Bunker Hill Captain John Chester to the Reverend Joseph Fish of Stonington, Connecticut
Captain John Chester to the Reverend Joseph Fish of Stonington, Connecticut
Camp at Cambridge, July 22, 1775
Rev. and Much Respected Sir:
. . . I shall endeavor, as far as my time and business will permit, to give you, sir, the particulars of the battle of Charlestown....
As to mv own concern in it, with that of my company, would info that one subaltern, one sergeant and thirty privates were draughted out over night to intrench. They tarried, and fought till the retreat. Just after dinner on Saturday, 17th, I was walking out from my lodgings, quite calm and composed, and all at once the drums beat to arms' and bells rang, and a great noise in Cambridge. Capt. Putnam came by on full gallop. "What is the matter?" says I. |
"Have you not heard?" I
"Why, the regulars are landing at Charlestown," says he, "and Father says you must all meet and march immediately to Bunker Hill to oppose the enemy."
I waited not, but ran and got my arms and ammunition, and hasted to my company (who were in the church for barracks) and found them nearly ready to march. We soon marched, with our frocks and trowsers on over our other clothes (for our company is in uniform wholly blue, turned up with red), for we were loath to expose ourselves by our dress, and down we marched. I imagined we arrived at the hill near the close of the battle. When we arrived there was not a company with us in any kind of order, although, when we first set out, perhaps three regiments were by our side and near us; but here they were scattered, some behind rocks and hay-cocks, and thirty men, perhaps, behind an apple tree, and frequently twenty men round a wounded man, retreating, when not more than three or four could touch him to advantage. Others were retreating, seemingly without any excuse, and some said they had left the fort with leave of the officers, because they had been all night and day on fatigue, without sleep, victuals or drink; and some said they had no officers to head them, which, indeed, seemed to be the case.
At last I met with a considerable company who were going off rank and file. I called to the officer that led them, and asked why he retreated. He made me no answer. I halted my men, and told him if he went on it should be at his peril. He still seemed regardless of me. I then ordered my men to make ready. They immediately cocked, and declared if I ordered they would fire. Upon that they stopped short, tried to excuse themselves; but I could not tarry to hear him, but ordered him forward, and he complied.
We were then very soon in the heat of action. Before we reached the summit of Bunker Hill, and while we were going over the Neck, we were in imminent danger from the cannon-shot, which buzzed around us like hail. The musquetry began before we passed the Neck; and when we were on the top of the hill, and during our descent to the foot of it on the south, the small u cll as cannon shot were incessantly whistling by us. We joined our army on the right of the centre, just by a poor stone fence, two or three feet high, and very thin, so that the bullets came through. Here we lost our regularity, as every company had done before us, and fought as they did, every man Ioading and firing as fast as he could. As near as I could guess, we fought
standing about six minutes, my officers and men think....