Page images
PDF
EPUB

Prescott in person, who had superintended its construction, and who occupied it with the Massachusetts militia of his detachment, and a part of Little's regiment, which had arrived about one o'clock. They were dreadfully deficient in equipments and ammunition, had been toiling incessantly for many hours, and it is said, by some accounts, even then were destitute of provisions. A little to the eastward of the redoubt, and northerly to the rear of it, was a rail fence, extending almost to Mystic River; to this fence another had been added during the night and forenoon, and some newly mown grass thrown against them, to afford something like a cover to the troops. At this fence the 120 Connecticut militia were posted.

The movements of the British made it evident their intention was to march a strong column along the margin of the Mystic, and turn the redoubt on the north, while another column attacked it in front ; accordingly, to prevent this design, a large force became necessary at the breastwork and rail fence. The whole of the reinforcements that arrived, amounting in all to 800 or 1,000 men, were ordered by Gen. Putnam, who had been extremely active throughout the night and morning, and who had accompanied the expedition to this point.

At this moment, thousands of persons of both sexes had collected on the church steeples, Beacon Hill, house tops, and every place in Boston and its neighborhood where a view of the battle ground could be obtained, viewing, with painful anxiety, the movements of the combatants, wondering yet admiring the bold stand of the Americans, and trembling at the thought of the formidable army marshaled in array against them.

Before three o'clock, the British formed, in two columns for the attack. One column, as had been anticipated, moved along the Mystic River, with the intention of taking the redoubt in the rear, while the other advanced up the ascent directly in front of the redoubt, where Prescott was ready to receive them. Gen. Warren, president of the provincial congress and of the committee of safety, who had been appointed but a few days before a major general of the Massachusetts troops, had volunteered on the occasion as a private soldier, and was in the redoubt with a musket, animating the men by his influence and example to the most daring determination.

Orders were given to the Americans to reserve their fire until the enemy advanced sufficiently near to make their aim certain. Several volleys were fired by the British, with but little success; and so long a time had elapsed, and the British allowed to advance so near the Americans without their fire being returned, that a doubt arose whether or not the latter intended to give battle-but the fatal moment soon arrived; when the British had advanced to within about eight rods, a sheet of fire was poured upon them, and continued a short time, with such deadly effect that hundreds of the assailants lay weltering in their blood, and the remainder retreated in dismay to the point where they had first landed.

From daylight to the time of the British advancing on the works, an incessant fire had been kept up on the Americans from the ships and batteries—this fire was now renewed with increased vigor.

After a short time the British officers had succeeded in rallying their men, and again advanced, in the same order as before, to the attack. Thinking to divert the attention of the Americans, the town of Charlestown, consisting of 500 wooden buildings, was now set on fire by the British. The roar of the flames, the crashing of falling timber, the awful appearance of desolation presented, the dreadful shrieks of the dying and wounded in the last attack, added to the knowledge of the formidable force advancing against them, combined to form a scene apparently too much for men bred in the quiet retirement of domestic life to sustain ; but the stillness of death reigned within the American works, and nought, could be seen but the deadly presented weapon, ready to hurl fresh destruction on the assailants. The fire of the Americans was again reserved until the British came still nearer than before, when the same unerring aim was taken, and the British shrunk, terrified, from before its fatal effects, flying, completely routed, a second time to the banks of the river, and leaving, as before, the field strewed with their wounded and dead.

Again the ships and batteries renewed their fire, and kept a continual shower of balls on the works. Notwithstanding every exertion, the British officers found it impossible to rally the men for a third attack; one third of their comrades had fallen ; and finally it was not until a reinforcement of more than 1,000 fresh troops, with a strong park of artillery, had joined them from Boston, that they could be induced to form anew.

In the mean time, every effort was made on the part of the Americans to resist a third attack ; Gen. Putnam rode, notwithstanding the heavy fire of the ships and batteries, several times across the neck, to induce the militia to advance, but it was only a few of the resolute and brave who would encounter the storm. The British receiving reinforcements from their formidable main body—the town of Charlestown presenting one wide scene of destruction—the probability the Americans must shortly retreat—the shower of balls pouring over the neck~presented obstacles too appalling for raw troops to sustain, and embodied too much danger to allow them to encounter. Yet, notwithstanding all this, the

Americans on the hights were elated with their success, and waited with coolness and dctermination the now formidable advance of the enemy.

Once more the British, aided by their reinforcements, advanced to the attack, but with great skill and caution. Their artillery was planted on the eastern declivity of the hill, between the rail fence and the breastwork, where it was directed along the line of the Americans stationed at the latter place, and against the gateway on the north-eastern corner of the redoubt ; at the same time they attacked the redoubt on the south-eastern and south-western sides, and entered it with fixed bayonets. The slaughter on their advancing was great; but the Americans, not having bayonets to meet them on equal terms, and their powder being exhausted, now slowly retreated, opposing and extricating themselves from the British with the butts of their pieces.

The column that advanced against the rail fence was received in the most dauntless man. ner. The Americans fought with spirit and heroism that could not be surpassed, and, had their ammunition held out, would have secured to themselves, a third time, the palm of victory; as it was, they effectually prevented the enemy from accomplishing his purpose, which was to turn their flank and cut the whole of the Americans off; but having become perfectly exhausted, this body of the Americans also slowly retired, retreating in much better order than could possibly have been expected from undisciplined troops, and those in the redoubt having extricated themselves from a host of bayonets by which they had been surrounded.

The British followed the Americans to Bunker Hill, but some fresh militia at this moment coming up to the aid of the latter, covered their retreat. The Americans crossed Charlestown Neck about seven o'clock, having in the last 24 hours performed deeds which seemed almost impossible. Some of them proceeded to Cambridge, and others posted themselves quietly on Winter and Prospect Hills.

From the most accurate statements that can be found, it appears the British must have had nearly 5,000 soldiers in the battle ; between 3,000 and 4,000 having first landed, and the reinforcements amounting to over 1,000. The Americans, throughout the whole day, did not have 2,000 men on the field.

The slaughter on the side of the British was immense, having had nearly 1,500 killed and wounded, 1,200 of whom were either killed or mortally wounded; the Americans about 400.

Had the commanders at Charlestown Hights become terrified on being cut off from the main body and supplies, and surrendered their army, or even retreated before they did from the terrific force that opposed them, where would have now been that ornament and example to the world, the Independence of the United States? When it was found that no reinforcements were to be allowed them, the most sanguine man on that field could not have even indulged a hope of success, but all determined to deserve it; and although they did not obtain a victory, their example was the cause of a great many:

From the immense superiority of the British, at this stage of the war, having a large army of highly disciplined and well-equipped troops, and the Americans possessing but few other munitions or weapons of war, and but little more discipline than what each man possessed when he threw aside his plow and took the gun, that he had kept for pastime or for profit, but now to be employed for a different purpose, from off the hooks that held it, perhaps it would have been in their power, by pursuing the Americans to Cambridge, and destroying the few stores that had been collected there, to implant a blow which could never have been recovered from, but they were completely terrified. The awful lesson they had just received, filled them with horror, and the blood of 1,500 of their companions, who fell on that day, presented to them a warning which they could never forget. From the battle of Bunker Hill sprung the protection and the vigor that nurtured the tree of liberty, and to it, in all probability, may be ascribed our independence and glory.

The name of the first martyr that gave his life for the good of his country on that day, in the importance of the moment, was lost, else a monument, in connection with the gal. lant Warren, should be raised to his memory. The manner of his death was thus related by Col. Prescott:

The first man who fell in the battle of Bunker Hill, was killed by a cannon ball which struck his head. He wa so near me that my clothes were besmeared with his blood and brains, which I wiped off in some degree with a handful of fresh earth. The sight was so shocking to many of the men, that they left their posts and ran to view him. I ordered them back, but in vain. I then ordered him to be buried instantly. A subaltern officer expressed surprise that I should allow him to be buried without having prayers said ; I replied, This is the first man that has been killed, and the only one that will be buried today. I put him out of sight that the men may be kept in their places. God only knows who, or how many of us, will fall before it is over. To your post, my good fellow, and let each man do his duty.''

The name of the patriot who thus fell, is supposed to have been POLLARD, a young man

belonging to Billerica. He was struck by a cannon ball, thrown from the line-of-battleship Somerset.”

Cambridge is one of the oldest towns in New England. It may be divided into four parts. North Cambridge, Old Cambridge, Cambridgeport, and East Cambridge, all connected with Boston by railroads and omnibus every hour. It was incorporated in 1630, by the name of Newton. It took that of Cambridge in 1638—was incorporated as a city in 1846. It has ever been closely connected with Boston, in all its literary, intellectual, and political relations, and may be considered as virtually part of the metropolis. The town contains within its limits 26,000 inhabitants.

[graphic][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

Outline View of Harvard College. Old Cambridge is about three miles from Boston, and is the seat of Cambridge University, or Harvard College, the oldest in the United States. This institution was incorporated in 1638, and named Harvard College, from the Rev. John Harvard, its principal founder. Its endowments have been greatly increased by donations from the state, and by numerous private bounties, so that in regard to funds, buildings, library, professorships and literary advantages in general, it is the most amply furnished institution of the kind in America. Its funds now amount to over $800,000. It has a president, twentyfour professors, and other instructors, and upward of one hundred thousand volumes in its libraries. The principal college buildings occupy an inclosed plain of fourteen acres. The observatory is a spacious structure, in which is mounted one of the largest and most powerful telescopes in the world. The number of students in all departments—academical, theological, law, and scientific, is usually about 700.

The university buildings are pleasantly, though somewhat irregularly situated. Some have quite a venerable appearance, and others which are newer are among the finest specimens of architecture in the country. A large proportion of the houses in old Cambridge are of the most elegant description, being built and located in a tasteful manner. Cambridgeport is a more crowded and bustling mart of busi

It has 7 churches, an atheneum and many beautiful resi

ness.

dences. East Cambridge formerly known as Letchmere's Point contains 6 churches, a court house, the house of correction, the extensive glass works of the New England Co., etc.

From the first settlement of the country, Cambridge has been a place of importance. The first printing press in America was established here in 1639, by Stephen Day. The first paper printed was the Freeman's Oath. At the commencement of the revolution, during the year 1775, the head-quarters of the American army were in this town, and here Washington entered upon his duties as commander-in-chief. His quarters were at the Craigie House, between the college and Mt. Auburn. Mr. Longfellow, the poet, is the present proprietor and is careful in preserving, as nearly as possible, the original appearance of the house. The Washington Elm on the westerly side of Cambridge Common, is also an object of interest, as under its branches Washington was stationed while his commission was proclaimed to an army of 20,000 men drawn up on the common.

The Mount Auburn Cemetery is about a mile west of the university, in the towns of Watertown and Cambridge. This hallowed spot was dedicated Sept. 24, 1831. For beauty and variety of scenery it is equaled by but few in this country. It contains about 100 acres of land covered with a natural growth of trees, the highest part of which is 125 feet above the river; it is laid out with winding graveled walks, and embellished with every variety of shrubs and flowers. Numerous monuments of costly material and exquisite workmanship are already erected, constituting this a magnificent resting place for the dead. It is surrounded by an iron fence, with an imposing gateway in the Egyptian style, and not far from the entrance is a chapel of granite, for the performance of the burial services.

Rorbury lies 3 miles S. W. from Boston, and is one of the most beautiful places in the vicinity. It was incorporated a city in 1846. In many parts of the city, the earth is full of rocks, and of the peculiar kind called pudding stone. It is however very highly cultivated, and one of the great beauties of the city is in its gardens. It has a city hall, atheneum with a library of 5,000 volumes, 20 churches and is amply supplied with schools. Population about 25,000. It has extensive manufactories of india rubber goods, white lead, patent leather, hats, various branches of iron manufacture, etc. The Forest Hill Cemetery, containing nearly 100 acres, five miles from Boston, is a remarkably picturesque spot which has been artistically improved and arranged. Roxbury was the birthplace of Gen. Warren. On the spot where he was born has been erected a stone house, on the front of which is inserted a marble tablet with this inscription :

“On this spot stood a house erected in 1720 by Joseph Warren, of Boston, remarkable as being the birthplace of General Joseph Warren, his grandson, who was killed on Bunker Hill, June 17, 1775.

Gen. Warren, the son of a farmer, was born here in 1740. He was educated for a physician, and practiced in Boston. He was one of the first members of the Sons of Liberty, and became a leader among the peo

ple, in suggesting and executing measures against the encroachments of the English government. “He delivered the first annual oration on the subject of the “Boston Massacre,” in 1771; and in 1775, he solicited the honor of performing the perilous service again, because some British officers had menaced the life of any one who should attempt it. The "Old South" was crowded, and the aisles, stairs, and pulpit, were filled with British soldiers, full armed. The intrepid young orator entered by a window, spoke fearlessly, in the presence of those bayonets which seemed alive with threats, of the early struggles of the colonies of New England, and then, in sorrowful tones and deep pathos of expression, told of the wrongs and oppressions under which they were then suffering. Even the soldiers wept; and thus the young hero, firm in the faith that resistance to tyrants is obedience to God, triumphantly, and fearlessly bearded the lion in his den. From that day Gage regarded him as a dangerous man." When John Hancock went to the continental congress, Warren was chosen to fill his place as president of the Massachusetts Provincial Assembly, and just before

the battle of Bunker Hill he was commissioned major general. In that battle he was among the last to retreat, and as he retreated, fell dead, pierced by a musket ball through his head. His death was a terrible blow to the cause of the patriot. "Not all the havoc and devastation they have made has wounded me like the death of Warren," wrote the wife of John Adams, three weeks after. “We want him in the senate; we want him in his profession; we want him in the field. We mourn for the citizen, the senator, the physician, and the warrior.”

[Annexed is a view of the monument on Lexington Green, or Common, erected on the spot where the first Americans fell in the Revolution. The Green is rather irregular in form, and is

quite altered since in its general LEXINGTOX MONUMENT.

appearance. The Congregational Church is seen northward of the monument: anciently it stood to the south near where the flagstaff is erected.]

Lexington, so famous in revolutionary history, is about 10 miles by railroad N. W. from Boston, and 7 E. from Concord. It is principally an agricultural township, and somewhat distinguished for its milk

[graphic]
« PreviousContinue »