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Prescott had left the hill; thus defeating General Howe's design of cutting off the retreat of the main body; which would have produced a scene of direful confusion and slaughter. Having effected their purpose, the brave associates at the fence abandoned their weak outpost, retiring slowly, and disputing the ground inch by inch, with a regularity remarkable in troops many of whom had never before been in action.
The main retreat was across Bunker's Hill, where Putnam had endeavored to throw up a breastwork. The veteran, sword in hand, rode to the rear of the retreating troops, regardless of the balls whistling about him. His only thought was to rally them at the unfinished works. "Halt! make a stand here! cried he, "we can check them yet. In God's name, form and give them one shot more."
Pomeroy, wielding his shattered musket as a truncheon, seconded him in his efforts to stay the torrent. It was impossible, however, to bring the troops to a stand. They continued on down the hill to the Neck and across it to Cambridge, exposed to a raking fire from the ships and batteries, and only protected by a single piece of ordnance. The British were too exhausted to pursue them; they contented themselves with taking possession of Bunker's Hill, were re-enforced from Boston, and threw up additional works during the night.
We have collected the preceding facts from various sources, examining them carefully, and endeavoring to arrange them with scrupulous fidelity. We may appear to have been more minute in the account of the battle than the number of troops engaged would warrant; but it was one of the most momentous conflicts in our revolutionary history. It was the first regular battle between the British and the Americans, and most eventful in its consequences. The former had gained the ground for which they contended; but, if a victory, it was more disastrous and humiliating to them than an ordinary defeat. They had ridiculed and despised their enemy, representing them as dastardly and inefficient; yet here their best troops, led on by experienced officers, had repeatedly been repulsed by an inferior force of that enemy mere yeomanry from works thrown up in a single night, and had suffered a loss rarely paralleled in battle with the most veteran soldiery; for, according to their own returns, their killed and wounded, out of a detachment of two thousand men, amounted to one thousand and fifty-four, and a large proportion of them officers. The loss of the Americans did not exceed four hundred and fifty.
To the latter this defeat, if defeat it might be called, had
the effect of a triumph. It gave them confidence in themselves and consequence in the eyes of their enemies. They had proved to themselves and to others that they could measure weapons with the disciplined soldiers of Europe, and inflict the most harm in the conflict.
Among the British officers slain was Major Pitcairn, who, at Lexington, had shed the first blood in the revolutionary war. In the death of Warren the Americans had to lament the loss of a distinguished patriot and a most estimable man. It was deplored as a public calamity. His friend Elbridge Gerry had endeavored to dissuade him from risking his life in this perilous conflict, Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori," replied Warren, as if he had foreseen his fate- a fate to be envied by those ambitious of an honorable fame. He was one of the first who fell in the glorious cause of his country, and his name has become consecrated in its history.
There has been much discussion of the relative merits of the American officers engaged in this affair-a difficult question where no one appears to have had the general command. Prescott conducted the troops in the night enterprise; he superintended the building of the redoubt, and defended it throughout the battle; his name, therefore, will ever shine most conspicuous, and deservedly so, on this bright page of our Revolutionary history.
Putnam also was a leading spirit throughout the affair; one of the first to prompt and of the last to maintain it. He appears to have been active and efficient at every point; sometimes fortifying; sometimes hurrying up re-enforcements; inspiriting the men by his presence while they were able to maintain their ground, and fighting gallantly at the outpost to cover their retreat. The brave old man, riding about in the heat of the action, on this sultry day, "with a hanger belted across his brawny shoulders, over a waistcoat without sleeves," has been sneered at by a contemporary, as "much fitter to head a band of sickle men or ditchers than musketeers." But this very description illustrates his character, and identifies him with the times and the service. A yeoman warrior fresh from the plough, in the garb of rural labor; a patriot brave and generous, but rough and ready, who thought not of himself in time of danger, but was ready to serve in any way, and to sacrifice official rank and selfglorification to the good of the cause. He was eminently a soldier for the occasion. His name has long been a favorite one with young and old; one of the talismanic names of the Revolution, the very mention of which is like the sound of a trumpet.
Such names are the precious jewels of our history, to be garnered up among the treasures of the nation, and kept immac ulate from the tarnishing breath of the cynic and the doubter.
NOTE. In treating of the Battle of Bunker's Hill, and of other occurrences about Boston at this period of the Revolution, we have had repeated occasion to consult the History of the Siege of Boston, by Richard Frothingham, Jr.; a work abounding with facts as to persons and events, and full of interest for the American reader.
FROM PHILADELPHIA ANECDOTES OF GENERAL SCHUYLER -OF LEE-TIDINGS OF BUNKER'S HILL MILITARY COUNCILS POPULATION OF NEW YORK-THE JOHNSON FAMILY GOVERNOR TRYON ARRIVAL AT NEW YORK INSTRUCTIONS TO SCHUYLER — ARRIVAL AT THE CAMP.
IN a preceding chapter we left Washington preparing to depart from Philadelphia for the army before Boston. He set out on horseback on the 21st of June, having for military companions of his journey Major-Generals Lee and Schuyler, and being accompanied for a distance by several private friends. As an escort he had a "gentleman troop" of Philadelphia, commanded by Captain Markoe; the whole formed a brilliant cavalcade.
General Schuyler was a man eminently calculated to sympathize with Washington in all his patriotic views and feelings, and became one of his most faithful coadjutors. Sprung from one of the earliest and most respectable Dutch families which colonized New York, all his interests and affections were identified with the country. He had received a good education; applied himself at an early age to the exact sciences, and became versed in finance, military engineering, and political economy. He was one of those native-born soldiers who had acquired experience in that American school of arms, the old French war. When but twenty-two years of age he commanded a company of New York levies under Sir William Johnson, of Mohawk renown, which gave him an early opportunity of becoming acquainted with the Indian tribes, their country and their policy. In 1758 he was in Abercrombie's expedition against Ticonderoga, accompanying Lord Viscount Howe as chief of the commissariat department; a post well qualified to give him experience in the business part of war. When that gallant young nobleman fell on
the banks of Lake George, Schuyler conveyed his corpse back to Albany and attended to his honorable obsequies. Since the close of the French war he had served his country in various civil stations, and been one of the most zealous and eloquent vindicators of colonial rights. He was one of the "glorious minority" of the New York General Assembly - George Clinton, Colonel Woodhull, Colonel Philip Livingston and others who, when that body was timid and wavering, battled nobly against British influence and oppression. His last stand had been recently as a delegate to Congress, where he had served with Washington on the committee to prepare rules and regulations for the army, and where the latter had witnessed his judgment, activity, practical science, and sincere devotion to the
Many things concurred to produce perfect harmony of operation between these distinguished men. They were nearly of the same age, Schuyler being one year the youngest. Both were men of agricultural, as well as military tastes. Both were men of property, living at their ease in little rural paradises; Washington on the grove-clad heights of Mount Vernon, Schuyler on the pastoral banks of the upper Hudson, where he had a noble estate at Saratoga, inherited from an uncle; and the old family mansion, near the city of Albany, half hid among ancestral trees. Yet both were exiling themselves from these happy abodes, and putting life and fortune at hazard in the service of their country.
Schuyler and Lee had early military recollections to draw them together. Both had served under Abercrombie in the expedition against Ticonderoga. There was some part of Lee's conduct in that expedition which both he and Schuyler might deem it expedient at this moment to forget. Lee was at that time a young captain, naturally presumptuous, and flushed with the arrogance of military power. On his march along the banks of the Hudson, he acted as if in a conquered country, impressing horses and oxen, and seizing upon supplies, without exhibiting any proper warrant. It was enough for him, "they were necessary for the service of his troops.' Should any one question his right, the reply was a volley of execrations.
Among those who experienced this unsoldierly treatment was Mrs. Schuyler, the aunt of the general; a lady of aristocratical station, revered throughout her neighborhood. Her cattle were impressed, herself insulted. She had her revenge. After the unfortunate affair at Ticonderoga, a number of the wounded were brought down along the Hudson to the Schuyler mansion. Lee
was among the number. The high-minded mistress of the house never alluded to his past conduct. He was received like his brother officers with the kindest sympathy. Sheets and tablecloths were torn up to serve as bandages. Every thing was done to alleviate their sufferings. Lee's cynic heart was conquered. "He swore in his vehement manner that he was sure there would be a place reserved for Mrs. Schuyler in heaven, though no other women should be there, and that he should wish for nothing better than to share her final destiny!
Seventeen years had since elapsed, and Lee and the nephew of Mrs. Schuyler were again allied in military service, but under a different banner; and recollections of past times must have given peculiar interest to their present intercourse. In fact, the journey of Washington with his associate generals, experienced like him in the wild expeditions of the old French war, was a revival of early campaigning feelings.
They had scarcely proceeded twenty miles from Philadelphia when they were met by a courier, spurring with all speed, bearing despatches from the army to Congress, communicating tidings of the battle of Bunker's Hill. Washington eagerly inquired particulars; above all, how acted the militia? When told that they stood their ground bravely; sustained the enemy's fire reserved their own until at close quarters, and then delivered it with deadly effect-it seemed as if a weight of doubt and solicitude were lifted from his heart. "The liberties of the country are safe!" exclaimed he.
The news of the battle of Bunker's Hill had startled the whole country; and this clattering cavalcade, escorting the commander-in-chief to the army, was the gaze and wonder of every town and village.
The journey may be said to have been a continual council of war between Washington and the two generals. Even the contrast in character of the two latter made them regard questions from different points of view. Schuyler, a warm-hearted patriot, with every thing staked on the cause; Lee, a soldier of fortune, indifferent to the ties of home and country, drawing his sword without enthusiasm; more through resentment against a government which had disappointed him, than zeal for liberty or for colonial rights.
One of the most frequent subjects of conversation was the province of New York. Its power and position rendered it the great link of the confederacy; what measures were neces
1 Memoirs of an American Lady (Mrs. Grant, of Laggan), vol. ii., chap. ix.