Sir Howe Reports on Bunker Hill
Sir William Howe Reports
Camp upon the Heights of Charlestown, June 2z and 24
, . . The troops were no sooner ashore than it was instantly perceived the enemy were very strongly posted, the redoubt upon their right being large and full of men with cannon. To the right of the redoubt they had trips in the houses of Charles Town, about 200 yards distant from the redoubt, the intermediate space not occupied, being exposed to the cannon of the Boston side battery.
From the left of the redoubt, they had a line cannon proof, about 80 yards in length; and from thence to their left, close upon the Mystic River, they had a breast work made with strong railing taken from the fences and stuffed with hay, which effectually secured those behind it from musquettry. This breast work about 300 yards in extent—they had made
As a specimen of our knowledge of service, the century’s on the Boston side had heard the Rebels at work all night without making any other report of it, except mentioning it in conversation in the morning. The first knowledge the General had of it was by hearing one of the ships firing at the working and going to see what occasioned the firing. Their works when we landed were crowded with men, about 500 yards from us.
From the appearance of their situation and numbers, and seeing that they were pouring in all the strength they could collect, I sent to General Gage to desire a reinforcement, which he immediately complied with, the remaining
Light Companies and Grenadiers, with the 47th Battalion and 1 st of the Marines landing soon after. Our strength being then about 2200 rank and with six field pieces, two light ~ 2-pounders and two howitzers, we begun attack (the troops in two lines, with Pigott upon the left) by a sharp cannonade, the line moving slowly and frequently halting to give time for the artillery to fire.
~ The Light Companies upon the right were ordered to keep along the the whole in the night beach to attack the left point of the enemy's breast work, which being car ried, they were to attack them in flank. The Grenadiers being directed to attack the enemy's left in front, supported by the 5th and 52nd, their orders were executed by the Grenadiers and 2 battalions with a laudable perseverance, but not with the greatest share of discipline, for as soon as the order with which they set forward to the attack with bayonets was checked by a difficulty they met with in getting over some very high fences of strong raii ing, under a heavy fire, well kept up by the Rebels, they began firing, and by crowding fell into disorder, and in this state the line mixed with them. The Light Infantry at the same time being repulsed, there was a moment that never felt before, but by the gallantry of the officers it was all recovered and the attack carried.
Upon the left, Pigott met with the same obstruction from the fences, and also had the troops in the houses to combat with, before he could proceed to assail the redoubt, or to turn it to his left, but the town being set on fire b order at this critical time by a carcass from the battery on the Boston side, Pigott was relieved from his enemies in that quarter, and at the 2d onset he carried the redoubt in the handsomest manner, thus it was most obstinkly defended to the last. Thirty of the Rebels not having time to get away weK killed with bayonets in it. The little man is worthy of Our Master's favor.
But I now come to the fatal consequences of this action—9: officers killed and wounded—a most dreadful account. I have lost my aid de camp Sherwin, who was shot thro' the body and died the next day. Our friend Abercrombie is also gone—he had only a flesh wound, but is said to have been in a very bad habit of body. The General's returns will give you the particulars of what call this unhappy day. I freely confess to you, when I look to the consequences of it, in the loss of so many brave officers, I do it with horror. The success is too dearly bought. Our killed, sergeants and rank and file, about 160; 300 wounded and in hospital, with as many more incapable of present duty. The Rebels left near 1oo killed and 30 wounded, but I have this morn ing learnt from a deserter from them that they had 300 killed and a great number wounded.
We took five pieces of cannon, and their numbers are said to have been near 6000, but I do not suppose they had more than between 4 and 5,000 engaged.
The corps remained upon their arms the night of the action, where we are now encamped in a strong situation, with redoubts commanding the isthmus in our front, the enemy being in two corps about one mile and a half distant from us and both well entrenched; the principal body being upon a height called Summer Hill commanding the way from thence to Cambridge the other called Winter Hill upon the road to Midford (or Mystich) on tlL side of Roxbury—they are also entrenched and have artillery at all their post.
Entre nous, I have heard a bird sing that we can do no more this campaign| than endeavour to preserve the town of Boston, which it is supposed thl. Rebels mean to destroy by fire or sword or both—and it is my opinion, with the strength we shall have collected here upon the arrival of the 4 battalions I last from Ireland (one of which, with Bailey of the 23d, came in the day before yesterday), that we must not risk the endangering the loss of Boston—tho' should anything offer in our favour, I should hope we may not let pass I the opportunity.
The intentions of these wretches are to fortify every post in our way; wait to be attacked at every one, having their rear secure, destroying as many of us as they can before they set out to their next strong situation, and, in this defensive mode (the whole country coming into them upon every action), they must in the end get the better of our small numbers. We can not (as the General tells us) muster more now than 34oo rank and file for duty, including the Marines and the three last regiments from Ireland.