Samuel Adams Drake.

Historic fields and mansions of Middlesex online

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of Junot occurred in the redoubt. Enoch Jewett of Dunsta-
ble, a young soldier of Captain Ebenezer Bancroft's company,
Bridges's regiment, was standing at one of the angles of the
embankment beside his captain. Being quite short, he rested
his gun against the breastwork, and arranged some cobble-
stones so that he might be able to get a sight as well as
the rest. While thus occupied, a cannon-ball from one of the
enemy's frigates passed close above his head, brushing the
dust of the rampart into his musket so that it Avas quite full.
At this narrow escajie Captain Bancroft turned, and said,



BrXKER HILL AND THE MONUMENT. 65

" See there, Enoch, they have filled your gun fall of dust ! "
To this Jewett replied, " I don't care, I '11 give them dust
and all ! " and, suiting the action to the word, discharged his
piece into the British ranks.

The ever-famous redoubt was onl}- eight rods square, with a
salient in the southern face, which looked towards Charles-
town. The entrance was by the north side, in which an open-
ing had been left. Inside the work the men had raised a plat-
form of earth on Avhich to stand Avhile they rested their guur;
upon the embankment. The monument stands in the middle
of the space formerly enclosed by the redoubt, the whole area
of which should have been included within an iron fence,
composed of suitable emblems.

The eastern face of the redoubt was prolonged by a wall of
earth breast-high, for a hundred yards towards the ]\Iystic.
Chastellux, who visited the spot a few years after the battle,
said this breastwork had no ditch, but was only a slight in-
trenchment. It was doubtless intended, had there been time,
to have continued the defences across the intervening sjjace to
the river.

Xear the base of Bunker Hill, two hundred yards in rear
of the redoubt, and ranging nearly parallel with its eastern face,
was a stone-wall behind Avhich Knowlton, with the Connecticut
troops and two pieces of artillery, posted himself In front
of his stone-wall was another fence, the two enclosing a lane.
KnoAvlton's men filled the space between with the loose hay
recently cut and lying in cocks on the field. This fence
extended to the river-bank, which was nine or ten feet above
the beach below. Stark's men heaped up the loose stones of
the beach until they had made a formidable rampart to the
water's edge.

This made a good defence everywhere except in the space
between the point where the breastwork ended and Knowl-
ton's and Stark's fence. "Wilkinson says this space was occupied
by a post and rail fence beginning at the northeast angle of the
redoubt, and running back two hundred yards in an oblique line
imtil it intersected the fence previously described. Frothing-



66 HISTORIC FIELDS AND MANSIONS OF MIDDLESEX.

ham says this line Avas shghtly protected, a part of it, about
one hundred yards in extent, being open to the enemy. Howe's
engineer-officer calls it a hedge. On another British map (De
Berniere's) it appears undefended by any kind of works. By
all accounts it was the weak point of the defences, and the
hre of the British artillery was concentrated upon it.

After they obtained possession of the hill, the British de-
stroyed the temporary works of the Americans only so far as
they obstructed the free movements of their men and material.
I)r. John Warren, who visited the spot a few days after the
evacuation, probably refers to the removal of the fences when
he says the works that had been cast up by our forces were
completely levelled. Wilkinson at the same time plainly saw
vestiges of the post and rail fences, examined the redoubt, and
rested on the rampart. Governor Brooks examined the ground
in 1818, and entered the redoubt. A visitor in 1824 says
the redoubt was nearly effaced ; scarcely a trace of it remain-
ing, while the intrenchment running towards the marsh was
still distinct. A portion of this breastwork remained visible
as late as 1841. Stones suitably inscribed have been placed to
mark the position of the breastwork, of which a little grassy
mound, now remaining, is supposed to have formed a part.

The most singular phase which the battle of Bunker Hill
presents is that in Avhich we see the provincial officers fighting
under the authority of commissions issued to them in the name
of the reigning monarch of Great Britain. Yet such was the
fact. Probably the greater number of those officers exercised
command in the name of that king Avhose soldiers they were
endeavoring to destroy. The situation seems wholly anoma-
lous, and we doubt if there Avere ever before rebels who car-
ried on rebellion with such means. The officers who were made
prisoners — and some of them were captured in this battle —
could only prove their rank by the exhibition of the royal
warrant, the same under Avhich their captors acted.

This state of tilings would, perhaps, only go to show that
the colonists had not yet squarely come up to the point of
throwing off their allegiance, were it not that the measure of



BUNKER HILL AND THE MONUMENT. G7

continuing, or even issuing commissions to military and civil
officers in the king's name, was prolonged by the legislative
and executive authority of Massachusetts, long after the Dec-
laration of Independence by the Thirteen United Colonies.

The absurdity of their position seems to have been perfectly
comprehended, as the General Court, May 1, 1776, passed an
Act, to take effect on the first day of June in that year, by
which the style of commissions, civil and military, was there-
after to be in the name of the government and people of
Massachusetts Bay, in Xew England. These commissions were
to be dated in the year of the Christian era, and not in that
of the reigning sovereign of Great Britain. This renunciation
of allegiance to the crown • — - for such in fact it was — was a bold
act, and placed Massachusetts in the van of the movement to-
wards independent sovereignty. It has, in reality, been called
a Declaration of Independence by Massachusetts, two months
earlier than that by the Congress at Philadelphia ; but as Mas-
sachusetts, as a matter of expediency, virtually annulled her
own action by subsequent legislation, she cannot maintain
her claim in this regard. By the Act referred to, the 19th Sep-
tember, 1776, was fixed as the date when such commissions
as had not been made to conform with the new law should
be vacated.

But, in consequence of the failure of many of the officers of
the militia who were in actual service to have their commis-
sions altered to the new style, and especially in view of the
desperate circumstances in which our army found itself after
the battle of Long Island, a resolve passed the Massachusetts
House on the 16th September, 1776, as follows : —

" It is therefore Resolved, That all Military Commissions now
in force, shall be and continue in full force and effect on the same
nineteenth day oi September, and from thence to the 19th day oi Jan-
uary next after, such commissions not being made to conform as
aforesaid notwithstanding."

So that the men of Massachusetts continued to fight against
George III., with his commissions in their pockets, for more



68 HISTORIC FIELDS x\ND MANSIONS OF MIDDLESEX.

than six months after the Declaration of Independence by the
Thirteen United Colonies. One of these commissions, dated
in the reign of Iving George, and as late as the 10th of De-
cember, 1776, is in the writer's possession.

Commissions were issued by the Provincial Congress of
Massachusetts before Bunker Hill, and these did not bear the
king's name, but expressed the holders' appointment in the
army raised for the defence of the colony. Some of the offi-
cers engaged at Bunker Hill only received their commissions
the day before the battle. The two Brewers were of these.
Samuel Gerrish's regiment, which remained inactive on Bun-
ker Hill during the engagement, Mr. Frothingham supposes
was not commissioned ; but Gerrish had received his appoint-
ment as colonel, and James Wesson was commissioned major
on the 19th of May, 1775.

After the battle of the 1 7th of June the Provincial Congress
recommended a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer to be
observed, in which the Divine blessing is invoked " on our
rightful sovereign. King George III." * The army chaplains
continued to pray for the king until long after the arrival of
General Washington, as we learn from Dr. Jeremy Belknap's
account of his visit to the camps before Boston, in October,

1775, when he observed that the plan of independence was be-
coming a favorite point in the army, and that it was offensive
to pray for the king. Under the date of October 22d the good
Doctor enters in his journal : —

" Preached all day in the meeting-house. After meeting I was
again told by the chaplain that it Avas disagreeable to the generals
to pray for the king. I answered that the same authority which
appointed the generals had ordered the king to be prayed for
at the late Continental Fast ; and, till that was revoked, I should
think it my duty to do it. Dr. Appleton prayed in the afternoon,
and mentioned the king with much affection. It is too assmning in
the generals to find fault with it."

John Adams, in a letter to William Tudor, of April 24,

1776, says : —

* Boston Gazette, July 3, 1775.



BUNKER HILL AND THE MONUMENT. 69

" How is it possible for people to hear the crier of a court pro-
nounce " God save the King ! " and for jurors to swear well and
truly to try an issue Letween our Sovereign Lord the King and a
prisoner, or to keep his Majesty's secrets, in these days, I can't con-
ceive. Don't the clergy pray that he may overcome and vanquish
all his enemies yet ? What do they mean by his enemies 1 Your
army ?

" Have people no consciences, or do they look ujjon all oaths to be
custom-house oaths 1 " *

We have presented the foregoing examples in order to show
by what slow degrees the idea of separation germinated in the
minds of the colonists. Hostilities were begun to regain their
constitutional liberties, just as the war of the Great Eebellion
of 1861 was first waged solely in the view of establishing the
authority of the Constitution and the laws. If " all history is
a romance, unless it is studied as an example," we do not seem
to have developed in a hundred years a greater grasp of national
questions than those hard-tliiuking and hard-hitting colonists
possessed.

The constitution of the Provincial army was modelled after
that of the British. The general officers had regiments, as in
the king's service. The regiments and companies were in
number and strength similar to those of the regular troops.
Thus we frequently meet with mention of the Honorable Gen-
eral Ward's, Thomas's, or Heath's regiments. This custom
lapsed upon the creation of a new army. In the British service
the generals Avere addressed or spoken of as Mr. Howe or Mr.
Clinton, except the general-in-chief, who was styled " His Ex-
cellency." Our own army adopted this custom in so far as the
commanding general was concerned ; but the subordinate gen-
erals, many of whom had come from private life, were little in-
clined to waive their military designation and contimie plain
Mister. It is still a rule of the English and American service
to address a subaltern as Mr.

To return to the battle, — which was first called by our
troops the "Battle of Charlestown," — it is worthy of remem-

* Mass. Hist. Collections, IL ^^ii.



70 HISTOKIC FIELDS AND MANSIONS OF MIDDLESEX.

brance that the orders to take possession of the hill were issued
on the same day that Washington was officially notified of his
appointment to command the army. He had scarcely proceeded
twenty miles on the way to Cambridge, when he met the
courier spurring in hot haste with the despatches to Congress
of the battle. The rider was stopped, and the General opened
and read the despatch, while Lee, Schuyler, and the other gen-
tlemen who attended him eagerly questioned the messenger. It
was on this occasion that Washington, upon hearing that the
militia had withstood the fire of the regulars, exclaimed, " Then
the liberties of the country are safe ! "

A variety of conflicting accounts have been given of the
battle by eyewitnesses ; the narrators, as is usual, seeing only
what passed in their own immediate vicinity. On the day of
the evacuation of Boston by the British Major Wilkinson ac-
companied Colonels Heed and Stark over the battle-ground, and
the latter pointed out to him the various positions and described
the parts played by the different actors. The vestiges of the
post and rail fence on the left, and of the stone-wall Stark
ordered " his boys " to throw up on the beach of the Mystic,
were still plainly visible. It was before this deadly stone-wall
where the British light-infantry attacked that John Winslow
counted ninety-six dead bodies the next day after the battle.
Stark told Wilkinson that " the dead lay as thick as sheep in
a fold," and that he had forbidden his men to fire until the
enemy reached a point he had marked in the bank, eight or
ten rods distant from his line. With such marksmen as Stark's
men were, every man covering his adversary, it is no wonder
the head of the British column was shot in pieces, or that it
drifted in mutilated fragments away from the horrible feu
(Tenfer.

Before the action, when some one asked him if the rebels
would stand fire. General Gage replied, " Yes, if one John
Stark is there ; for he is a brave fellow." Through his glass
the General "saw Prescott standing on the crest of the embank-
ment. "Who is hel" inquired the General of Councillor
Willard, Prescott's brother-in-law. He was told. "Will he



BUNKEK HILL AND THE MONUMENT. 71

tight 1" demanded Gage. "To the last drop of blood in his
veins ! " replied Willard. Prescott wore, on this day, a single-
breasted blue coat with facings turned up at the skirt, a top-
wig and three-cornered hat.

The American held-hospital during the battle Avas fixed at
the old Sun Tavern, on the north side of Bunker Hill. Dr.
Eustis, Andrew Craigie, and others officiated there. Some of
the wounded early in the engagement were, however, removed
to the mainland. The same tavern was one of the places
named by the Committee of Safety for granting permits to go
into Boston in April, 1775.

The American prisoners were treated with extreme inhuman-
ity. They Avere conveyed over to Long Wharf in Boston, and
allowed to lie there all night Avithout any care for their wounds,
or other resting-place than the ground. The next day they
were removed to Boston Jail, Avhere several died before their
final transfer to Halifax. General Washington earnestly en-
deavored to mitigate the sufferings of these unfortunate men ;
but the status of rebel prisoners had not yet been established,
or a cartel of exchange arranged.

Both parties Avere exhausted by the battle. The Americans
feared an immediate advance on Cambridge ; the British, ap-
prehending an assault from the fresh troops of the Americans,
intrenched on the northern face of Bunker Hill, AA'hile the 52d
regiment biA'ouacked, on the night of tlie 17th, in the main
street of the toAvn, so as to cover the mill-pond causeway and
the approach over the ISTeck. Dr. Church, in his defence, says,
" Your Honor Avell knoAvs Avhat Avas our situation after the
action of Bunker Hill ; insomuch that it Avas generally beliei^ed,
had the British troops been in a condition to pursue their
success, they might haA^e readied Cambridge AAdth A^ery little
opposition."

The minority in Parliament Avere A^ery severe in their remarks'
on the conduct of their troops at Lexington and Bunker Hill.
HoAA^e's forcing the lines throAvn up by a handful of raAv,
undisciplined militia in the course of a summer's night Avas
ludicrously compared to a Marlborough's victory at Blenheim.



72 HISTOKIC FIELDS AND MANSIONS OF MIDDLESEX.

The death of Warren was the greatest loss the American
cause sustained on that day. The spot where he fell, while
lingering in a retreat his soul rebelled against, is marked by a
stone in the northerly part of the monument grounds. The
last words he was heard to utter were : " I am a dead man. Fight
on, my brave fellows, for the salvation of your country." His
remains were buried on the held, with such disregard of the
claims of rank, as a man and a citizen, that only the supposi-
tion that Gage feared to place them in the hands of his (War-
ren's) friends for political reasons can account for the indignity
with which the body was treated. As for the Americans with
whom he fouglit, it is not known that they made the least
effort to obtain the remains. He died and received the burial
of an American rebel, a name of which his descendants are not
ashamed.

" No useless coffin enclosed his breast,

Not in sheet oi- in shroud we bound him,
But he lay like a warrior taking his rest,
With his martial cloak aroimd him. "

When he entered the redoubt to which Putnam had directed
liim as the post of honor, Prescott addressed him, saying, " Dr.
Warren, do you come here to take the command 1 " " No,
Colonel," replied the Doctor; "but to give what assistance I
can, and to let these damned rascals see " — pointing to the
British troops — " that the Yankees wiU fight." This was
the relation of Dr. Eustis, who was within the redoubt, to
General Wilkinson. Eustis, afterwards governor of Massachu-
setts, was a student with Warren, and had been commissioned
surgeon of Gridley's regiment of artillery. After the battle
he attended the wounded, and was placed in charge of the
military hospital established at Eev. Samuel Cook's house at
Menotomy, now Arlington.

The slaughter of British officers at Bunker Hill was terrible
indeed. The bloodiest battles in which British soldiers had
been engaged suffered by the comparison. Quebec and Min-
den Avere no longer recollected with horror. Spendlove, Major
of tlio 43d, who died of his wounds here, had been gazetted



BUNKER HILL AND THE MONUMENT. id

f(jur times for wounds received in America ; namely, with
Wolfe, on the Plains of Abraham, at the reduction of Mar-
tinico, the taking of Havana, and at Bunker Hill. There is no
doubt Pitcairn was siugied out for his share in the Lexington
battle ; his person was well known in the American ranks.
Dearborn says he was on horseback, and the only mounted
otlicer of the enemy on the field. Abercrombie, borne away
with a mortal hurt, begged his men not to kill his old friend
Putnam. Each of these officers commanded battalions.

The effect on the new levies in England was marked. An
officer Avho resigned, upon being asked the reason, replied, that
he Avanted to see a little more of the world. " Why don't
you go to America with the troops 1- " said the cpierist. " You
will then have an opportunity of seeing the world soon."
" Yes," replied the officer, " the other tvorld I believe I should
very soon ; but as I am not tired of this, I do not choose to set
out on my journey yet."

These celebrated heights were eventually cultivated, and pro-
duced astonishing crops of hemp, etc., so that in this respect
they followed in the train of the memorable Plains of Abra-
ham, which Lord Dalhousie, when he was governor-general of
Canada, ordered to be ploughed up and seeded in grain. This
was laid hold of by the wits, who perpetrated the following
epigram : — ■

" Some care for honor, others care for groats, —
Here Wolfe reaped glory and Dalhousie oats."

The Freemasons have the honor of taking the initiative in a
structure to commemorate the heroic death of their Grand-
Master, Joseph Warren. In 1794 King Solomon's Lodge of
Charlestown erected a Tuscan column of wood, elevated on a
brick pedestal eight feet square, and surmounted by a gilded
urn, bearing the age and initials of the illustrious dead,
encircled with Masonic emblems. The whole height of the
pillar was twenty-eight feet.

The face of the south side of the base bore the followiug
inscription : —

4



74 IIISTOKIC FIELDS AND MANSIONS OF MIDDLESEX.

Erected, A. D. MDCCXCIV.

By King Solomon's Lodge of Freeniasous.

Constituted in Charlestown, 1783,

111 Memory of

Major-General Joseph Warren,

And his Associates,

Wlio were slain on this memorable spot, June 17, 1775-

None but they who set a just value on the blessings of Liberty are worthy
to enjoy her.

In vain we toiled ; in vain we fought ; we bled in vain ; if you, our oft"-
spring, want valor to repel the assaults of her invaders.

Charlestown settled, 1628.
Burnt, 1775. Rebuilt, 1776.

The enclosed land given by the Hon . James Russell.

This structure stood for about thirty years, but was in a
state of ruinous dilapidation before the movement to raise on
the spot its giant successor caused its disappearance. A beauti-
ful model in marble of the first monument may still be seen
within the present obelisk.

William Tudor of Boston, the accomplished scholar, was the
first to draw public attention to the building of a memorial on
Bunker Hill commeiisurate with the event it was intended to
celebrate. He pitrsued the subject until the sympathies and
co-operation of many distinguished citizens were secured. Dan-
iel Webster Avas early enlisted in the cause, and he stated that
it was in Thomas H. Perkins's house, in Boston, that William
Tudor, William Sullivan, and George Blake adopted the first
step towards raising a monument on Bunker Hill. Dr. John C.
Warren, grandson of the General, purchased three acres of land
lying on the hill, in November, 1822, thus preserving for the
monument site an area that was about to be sold. A meeting
of those friendly to the enterprise was held in the Merchants*
Exchange, in Boston, in May, 1823, which resolved itself,
under an act of incorporation passed June 7, 1823, into the
Bunker Hill Monument Association. Governor John Brooks
was the first president.

In 1824 Lafiiyette, then on his triiuuphal tour through



BUNKER HILL AND THE MONUMENT. 75

the United States, paid a visit to the scene of the battle, and
accepted an invitation to assist at the laying of the corner-
stone on the ensuing anniversary. Meantime the directors
were considering the plan for the monument. A committee
for this object was formed of Messrs. Daniel Webster, Loammi
Baldwin, George Ticknor, Gilbert Stuart, and Washington
Allston, and some fifty plans appeared to compete for the
offered premium. This committee, able as it was, did not
make a decision ; but a new one, of which General H. A. S.
Dearborn, Edward Everett, Seth Knowles, S. D. Harris, and
Colonel T. H. Perkins were members, eventually made choice
of the obelisk as the simplest, and at the same time the grand-
est, form in which their ideal could be expressed.

It is stated that Horatio Greenough, then an undergraduate
at Harvard, sent to the committee a design, with an essay, in
which he advocated the obelisk with much power and feeling.
The design finally adopted was Greenough's, modified by the
taste and judgment of Colonel Baldwin. Solomon Willard,
the architect, made the Avorking plan.

The occasion of laying the corner-stone was made as im-
posing as possible. The day was everything that could be
desired. The military and civic bodies appeared to great advan-
tage, while the presence of Lafayette gave an added eclat to
the pageant. The streets of Boston were thronged with an
immense multitude, and again Charlestown was invaded by an
army with banners, but with more hospitable intent than the
display of fifty years before had witnessed. Some forty sur-
vivors of the battle appeared in the ranks of the procession.
Their course was folloAved by the loudest acclamations, and the
waving of many Imndkerchiefs wet with the tears of the gentler
sex ; while many a manly eye could not refuse its tribute to a
spectacle so touching as were these visible relics of the battle.
One aged veteran stood up in the midst of the multitude, and
exhibited the simple equipments be wore when a soldier of
Prescott's Spartan band. Xot Webster, not even the noble
Frenchman, so moved the hearts of the people, as did these
old men, with their white hairs, their bowed forms, and their
venerable asjiject.



76 HISTORIC FIELDS AND MANSIONS OF MIDDLESEX.

The ceremony of laying the corner-stone proceeded under
the direction of King Solomon's Lodge ; Mr. Webster, then
president of the Monument Association, and the Marquis as-
sisting. The plate, containing a long inscription, was depos-
ited in its place, and the exercises were continued in a spacious
amphitheatre erected on the northerly slope of the hill. Here



Online LibrarySamuel Adams DrakeHistoric fields and mansions of Middlesex → online text (page 7 of 39)