were great pyramids of fire above the rest; behind us the church steeples and heights of our own camp covered with spectators of the rest of our army which was not engaged; the hills round the country covered with spectators; the enemy all anxious suspence; the roar of cannon, mortars, and musquetry; the crush of churches, ships upon the stocks, and whole streets falling together in ruin, to fill the ear; the storm of the redoubts, with the objects above described, to fill the eye; and the reflection that perhaps a defeat was a final loss to the British empire in America, to fill the mind; made the whole a picture and a complication of horror and importance beyond any thing that ever came to my lot to be witness to.”
-British General Burgoyne to Lord Stanley, from a letter of June 25, 1775.
General Howe took command of the British Armed Forces in America shortly after this battle relieving Military Governor General Gage. But Howe would not make another move with his army in Boston… until he moved them out all together nine months later. He had learned a lesson at Bunker Hill the price he had paid for it wasn’t worth repeating.
To learn more about the Battle of Bunker Hill, buy one of these books. Buy via these links and you’ll help support The Dreamer!
And read my friend Derek Beck’s article on Bunker Hill.
Expect my C2E2 post-Con write up on Monday.
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