Bunker Hill Map
On June 17, 1775, American troops displayed their
mettle in the Battle of Bunker Hill during the siege of Boston, inflicting
casualties on nearly half of the British troops dispatched to secure
Breed's Hill (the actual site of the battle).
More than 15,000 colonial troops defended Boston at Breed's Hill,
Bunker Hill, and Dorchester Heights following the battles of Lexington
and Concord. African-American soldiers comprised approximately
one-third of the rebel troops.
Sketch of the Action
Between the British Forces and American Provincials, on the Heights of the
Peninsula of Charlestown,
the 17th June 1775 (detail),
Five thousand British troops under the command of General Gage stormed
Breed's Hill, where colonial soldiers were encamped. In their fourth
charge up the hillside, the British took the hill from the rebels, who had
run out of ammunition. The last rebels left on the hill evaded capture by
the British, thanks to the heroic efforts of Peter Salem, an
African-American soldier who mortally wounded the British commanding
officer who led the last charge.
After suffering 1,000 casualties during their charges on Breed's Hill,
the British discontinued their assaults on rebel strongholds in Boston.
Washington assumed command of colonial forces two weeks later, he
garnered ammunition for Boston troops and secured Dorchester Heights and
Several speeches in the American Memory Collection, African American
Perspectives, 1818-1907 contain references to Peter Salem, the former
slave and hero of the Battle of Bunker Hill:
Mr. Everett has described Peter Salem, a black man, and once
a slave, as having been among the most prominent and meritorious
characters at the battle of Bunker's Hill. Indeed, the historical
painting of that scene, by Col. Trumbull, an eyewitness, done in 1785,
gives Peter Salem , with other black patriots, a conspicuous place. One
of the latter is thus commemorated:
"To the Honorable General Court of the Massachusetts Bay: The
subscribers beg leave to report to your Honorable House (which we do in
justice to the character of so brave a man), that, under our own
observation, we declare that a negro man, called Salem Poor, of Col.
Frye's regiment, Capt. Ames' company, in the late battle at Charlestown,
behaved like an experienced officer, as well as an excellent soldier. To
set forth particulars of his conduct would be tedious. We would beg
leave to say, in the person of this said negro, centres a brave and
gallant soldier. The reward due to so great and distinguished a
character, we submit to the Congress."
Cambridge, Dec. 5, 1755.
the Fathers Thought of the Blacks as Slaves, as Soldiers, and as
Prepared for the Celebration of Washington's Birthday at
Lyceum Hall, Salem, February 22, 1863,
of the Early Presidents, and of the Fathers of the Republic, upon
Slavery and upon Negroes as Men and Soldiers.
in African American
Learn more about the Battle of Bunker Hill in American Memory:
- Search on Peter Salem in African American
Perspectives, 1818-1907 to
find references to the former slave and hero of the Battle of Bunker
- Search the The George
Washington Papers, 1741-1799 for documents related to the Battle of
Bunker Hill, including Washington's estimate
of British casualties at the battle.
View of Charlestown and Bunker Hill,
between 1890 and 1910.
Turn-of-the-Century America, 1880-1920
Turn-of-the-Century America, 1880-1920 contains several photos of
Boston, including photos of Breed's Hill and Bunker Hill. Search the
collection on Boston or on the names of its historically
- American Leaders
Speak, 1918-1920 contains a speech
Coolidge on equal rights which includes
references to Revolutionary War battles, including the Battle of Bunker
- The January
28, 1795 entry in the Journal of the
Senate of the United States of America, 1789-1873 includes a
petition from a veteran of the Battle of Bunker Hill to be added to the
list of invalid pensioners. Search on
Bunker Hill in A Century of
Lawmaking for a New Nation, 1774-1875 for additional petitions from men wounded at the battle.
- See the Today in History feature on artist John
Trumbull whose paintings depicting the Battle of Bunker Hill and
other events of the Revolutionary period have become American icons.
Search the Today in History
Archive on revolution to find other features on the
- See the 1905 film Spirit
of '76 from the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company. The
film is a dramatic recreation of Archibald Willard's famous painting by
the same title and was made to illustrate the well-known song "Bunker Hill."
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