A Stated Meeting of the Society was held at the house of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, No. 28 Newbury Street, Boston, on Thursday, December 18, 1924, at three o’clock in the afternoon, the President, Fred Norris Robinson, Ph.D., in the chair.

    The Records of the Annual Meeting in November were read and approved.

    Mr. Frederick Jackson Turner of Madison, Wisconsin, was elected a Corresponding Member.

    The President announced his appointment of Messrs. Archibald C. Coolidge and Roger B. Merriman as delegates from this Society to the annual Conference of Historical Societies to be held in Richmond, Virginia, this month in connection with the meeting of the American Historical Association.

    The President stated that the Council had requested the Editor to print in the Transactions portions of his final report to that body.


    Elected to the Society in April, 1896, the first meeting I attended was the annual meeting in that year, when I was introduced to Mr. Edes and Mr. Davis. In course of time the latter and I became excellent friends; but from the very beginning Mr. Edes and I were strongly attracted to each other, and our acquaintance soon ripened into a deep friendship. He used to expound to me his hopes and ambitions for the Society, and soon he asked me to help him in the actual editorial work. In December, 1899, no doubt at his suggestion, President Wheelwright appointed me to the Committee of Publication. In November, 1901, I was elected a member of the Council for three years. Hence my service of twenty-three years on the Council has exceeded that of any other member except Mr. Edes and Mr. Cunningham, with thirty and a little over thirty-one years respectively.

    In those days, as the Society had no official Editor of Publications, the work of editing was done by the chairman of the Committee of Publication. As such Mr. Davis edited and saw through the press Volume I, but on the publication of that volume in 1896 resigned as chairman and was succeeded by Mr. Noble, who retained the chairmanship until his death in 1909. Since then, the chairmanship of the Committee has always been held by the President of the Society for the time being.

    But, though Mr. Noble was chairman of the Committee during the years 1896–1904, he was too busy a man to do any actual editing, and so that naturally fell into the hands of Mr. Edes, who, oddly enough, was not even a member of the Committee during those years — for, though he had been a member of the original Committee appointed in 1893, he resigned almost at once and did not again become a member until 1901. He edited and saw through the press Volumes III, V, and VI.

    In the twelve years from 1892 to 1904, four volumes were published, as follows:

    volume contents meetings included date on title-page date of distribution



    Dec. 1892–1894 Dec.


    1896 Nov.



    Jan. 1895–1897 April


    1900 March



    Nov. 1897–1898 Dec.


    1902 Dec.



    Jan. 1899–1900 March


    1904 Nov.

    It will be observed that between the last meeting in each volume and the distribution of that volume there was a lapse of 23 months in Volume I, of 35 months in Volume III, of 48 months in Volume V, and of 56 months in Volume VI. All members were uneasy at the ever increasing delay, and especially those members who wrote papers or contributed material, as it was discouraging not to see the result of their labors in print until years after their communications had been made. The cause of the trouble lay in the fact that neither Mr. Edes nor any other busy man could spare the time from his vocation to do the necessary work; and it was felt that the only solution of the difficulty was for the Society to have a paid Editor of Publications. With his usual energy and enthusiasm, Mr. Edes set to work and obtained pledges for the salary from generous members; the necessary alterations in the Society’s By-Laws were made at the annual meeting in November, 1904; at the Council meeting the following month I had the honor of being elected Editor; and in January, 1905, I took charge of the Publications.

    In the twenty years that have since elapsed, 1905–1924, nineteen volumes have been published, as follows:

    volume contents meetings included date on title-page date of distribution




    1913 March




    1910 May



    April 1900–1902 April


    1905 Nov.



    Nov. 1902–1904 Nov.


    1906 Oct.




    1907 Nov.



    Dec. 1904–1906 Nov.


    1908 May



    Dec. 1906–1907 Dec.


    1910 May



    Jan. 1908–1909 Dec.


    1911 April



    Jan. 1910–1911 March


    1912 Jan.



    April 1911–1913 Feb.


    1913 Nov.



    March 1913–1914 Dec.


    1916 Jan.



    Jan. 1915–1916 April


    1917 June



    Nov. 1916–1917 Nov.


    1919 April



    Dec. 1917–1919 Feb.


    1920 Oct.



    March 1919–1919 Dec.


    1920 Dec.




    1921 Jan.




    1923 Dec.



    Jan. 1920–1922 Jan.


    1924 Feb.



    Feb. 1922–1924 Feb.


    1924 Oct.

    In addition, Volume XXVI (Transactions) has advanced to page 87; and the text of Volumes XV–XVI (Harvard College Records) has been set and cast.

    Of the twenty-three volumes thus far published, eighteen (I, III, V–VIII, X–XIV, XVII–XXI, XXIV, XXV) are Transactions, and five (II, IV, IX, XXII, XXIII) are Collections. Various volumes of Collections have been projected, some before and some after I became Editor. Of the latter, all have been published — Volume IX (Check-List of Boston Newspapers, 1704–1780) in 1907, and Volumes XXII–XXIII (Plymouth Church Records) in 1921 and 1923. Of Volume IV (Calendars, Bibliographies, etc.), containing 518 pages, pp. 1–82, 201–289 (171 pages in all) were edited by Mr. Edes, the remaining 347 pages by myself, and the volume was published in 1910. Of Volumes XV–XVI (Harvard College Records), this much can be said: they were projected in 1902, but nothing was done about them until I became Editor. The text, filling 864 pages, has (as stated above) been completed, the index to the text is in manuscript, a portion of the preliminary matter is in type, the introduction is nearly completed, and the volumes may be expected toward the end of 1925.

    There remain to be considered the Royal Commissions and the Royal Instructions. It would be tedious to attempt to recount the trials and tribulations which these have caused. The details will be found in the Editor’s report to the Council on November 7, 1907, and in the Preface to Volume II. Suffice it to say here that in March, 1893, Mr. Goodell presented to the Society copies of the Royal Commissions and of the Royal Instructions issued to certain of the Crown officials of the Massachusetts Bay, 1681–1774; that at that time it was supposed that the Commissions and the Instructions together would fill a volume of about five hundred pages; that printing at once began; that, as this progressed, an occasional new Commission and many new instructions were found, and soon it was obvious that the material would far outrun the limits of a single volume; that, after all the Commissions (1681–1774), and the Instructions from 1686 to 1702, had been set, printing was brought to a stop from lack of funds. Thus the matter stood when I became Editor, and remained until 1910, when Mr. Leverett generously said he would pay for a volume containing the Commissions only. At once I tackled the task, only to find that the copies furnished by Mr. Goodell were both badly made and incomplete. Hence the portion already set was relegated to the scrap heap, new copies of the Commissions were obtained from London, and in 1913 Volume II, containing the Commissions only, was published. Meanwhile, in 1912, Mr. Leverett had offered to pay for the Instructions as well. New copies of these were obtained from London, and the manuscript, filling about 3000 pages, is now on deposit at the Massachusetts Historical Society, where it is accessible to scholars and students, by many of whom it has already been examined.

    It thus appears that all the volumes of Collections so far projected have been brought to completion except the Harvard College Records (Volumes XV–XVI), the publication of which can be expected next year, and the Royal Instructions, the publication of which must be left until the Society’s finances are in better condition. It is with deep regret that I pass on to my successor any unfinished work, but fourteen volumes of Transactions and five volumes of Collections, besides two other volumes of Collections nearly completed and about one-third of still another volume of Transactions, in twenty years have taxed my capacity for work to the limit.

    Finally, there has long been in preparation an Index to Volumes I–XXV of our Publications. This, obviously, cannot be completed until Volumes XV and XVI have been published; and hence the appearance of the Index volume cannot be expected for perhaps two or three years.

    In bringing to a close this my last report, I cannot sufficiently express my appreciation of our delightful meetings, my gratitude to the Council for the support and help it has always given me, and my deep thanks to those persons (whether members or non-members of the Society) who, by contributing papers and material, have made our Publications what they are and with whom my associations have been so pleasant and profitable. Finally, I have been under great obligations to all my colleagues on the Committee of Publication, though I hope it will not be thought invidious if two are mentioned by name. Except during the last year or two of his life, when his failure to do so showed only too plainly his waning physical strength, Mr. Edes read proofs with more care than any other member of the Committee save the Editor; and to him appeals were always made in matters relating to typography and illustrations. Mr. Kittredge has not only caught many errors, slips, and infelicities that had escaped the editorial eye, but has never been too busy to give his opinion on matters of policy, the appropriateness of material for our Publications, or other knotty questions where the Editor hesitated to trust entirely to his own judgment.145

    The President announced the retirement of Mr. Albert Matthews as Editor of Publications, and the election by the Council of Mr. Kenneth Ballard Murdock as his successor.

    Mr. George L. Kittredge offered the following minute, which was unanimously adopted by a rising vote:

    The members of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts wish to express their regret at the retirement of the Editor of Publications, Albert Matthews, and at the same time to signify their appreciation of his services. This they would prefer to do, if it were possible, in language that should not suggest the merely conventional hyperbole not unusual on such occasions. In the present instance, however, the simple truth may sound extravagant to those who do not know the facts. Yet the facts must be stated, and these can voice themselves in superlatives alone.

    The Society, in the last twenty years, has received many gifts from its members, but no gift that equals in value the prodigal expenditure of time, of learning, and of exact scholarship that the Editor has bestowed upon our publications. His wonderfully extensive knowledge of English and American history and literature, his accuracy, his independence in judgment, his sureness of touch, his good taste and sense of style, and his almost miraculous keenness on the trail of truant details and elusive evidence are equalled only by the modesty and tact which he has always shown, though with no lack of firmness, in dealing with the contributions that have passed under his editorial eye and through his editorial hands. He has written many papers for the Society, ranging from brief notes to elaborate monographs — all of characteristic excellence. And, finally, it is to his initiative that the Society owes a considerable number of the communications offered by his associates. “Here was a Cæsar. When comes such another?”146

    Mr. Harold Murdock read the following paper:


    In a paper in this volume147 on the British attack, which should be read as a prelude to this, I characterize General Gage’s command in Boston as a good army. Judged by the same military standards, the Grand American army, as it was somewhat grandiloquently styled at Cambridge, was no army at all. Writing in 1818, John Adams’s characterization of this force was clear and concise:

    The Army at Cambridge was not a National Army, for there was no Nation: It was not a United States Army, for there was no united States. It was not an Army of united Colonies; for it could not be said in any sense that the Colinies were united, the Center of their union, the Congress at Philadelphia had not adopted them, nor acknowledged the Army at Cambridge. It was not a New England Army, for New England had not associated. New England had no legal Legislature nor any common executive Authority even upon the principle of original Authority, or even of original power in the people. Massachusetts had her Army, Connecticutt her Army, New Hampshire her Army, and Rhode Island her Army. These four Armies met at Cambridge, and imprisoned the British Army in Boston. But who was the Sovereign of this united or rather congregated Army and who its commander in Chief? It had none. Putnam Poor148 and Green were as independent of Ward, as Ward was of them. None of them but Ward was Subject to the orders of the Massachusetts provincial Congress. I desire to know from whom Putnam received his Commission, and from whom Poor received his Commission?149

    These legal anomalies were responsible in part for conditions described by Mr. Frothingham as follows: “The orderly books of this period attest the difficulty of reducing the men to the habits of the soldier’s life. Offenders were frequent. Intoxication, peculation, false returns, disobedience of orders, disrespect to officers, want of soldier-like conduct, were the most common offences.”150 It was probably not until Washington’s arrival, when, to use his own words, he found “a mixed multitude of people here, under very little discipline, order, or government,”151 that the punishments cited by Frothingham went into effect, that is, “pecuniary fines, standing in the pillory, riding the wooden horse, drumming out of camp, whipping at the head of the regiment, or in still more public places.”152

    The nominal control of the Massachusetts forces was vested in the Provincial Congress, the Committee of Safety sitting at Cambridge holding executive authority from it. The Council of War was composed of the generals from the different colonies and appears to have acted in an advisory capacity. The two months succeeding the affair of Lexington was certainly a critical period in the American camp. More than once there were grave doubts as to whether Massachusetts would be able to hold her men together. The laws long operative in the land had been brought into disrepute. The Courts had been overthrown and too many of the army, accustomed to and encouraged in the defiance of governmental authority, began to display the same disposition toward edicts of the Provincial Congress that they had toward those formulated by a British parliament. The towns which so gladly refrained from placing their tax money in the hands of the legal Receiver General showed an equal disinclination to acknowledge the authority of his successor named by the Provincial Congress.153 The camps became the hotbed of radical debate, the civil power was openly condemned and threatened. “We tremble,” said the Provincial Congress on May 16, in a letter to the Continental Congress, “at having an army, although consisting of our own countrymen, established here, without a civil power to provide for and control it.”154 The alarming nature of the situation is nowhere better set forth than in the letter of Joseph Warren dated May 26 to Samuel Adams, then in Philadelphia:

    I see more & more the Necessity of establishing a civil Government here and such a Government as shall be sufficient to control the military Forces, not only of this Colony, but also Such as Shall be sent to us from the other Colonies. The Continent must Strengthen & support with all its Weight the civil Authority here, otherwise our Soldiery will lose the Ideas of right & wrong, and will plunder instead of protecting, the Inhabitants. This is but too evident already; & I assure you inter nos, that unless some Authority Sufficient to restrain the Irregularities of this Army, is established, we Shall very soon find ourselves involved in greater Difficulties than you can well imagine.… My good Wish therefore is that we may restrain everything which tends to weaken the Principles of Right & Wrong, more especially with regard to property.… I hope Care will be taken by the Continental Congress to apply an immediate Remedy, as the Infection is caught by every new Core [corps] that arrives.… For the Honor of my Country, I wish the Disease may be cured before it is known to exists.155

    Elbridge Gerry’s letter of June 4, addressed to the Massachusetts delegates in the Continental Congress, is in the same strain:

    The people are fully possessed of their dignity from the frequent delineation of their rights, which have been published to defeat the ministerial party in their attempt to impress them with high notions of government. They now feel rather too much their own importance, and it requires great skill to produce such subordination as is necessary. This takes place principally in the army; they have affected to hold the military too high, but the civil must be first supported, and unless an established form of government is provided, it will be productive of injury. Every day’s delay makes the task more arduous.156

    Clearly the Revolution in Massachusetts had reached a stage where its champions believed that Continental support was necessary to avert anarchy. Among the wiser heads the army was coming to be regarded as a greater menace to civil authority and property rights than it was to the royal garrison in Boston.

    Yet there are notes of optimism in the correspondence and gossip of the day. “Fine fellows you know our countrymen are,” writes James Warren to Samuel Adams, “and want nothing but a general of spirit and abilities to make them a fine army.”157 William Tudor rejoices that “luckily for us the unevenness of the Country favours our irregular mode of Attack & Defence.”158 To Putnam is attributed the remark that the Americans, while anxious about their legs, had no fear as to their heads. If covered to their shoulders, they would fight forever. In this strange camp good men winced at the profanity that greeted their ears, yet the soldiers listened reverently and in large numbers to militant sermons and sang their hymns with vociferous fervor. There were scores of incompetent officers who cringed before their turbulent commands, and there were also many forceful spirits who had been shot over in the French Wars and who commanded respect and some measure of obedience within their sphere of influence. Some of these were half-pay officers in the King’s service who referred to certain men in the British garrison of Boston as friends and old comrades in arms.

    Our modern historians have opined that the potency of this besieging army had its root in “the glorious spirit of freedom” which animated its ranks. Perhaps I am only translating this sentiment more literally in expressing the conviction that the American camp was inspired by a hearty and implacable hatred for their adversaries, a hatred based not so much upon any consciousness of injuries suffered or wrongs endured, as upon the conviction that the chains of a tyrannical bondage were being forged for them in London.

    As to the numbers of this army, the constantly shifting personnel of the regiments, due to the activities of recruits and deserters, makes it difficult of determination. The returns of different dates have always been regarded with suspicion by historians. There exists General Ward’s estimate of June 9, naming sixteen regiments in and about Cambridge, with a strength of about six thousand rank and file.159 These formed the centre of the Provincial lines. The right rested on the high land in Roxbury and included nine Massachusetts regiments under Thomas, with about four thousand men. To these should be added the two New Hampshire regiments of Stark and Reed at Medford and Charlestown Neck, the Connecticut regiments of Spencer and Putnam at Roxbury and Cambridge, and the Rhode Island “Army of Observation” under Nathanael Greene at Jamaica Plain. Perhaps the entire force investing Boston at this time may be roughly estimated at fifteen thousand rank and file. These men were armed with guns of all sizes and calibres, sometimes owned, sometimes borrowed, sometimes the spoil of Tory houses. There was no magazine or arsenal. Powder and ball were in insufficient supply, and even nails and old scraps of iron were treasured as death-dealing missiles in case the supply of lead ran low.160 Testimony as to the number of field guns is conflicting, but this is unimportant, as there were at this time no gunners competent to handle them to advantage.

    These facts are all clearly demonstrated in the annals of the time, and yet it was this so-called army, characterized by William Tudor as “little better than an armed mob,” that was to challenge to combat the British army in Boston.

    The evidence upon which our Bunker Hill story is based consists, first, in that of a contemporaneous character; second, in that developed by the Putnam-Prescott controversy which had its origin in General Dearborn’s outbreak in 1818; and third, in the affidavits furnished by the alleged surviving participants of the battle who attended the semi-centennial exercises in 1825.161 I assume that no one denies that contemporaneous evidence is the most hopeful source for the establishment of any historical fact and promises the most substantial reward to the conscientious investigator. Unfortunately, the testimony of this sort concerning Bunker Hill is meagre and unsatisfactory. Official information is almost wholly lacking. We have the report of the Committee of Safety, written by the Rev. Peter Thacher, who, whatever his patriotic enthusiasm, lacked many qualities desirable in a military historian. The orderly book of the Commander-in-Chief at Cambridge contains only a marginal note stating that the battle was fought on June 17 and giving the number of casualties. No one can say how long after the battle this entry was made. A few other orderly books are in existence, but they furnish little of importance. The lack of organization in the army was clearly reflected in its book-keeping. There has always been debate as to whether Ward’s orders given to Prescott were in writing or only of a verbal character. We have little to guide us as to Ward’s intentions or activities before or during the battle.

    Contemporaneous statements by participants in the action are scarce. There is Prescott’s letter to John Adams,162 Stark’s laconic communication to the New Hampshire authorities,163 and a few useful diaries and letters. Then there are the newspapers, and letters of noncombatants, giving the gossip of the action and the feeling in the camp. This forms an important, if contradictory, body of testimony.

    The evidence of 1818 is not only perplexing but of distinctly dubious value.164 For the most part it embodies the hazy memories and very present animosities of men of character and even distinction. Dearborn’s account, with his attack upon Putnam’s courage and behavior, abounds in absurd misstatements and amazing flights of imagination. He marshalled good men and true to utter words in his support, and General Putnam’s son also rallied a reputable host to oppose their muddy recollections to the vagaries of Dearborn’s friends. The devotee of any theory on Bunker Hill can find authority among these embittered witnesses, and evidence to overthrow any theory can likewise be had in plentiful supply. Dearborn had so little conception of the infirmities that characterize old age, that he republished the contemporaneous map of Lieutenant de Berniere with some astounding “corrections.” This brought down upon his head the criticism of so good a man as Governor Brooks of Massachusetts, whose own memory was in a state that a physician would probably have pronounced normal for his years. Mr. Winsor advised the —

    avoidance of the mingled recollections and self-deceptions of the survivors of all grades, who in 1818 furnished so many depositions, over forty years after the conflict, to perplex the truth-lover. These confused recollections, added to the local jealousies of the partisans of the troops of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut, and to the facts narrated by different persons as having taken place in positions so disconnected as the redoubt and the rail fence, have done much to render the sifting of evidence very necessary.165

    Mr. Frothingham had the courage and the patience to attempt this sifting when he was writing his History of the Siege. No one in his time could have done it better, but the result was not satisfactory to him and can hardly be satisfactory to the reader who desires “nothing but the truth.” Writing seventy-five years after the battle, Mr. Frothingham explains apologetically that he feels “incapable of intentionally disparaging the services of any of the patriot band who bore part in this great work.” Perhaps to-day, one hundred and fifty years after the event, a writer is justified in approaching the task with a desire neither to disparage nor exalt the services of anyone, whatever his views or activities in the controversies of the time.

    The third body of evidence, that of 1825, can be dismissed in a few words. Mr. William Sullivan and other directors of the Bunker Hill Monument Association improved the opportunity of the semi-centennial celebration to obtain the depositions of some forty survivors of the battle, who graced the occasion by their presence. A transcript of this evidence in three volumes was in 1842 submitted to the Massachusetts Historical Society by Richard Sullivan. It was referred for inspection to a committee made up of Messrs. George Ticknor, George Bancroft, and George E. Ellis. In April, 1842, Dr. Ellis reported to the Society as follows:

    Their contents were most extraordinary; many of the testimonies extravagant, boastful, inconsistent and utterly untrue; mixtures of old men’s broken memories and fond imaginings with the love of the marvellous. Some of those who gave in affidavits about the battle could not have been in it, nor even in its neighborhood. They had got so used to telling the story for the wonderment of village listeners as grandfathers’ tales and as petted representatives of “the spirit of ’76,” that they did not distinguish between what they had seen and done and what they had read, heard, or dreamed. The decision of the committee was that much of the contents of the volumes was wholly worthless for history, and some of it discreditable, as misleading and false.166

    The Committee concluded that these fulminations of the aged men whom Daniel Webster so glowingly apostrophized on Bunker Hill in 1825 should be disregarded as history, sealed up, and deposited in the Cabinet of the Society as curios. They are supposed to have been returned later to the Sullivan family and by them consigned to the flames. I wonder what the verdict would have been on that other evidence taken in Lexington and Concord in that semi-centennial year of 1825, had it been submitted to the same high historical conclave for inspection.

    In the seventeen years intervening between the taking of the Bunker Hill affidavits and their submission to the Historical Society, they were of course regarded as a legitimate part of the battle story. Mr. Samuel Swett, a voluminous writer on our subject during the first half of the nineteenth century, was instrumental in their circulation and publication; but the action of the Historical Society and the caution of later historians have prevented any serious spread of this annoying infection.

    Having emphasized those characteristics of the army which were most in the minds of those who were responsible for its well-being and control, and having classified the evidence upon which our story of the battle is founded, we find ourselves on the threshold of our subject. I do not propose to re-tell the story of Bunker Hill in consecutive narrative fashion, but rather to comment upon certain phases of the affair with the aid of such contemporaneous evidence as exists. Let us for the moment close our ears to the angry clamor of 1818, with a view to refreshing our memories as to what was said and thought in the more fateful year of 1775.

    The Committee of Safety was well served by spies and doubtless General Gage’s designs upon Dorchester Neck were promptly reported in Cambridge. The Council of War was composed of men of courage, with little or no experience in the field of generalship. They were doubtless aware that the high lands of Dorchester and Charlestown were necessary to the security of the British. They must also have known that for purposes of defence against any outbreak of the garrison, these positions were in no sense important to the besiegers. So when on May 12 the Committee of Safety and the Council of War considered the seizure and fortification of Bunker Hill they were contemplating aggressive action to secure that which was unimportant to themselves but vital to the interests of their enemy. Nothing came of these deliberations, both bodies shrinking at that time from so bold and provocative a measure. The matter came up again on June 15, the day on which Gage’s plans for the 18th had become known in Cambridge. The Committee of Safety “resolved unanimously” that not only Bunker Hill but “some one hill or hills on Dorchester Neck be likewise secured.” This resolve was not entered in the records of the Committee of Safety until the 19th, perhaps from neglect, perhaps to ensure secrecy. Representatives of the Committee and the Council doubtless conferred with the generals commanding the right wing sometime during the 16th of June. While no record exists of what occurred in that quarter, we must assume that General Thomas was not favorable to the suggestion. Any move upon Dorchester Neck would have devolved upon him, and it is certain that no move or no feint to suggest such a move was attempted by him. Putnam has been represented as the moving and forceful spirit in the Council in favor of aggression, Joseph Warren as being in opposition.167 If this is so, the gathering of Prescott’s detachment in the field alongside Ward’s Headquarters in the gathering darkness of that June evening to listen to the prayer, probably of President Langdon of Harvard, was evidence of the fact that Putnam had carried his point.

    Joseph Warren lay that night at Watertown. Was he fearful that this expedition was rash and ill-considered, that the detachment was being sent to death or captivity, that the God of battles was frowning upon a good cause? Perhaps on this, the last night of his life, he was supported by the hope that the God of battles, who had suffered this thing to happen, might yet relent to confound his enemies and to bring his servants through without dishonor. Next day he was in the field, musket in hand, the ranking officer on the ground, but declining all command, insistent on serving as the pupil of more experienced men. He makes but a dim and modest figure on the battle canvas, hardly distinguishable in the throng that lines the front. He fell unobserved in the moment of defeat, and it was by British hands that he was interred in his mother soil. Is it possible that his rejection of the pleading of his friends and his rash and needless presence with the army were to convince his colleagues that his prudent counsel had not been dictated by fear? It was the post of danger not of authority that he sought and found upon the field.

    I have read to you Mr. Winsor’s comment on the confusion arising from evidence as to facts taking place “in positions so disconnected as the redoubt and the rail fence.” I propose to avoid certain pitfalls by treating affairs at these points as two separate actions, which in some sense they certainly were. The rail fence was a late and uncommanded interpolation, and lends itself naturally to separate consideration.

    And now let us fall in with the rear of that dusky column that is moving slowly across the green into the Charlestown road. The prayer has been said, ammunition and provisions168 have been distributed, the customary allowance of rum has been served, and the lanterns twinkle feebly in the van. There are three men in this column to whom I think we may attach ourselves with profit. Colonel Prescott you know, and I would also introduce you to two private soldiers, Thomas Boynton of Andover and Peter Brown of Prescott’s regiment. These men are recommended not because of any personal partiality that I hold for them, or because they will support any preconceived theory or crotchet of mine, but rather because they are the only members of that famous expedition who told us nearly a hundred and fifty years ago what they did and what they saw at the defence of the redoubt in the Battle of Bunker Hill.

    Prescott’s information is imparted in the letter he wrote to John Adams on August 25, 1775:

    On the 16 June, in the evening, I received orders to march to Breed’s Hill in Charlestown, with a party of about one thousand men, consisting of three hundred of my own regiment, Colonel Bridge and Lieut. Brickett, with a detachment of theirs, and two hundred Connecticut forces commanded by Captain Knowlton. We arrived at the spot, the lines were drawn by the engineer, and we began the intrenchment about twelve o’clock; …169

    This is a brief, business-like statement, and yet it plunges us at once into the realm of controversy. This hinges upon Prescott’s use of the name Breed’s Hill, and his failure to mention an episode that all our historians assert as having occurred. Samuel Gray, writing to John Dyer in London under date of July 12, 1775, mentions as hearsay, —

    that the engineer170 and two generals went on to the hill at night and reconnoitred the ground; that one general and the engineer were of opinion we ought not to intrench on Charlestown Hill [Breed’s] till we had thrown up some works on the north and south ends of Bunker Hill, to cover our men in their retreat, if that should happen, but on the pressing importunity of the other general officer, it was consented to begin and was done.171

    Gray is careful to give this statement as hearsay and not of his own knowledge, but it receives a measure of confirmation from the report of the Committee of Safety dated July 25, which states that “by some mistake, this hill [Breed’s] was marked out for the intrenchment instead of the other.”172 As Putnam is credited with being the dominating figure in the conference which was responsible for Prescott’s march, so he has been named as the general who overbore his colleagues in that night conference on Bunker Hill. There is no satisfactory evidence in support of either theory. Putnam, it would seem, should have been the last man to advocate the Breed’s Hill position. All the evidence, ancient and modern, good, bad, and indifferent, indicates that throughout the 17th of June Putnam had Bunker Hill so to speak “on the brain.” It is alleged on the best authority that he drew men and entrenching tools from Breed’s where they were sorely needed,173 and that he diverted men marching into action to the work of entrenching on Bunker Hill. Of course, he was right in regarding Prescott in great peril unless the more commanding position in his rear was securely held; but if this was his opinion, is it likely that he forced upon unwilling colleagues the fortification of an untenable outpost when there were neither tools nor men enough to fortify and garrison both positions?

    It has been asserted that Prescott’s reference to Breed’s Hill was an inadvertence, and this may well be so. Dawson argued in 1868 that the Council of War deliberately deceived the Committee of Safety and that Prescott had verbal orders from Ward to occupy Breed’s Hill. According to this theory the dispute might have been between Putnam and Prescott, the former urging the occupation of Bunker Hill and Prescott insisting on carrying out Ward’s orders to entrench on the lesser height. There is no authority for this entirely plausible theory. Prescott’s silence leaves us in perplexity. Indeed, if we disregard the long-range evidence of 1818 we have little but current gossip to support the story of any quarrel or the presence of any officer on the ground that night superior in rank to Prescott.

    We have now cleared the way for the three witnesses I have named, and can listen to Prescott as he goes on with his story. The bombardment of his position, he says, began “just before sun-rising,” and then he adds curtly, “the engineer forsook me.”174 Worse than that, his field officers (that is, Bridge and Brickett) failed him, or, to use his own words, “being indisposed, could render me but little service, and the most of the men under their command deserted the party.”175 About two o’clock, seeing that the British were landing at Moulton’s Point, he ordered the train with two field pieces supported by the Connecticut troops “to go and oppose them.” This was certainly a feeble force to send against the troops who were already swarming up the little hill that crowned the point, and we are moved to pity as well as censure by Prescott’s next remark. “The train marched a different course, and I believe those sent to their support followed, I suppose to Bunker’s Hill.”176 Then two encouraging facts are noted. The enemy waited an hour at Moulton’s Point before marching to the attack, and in that interval Prescott beheld that “party of Hampshire, in conjunction with some other forces,”177 who had “lined a fence at the distance of three score rods back of the fort, partly to the north.”178 To find himself in touch with reinforcements after suffering so heavily from desertions may well have brought cheer to the Colonel’s heart. Scanty as his numbers were, Prescott then commanded his “Lieut.col. Robinson and Major Woods, each with a detachment, to flank the enemy.” Where they went remains a mystery, but at all events he had “reason to think” that they “behaved with prudence and courage.”179 This left him, he tells us, “with perhaps one hundred and fifty men in the fort.” We must assume, I think, that his estimate of the residue of his force was a minimum and that from some quarter he must have been soon after reinforced. Prescott continues:

    The enemy advanced and fired very hotly on the fort, and meeting with a warm reception, there was a very smart firing on both sides. After a considerable time, finding our ammunition was almost spent, I commanded a cessation till the enemy advanced within thirty yards, when we gave them such a hot fire that they were obliged to retire nearly one hundred and fifty yards before they could rally and come again to the attack. Our ammunition being nearly exhausted, could keep up only a scattering fire. The enemy being numerous, surrounded our little fort, began to mount our lines and enter the fort with their bayonets. We were obliged to retreat through them, while they kept up as hot a fire as it was possible for them to make.180

    So much for the observations of the gallant commander in the redoubt. Now let us hear from Private Peter Brown, who speaks for the common soldier and gives us picturesquely his experiences and point of view. A certain letter dated June 25, 1775, and written to his mother, is the medium through which this brave man speaks.181 He noted the first glow of dawn reddening the cloudless east, the high-piled town beyond the river emerging wraithlike from the gloom of night, the battery frowning grimly on Copp’s Hill, and the men of war swinging lazily at their moorings in the stream below. “We worked there undiscovered till about 5 in the Morn,” he says, “and then we saw our Danger being against 8 Ships of the Line & all Boston fortified against us. (The Danger we were in made us think there was Treachery, & that we were brot there to be all slain, and I must & will venture to say that there was Treachery, Oversight or Presumption in the Conduct of our Officers.)”

    Peter Brown was evidently a typical Provincial soldier of the better sort. That he was speaking for his comrades as well as himself is evidenced by an order passed in Provincial Congress on June 20, naming a committee of five “to inquire into the grounds of a report which has prevailed in the army, that there has been treachery in some of the officers.” The story came to the ears of Ezekiel Price, for we read in his diary, “all the reports of treachery were entirely without foundation, and propagated by the enemies to the cause, and weak, discontented men, and by some cowards who fled from the engagement, and formed these lies to favor their escape from danger.”182

    So far as Peter Brown was concerned, these strictures were undeserved. He was no coward, no thought of flight entered his mind, and he kept at work despite his suspicions of his superiors. He continues:

    About half after 5 in the Morn, we not having above half the Fort done, they began to fire, … They killed one of us, and then they ceased till about 11 o’Clock and then they began pretty brisk again; and that caused some of our young Country ppl. to desert, apprehending the Danger in a clearer manner than the rest, who were more diligent in digging & fortifyg ourselves against them. We began to be almost beat out, being tired by our Labour and having no sleep the night before, but little victuals, no Drink but Rum.183

    Brown then comments on the waxing and waning of the bombardment, and notes the fire “from the Ship that lay in the River against the Neck to stop our Reinforcemts wc they did in some Measure.”184 After repeated applications for artillery, four field pieces arrived from Cambridge, “the Capt of which,” says Brown, “fired but a few times, and then swang his Hat round three Times to the Enemy then ceased to Fire.” Soon the barges came into view, making their way across the river crowded with regulars. Brown guesses their number to be about 3000 and adds, that there were “about 700 of us left not deserted,185 besides 500 Reinforcemt that could not get so nigh to us as to do any good hardly till they saw that we must all be cut off, or some of them, and then they advanced.”186 When the Regulars began to land we are told that the officers in the redoubt —

    ordered the Artilly to go out of the fort & prevent their Landg if possible, from which the Artilly Capt took his Pieces & went right off home to Cambridge fast as he could, for which he is now confined & we expect will be shot for it.187 But the Enemy landed & fronted before us & formed themselves in an Oblong Square, so as to surround us wc they did in part, & After they were well formed they advanced towds us in Order to swallow us up, but they found a choaky Mouthful of us, tho’ we could do nothg with our small Arms as yet for Distance, & had but two Cannon & nary Gunner. And they from Bo & from the ships a firg & throwg Bombs keepg us down till they got almost round us. But God in Mercy to us fought our Battle for us, & altho’ we were but few & so were suffered to be defeated by them, we were preserved in a most wonderful Manner far beyond Expectation, to Admiration.

    Peter Brown had endured all manner of hardness as became a good soldier, but he did not propose to throw his life away and was not among those who we are told lingered to throw stones and oppose clubbed muskets to the bayonets of the troops. When resistance had become folly, he for the first time thought of himself. Here is his picturesque conclusion: “I was in the fort till the Regulars came in & I jumped over the Walls & ran for about half a Mile where Balls flew like Hailstones, & Cannons roared like Thunder.”

    Thomas Boynton’s statement is valuable, if rather commonplace.188 He cites again the events of the night and morning, then adds:

    At the sun’s rising they began to fire upon us from the shiping; the 3d or 4th shot they kild one man, and many others escaped very narrowly.… About 2 or 3 o’clock, the enemy landed, and advanced toards us, its thot to the number of 2000 men, and soon planted their cannon and began the fire, and advancing up to our fort. After they came within gun shot we fird, and then ensud a very hot engagement. After a number of shots passed, the enemy retreated, and we ceased our fire for a few minutes. They advanced again, and we began a hot fire for a short time. The enemy scaling our walls and the number of our men being few, we was ordered to retreat, at which time the enemy were allmost round us, and a continual firing at our heals.

    Now what do we learn from these three combatants and eyewitnesses, including the commander at the redoubt? They agree upon all points except the ammunition, the two privates making no mention of that. Boynton and Brown coincide on certain minor details, as witness the mention of the first victim of the cannonade. Brown confirms Prescott as to the desertions and the misbehavior of the artillery, — Boynton, Prescott’s brief account of the action. The musketry began at long range and continued until Prescott gave the order to cease firing. The advancing troops are met almost under the walls of the redoubt by a close and deadly discharge that sends them reeling back one hundred and fifty yards. Then after a few moments’ cessation of fire the British half encircle the redoubt and rush it with the bayonet. This account is in complete harmony with what we hear from Boston, where to spectators the firing seemed incessant.189 It is also in agreement with Burgoyne’s narrative.190 An account of the battle that is supported by Prescott and Burgoyne and by belligerents and spectators on both sides of the river is at least worthy of presentation.

    Late American evidence states that the British threw aside their knapsacks, blankets, and all useless impedimenta before the final storm. This seems probable, although we find no mention of it in the British sources. Thacher’s report states that the die was cast when the British artillery gained a position where they raked the breastwork from end to end. Page’s map shows that the breastwork was first forced about midway of its length. There can be no doubt that the American defence was first broken in this quarter, but the maps indicate no spot where the guns could have been used with the results mentioned by Thacher. Mr. Swett, in recasting de Berniere’s map for use in his account of the battle, in 1826, did a curious thing. He shows the cannon firing through the sally port of the redoubt, and places them in the only place on the field where they could have accomplished this feat, wholly unmindful that he was leaving them within a few yards of the rail fence, where the gunners would have been picked off in a moment. There is evidence indicating that the breastwork was stoutly defended hand to hand.

    So much for the redoubt. You remember that Prescott told us of sending out the Connecticut troops to resist the British landing and that they marched another route, probably to Bunker Hill. Captain Knowlton was in charge of this detachment, and if he disobeyed orders, as Prescott believed, he was certainly ordered back by Putnam. Probably to Knowlton belongs the credit for the construction of the rail fence, although it is also probable that he was assisted by the “party of Hampshire” and by certain other adventurous souls who were inspired by their example. The seizure and defence of this line made possible the Battle of Bunker Hill and probably prevented an almost bloodless victory for Howe. Vital as this position was to the American cause, we have almost nothing in the way of contemporaneous evidence describing its defence. There was no commander there with an oversight over the whole line, no one in authority who could have submitted a comprehensive report. Old Pomeroy was probably present. Putnam may have been there also, but only for short and interrupted periods. Stark’s brief mention of his service would do as well for Waterloo or Armageddon as for Bunker Hill, while Knowlton tells us nothing of what took place along the Connecticut front. Stark makes no allusion to the Connecticut men, the New Hampshire contingent was invisible to Connecticut eyes, while we might well assume that the only Massachusetts contribution to the cause in this quarter was the fence itself and the ground upon which it was built.

    Certain facts are indisputable. We know not only that here were the two New Hampshire regiments of Stark and Reed and the Connecticut contingent under Knowlton, but that these, with the exception of Prescott’s regiment in the redoubt, were the only considerable American detachments who came on the field and stayed and fought as units. Stark’s position was on the extreme left of the line near the Mystic, while Knowlton, reinforced before four o’clock by certain Connecticut companies from Cambridge, was on the right, where the fence turned sharply to the southwest to join the breastwork. In the interval between these detachments, and probably interspersed with them, were such of the Massachusetts men as had made their way to this front, and all of the defenders on Knowlton’s right were doubtless also of Massachusetts commands. The first firing probably began in front of the redoubt, to draw attention from Howe’s advance along the Mystic, but the first attack fell upon Stark. He was shrewd enough to discover that his position could be turned by a column moving along the beach under cover of the bank. It is alleged that he had stones rolled down to the water’s edge and constructed some sort of rough defence for his protection. De Berniere’s British map is confirmatory of this, showing the line of the fence carried far out across the beach. We should remember that at this time the beach was at its narrowest stage, it being high water at thirty-four minutes after three. This condition undoubtedly favored Stark and impeded his enemy.

    Instead of achieving a bloodless flank movement, Howe found himself the victim of an American ambush. The fighting at this point was evidently close and destructive. The British detachment on the beach was perhaps subjected to a fire from the bank as well as in front, and was ultimately driven back in disorder. We must assume that Reed and the men immediately on his right were at this time being diverted by the Grenadiers, although according to Page’s British map it was not until the collapse of the enterprise on their right that these troops were seriously lined up for offensive work. The British soon abandoned their offensive against the fence, but toward the close of the action there was another sharp combat on the right of this line, details of which are preserved in the letters of two Connecticut soldiers, Captain John Chester and Lieutenant Samuel B. Webb. These men arrived with their company just as the breastwork was abandoned. With well-filled ammunition pouches they began their fire “very briskly; the regulars fell in great plenty; but, to do them justice, they kept a grand front, and stood their ground nobly.”191 The Connecticut men held their position until the fugitives from the redoubt reached them, Chester being of the opinion that his command “fought standing about six minutes,”192 when they were swept back in the tide of retreat.

    We are all familiar with the standardized story of Bunker Hill — the slow imposing advance of the troops, the hush that broods over the scene as the cannonading ceases and the attackers approach the works, the sudden crash of the American musketry, the wavering, bending, and cracking of the British line, which at last is swept down the hill in utter defeat. Then the activities of the British officers as they strive to bring order out of chaos, employing the points of their swords against their men; the gradual reforming of the lines, and then the second slow advance with the same disastrous results. Far down the slope, the refugees are halted, knapsacks and blankets are thrown away, and goaded still by the swords of their officers, the men are more driven than led up the hill to where this time victory awaits them. The intervals between these assaults suggest the intermissions between acts at the opera or those that separate the halves in a modern football contest. Conversation flows behind the rail fence and in the redoubt, congratulations are exchanged, words of encouragement are passed about, and there is speculation as to whether the stricken battalions will dare to come up again. It is a general attack all along the front from Charlestown to the Mystic.

    While Thacher’s report affords some basis for this tale, you find it more clearly branded with the date 1818. It was then that men came forward in angry and boastful mood with a wealth of detail and much elaboration of speech. The contemporaneous evidence, upon which this story is based, is unimaginative and laconic. Isaac Lothrop hears that the Provincials “obliged the enemy twice to give way.”193 Captain Chester was told “they partly broke and retreated … in the same manner were repulsed a second, and some say, a third time.”194 General Heath writes that the fire “staggered, and even broke them, but they rallied, and returning to the charge again and again, drove the Americans from the lines.”195 On every hand it was the common talk in the American Camp that the British had been twice repulsed. Now we know that the Light Infantry failed against the American left and that Pigot was thrown back at the redoubt, these incidents occurring at different times and in different places. I recall no witness previous to 1818 who alleged that he personally saw the two repulses that everyone reported as having occurred. We might construct a very reasonable theory, that men who served in the redoubt conferred with those who had fought at the fence, and from such intercourse came the story of the double retreat. This explanation appeals to me, and if Howe did risk his Grenadiers in a serious attack upon the fence, then we have a third check of the sort suffered by Pigot to be credited to the American arms.196 What thrilled the Provincials in 1775 was that their raw militia had at this point or that seen the British regulars break and retreat. Accepting this well-established fact, we may yet query the truth of the standardized story of the battle, with its long intermissions and its hordes of terrified soldiers running up hill and down dale a good half mile to their boats. The question of time has an important bearing on the case. I think we are justified in believing that not more than an hour elapsed between the first musketry fire and the retreat of the American army. Thacher, in draughting his report for the Committee of Safety says, “exactly an hour & an half.”197 The Committee, while accepting his account with few alterations, did amend this statement to read “about an hour.” Captain Chester, accepting the statement of an eye-witness, says “thirty-five minutes.”198 John Winthrop says “above an hour.”199 Isaac Lothrop says “about an hour.”200 These extracts show the trend of American opinion. Some of the earliest newspaper accounts named two hours, but you find also in these first hurried effusions the news of the slaying of Colonel Smith and General Burgoyne. Even Prescott’s guess of one hour and twenty minutes did not control the finding of the Committee of Safety. The American estimates of time find confirmation in the statements of combatants and non-combatants on the other side of the Charles. Their figures run from forty minutes to nearly an hour.201

    Would any soldier say, unless you could convince him that it took at least 120 minutes to make an hour, that it would have been possible in the time allowed for the British to come on three times at their slow pace, to be routed twice, and to undergo in the intervals the radical reorganization that was twice necessary, according to the prevalent story? Is this glorified narrative justified by contemporaneous evidence? I am not dogmatizing, but submit these queries for your consideration. The evidence of 1818 remains vital and intact for those who prefer to use it.

    The outstanding feature of the defence was the fire control maintained at different points. That undisciplined men, crowding to the walls for the chance to rest a musket, with units broken and intermixed, should have been amenable to such control is an astounding fact.202 Its efficacy was acknowledged by the British, whose slow advance in line contributed to its murderous effect. Possibly the men at the fence were good marksmen, but whatever their skill in this respect, it was their marvellous restraint that staggered the attackers at different points. Poorer shots than these Provincials might have wrought as great havoc with that close-packed and glittering target moving leisurely on into point-blank range.

    Stark and his associates have been criticized in some quarters for not emerging from their stronghold when the fighting waned on their front, to disperse the thin red line before them. But all semblance of units had disappeared behind the fence, the men could not have been moved even as companies, they were at best ill-trained in field evolutions, and bayonets were few and far between. Then Stark doubtless held in high respect that depleted force of Grenadiers and Light Infantry, and may have noted also that the fire of the Royal Artillery was becoming painfully precise and effective. He had prevented a great American disaster and did not propose at the eleventh hour to play into the hands of the British Commander. The prudent policy adopted by the defenders of the rail fence recalls appreciatively the lines of the poet:

    ’Tain’t a knowin’ kind o’ cattle

    Thet is ketched with mouldy corn.

    We come now to a brief consideration of the numbers engaged and the losses sustained. We have to consider these questions together, as one has a bearing upon the other. The early letters and newspaper accounts give the Provincial strength as from five to seven hundred men. The Committee of Safety says “about 1500.” Washington, doubtless following this report, repeats the same figure. Putnam is quoted as saying “fifteen hundred at first & 700 afterwards.”203 This, while capable of two interpretations, has been taken to mean 2200. Governor Trumbull, writing in 1779, returns to a figure of six hundred.204 Samuel Swett early in the nineteenth century gives the number as “fluctuating, but may be fairly estimated at 3500 who joined in the battle, and 500 more who covered the retreat.” Frothingham thought the number engaged at any one time was 1500, while perhaps 1000 more bore some part in the action. Dawson returned to the eighteenth-century estimate of 1500. The persistence of 1500 is doubtless due to the report of the Committee of Safety. In the confusion and uncertainty at the time, it may well have been assumed that such data as existed were in the hands of this Committee at Cambridge.

    It may be that the coming and going of the men on fleeting visits to the front during the progress of the battle has been exaggerated by modern writers. In the first place, as we have seen, the action was of very short duration. Moreover, men who had crossed the fire-swept area between Bunker and Breed’s Hills might well have considered that they were as safe at the front as in retracing those perilous steps. Our only record of desertions comes from the redoubt before the British advance had begun.

    As for losses, the first feeling among the Provincials was that they had suffered lightly. Estimates in the earliest accounts range from one to two hundred. General Ward’s memorandum in his orderly book says 420 killed and wounded and 30 captured, while the Provincial Congress report gives us, according to “an exact return,” a total of 449. Samuel Gray writes on July 12, 1775: “I think our loss can never be ascertained with precision, as the order, regularity, and discipline, of the troops from this province, is so deficient that no return can be made which is to be relied upon. However, the returns, for many reasons, … will exceed rather than fall short of the real loss.”205 Gray may have had in mind that good old American custom, ante-dating the French and Indian wars, which led soldiers to exaggerate their ills for the purpose of securing from time to time in the future special remuneration from a grateful government. At all events, hundreds of petitions are still in existence from alleged veterans of Bunker Hill praying for that which in modern times we style a pension, bonus, adjusted compensation, or what you will.

    What we regard to-day as the official report of losses is that offered by Mr. Frothingham in his History of the Siege, made up, as he tells us, “from letters, official returns, and an article in a Providence newspaper,” where the casualties are listed by regiments.206 He makes the total figure 441, sufficiently in harmony with the estimates of Ward and the Committee of Safety. No one, I think, can better Mr. Frothingham’s labors in this field, and for our purpose a figure of 441 is quite sufficient. If we accept this total, it is not without value in determining the number of men engaged. Perhaps the gentlemen composing the Massachusetts Committee, in preparing their report, may have been tempted to accept minimum figures for the Provincial numbers. They were writing for British consumption. They may not have been conscious at the time of the strength of their allies in the field. At all events, their estimate of 1500 Americans in action must be regarded as a severe if unconscious reflection upon their own province. The truth is that New Hampshire and Connecticut alone had a thousand men at the rail fence,207 a fact that no one has questioned, and this compels the conclusion that only five hundred of the five thousand Massachusetts troops ordered forward by Ward reached the firing line. It suggests also that, save for the detachment that stood by Prescott in the midst of the morning’s desertions, no Massachusetts soldier crossed the zone of fire to strike a blow in defence of Massachusetts soil. Here is a dilemma that seems to have escaped the attention of Massachusetts writers, who had faith in the Committee’s report. I understand that on Bunker Hill there is a tablet stating that “the American troops engaged numbered 1500,” and that they “were mainly from Massachusetts.” I respectfully submit that one or the other of these assertions must be incorrect.

    Fortunately, we have not only the approximate strength of the New Hampshire and Connecticut forces, but their losses as well. From New Hampshire 86 men were killed or wounded. From Connecticut 45 appear in the casualty list. This makes a total loss of 131 in these two detachments, or thirteen per cent of their number. Deducting this figure of 131 from the total Provincial loss of 441 leaves in round numbers 310 casualties to be borne by Massachusetts. According to the Providence newspaper used by Frothingham, this loss involved, to a greater or less extent, fourteen regiments, all those, in fact, who rest under any suspicion of having been ordered to the front by Ward. Now if the percentage of loss in the Massachusetts troops was the same as that suffered by the New Hampshire and Connecticut forces, their casualties of 310 represented thirteen per cent of their numbers in the field. This would mean that 2400 instead of 500 of Ward’s army participated in the battle, and also that the defenders of the Breed’s Hill lines aggregated nearly 3500 men. This computation, curiously enough, brings us into close harmony with Swett’s guess of nearly one hundred years ago. If you choose to believe that Massachusetts suffered heavier proportionate loss than her allies, if you settle upon twenty instead of thirteen per cent for her, then you have 1600 Massachusetts men in action, 2600 manning the lines, and find yourself in harmony with Frothingham. It is an interesting problem, this distribution of the Massachusetts army between the firing line and the crowded and disordered rear. If I am not disqualified, as a Massachusetts man, from hazarding an opinion in the matter, I should say that there are solid grounds for the hope that at least two thousand of Ward’s soldiers, commanded and uncommanded, principally in small units and groups, found their way to where death and danger lurked.

    I should be violating a time-honored tradition, if in these rambling notes on Bunker Hill I omitted some specific mention of what controversialists have specified as “the command.” Of course, you have divined my opinion that in the nature of things there could have been no dominating oversight or direction of the field. It is amazing to me that there could ever have been a controversy upon this subject, a controversy in which even Daniel Webster mingled and which he thought not unworthy of his steel. Charles Lee would hardly have been selected for any judicial quality that resided in him to umpire a matter of this sort, and yet it would have been well for New England had it rested content with the verdict he pronounced in his Vindication published in 1778. Here it is: “The Americans were composed, in part, of raw lads and old men, half armed, with no practice or discipline, commanded without order, and God knows by whom.”208

    Prescott was the presiding genius at the redoubt. His claim to fame has never been disputed, and after eighteen hours of toil and vigil he waged his battle with a stout heart. The services of Putnam are less clearly defined, less recognizable perhaps because of the fervid protestations of over-zealous friends. But this much may be said for him, that if he did play the coward or poltroon at Bunker Hill, it was for the first and only time in a long, honorable, and courageous life.

    We began our review of the Provincial activities at Bunker Hill by some comments upon the army at Cambridge. Out of this seeming welter of disorder and insurbordination we have seen emerge those sturdy defenders of the Breed’s Hill lines. Whatever their numbers, though lacking the confidence and inspiration that comes from discipline and leadership, they withstood unshaken a prolonged bombardment by land and sea and dared to face in arms those trained battalions of the King.

    Beyond Bunker Hill and the isthmus were the hundreds and perhaps thousands of stragglers who had failed to meet the test.209 They were called cowards in their day, though we judge them more kindly now. But those mightier souls who found strength and joy in battle — their achievement forms the most amazing fact in the story of Bunker Hill.