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[p. 43]

The Second Battle of Bunker's Hill.

We use this caption advisedly, as the hill was then known as Bunker's. The result was not accomplished without resistance, there was considerable loss of life, as well as destruction of property occupied by the enemy, and some prisoners with their arms taken.

A study of a map of the locality at that period would show the area now covered by railroad tracks, freight houses etc., to have been the Charlestown Mill Pond. A later map would show the Tufts' Mill Pond, where is now the Charlestown Playground and the isthmus known as the ‘Neck,’ very narrow. At that time Samuel and Ebenezer Hall formerly of Medford were publishing the ‘New England Chronicle,’ (‘Printers’ they styled themselves) at Stoughton Hall, one of the Harvard College buildings in Cambridge.

To their paper of Thursday, January 11, 1776, we refer the readers of the Register for an interesting account of this affair:—

Cambridge, January 11.
‘Last Monday evening Major Knowlton was dispatched with 100 men, to make an incursion into Charlestown. He crossed the Mill Dam which lays between Cobble Hill and Bunker's Hill, about nine o'clock, and immediately proceeded down the street on the westerly side of Bunker's Hill; a part of the men under the command of Capt. Kyes, at the same time were ordered to take post on the east side of the street, just under the hill, in order to intercept any persons who might escape from the houses in the street, some of which were occupied by the enemy. These houses, which were a little without the compact part of the town, the enemy suffered to remain unburnt in June last, for their own convenience.—They were now surrounded and set fire to by our men. In one of them they found six soldiers, and one woman, all of whom except one refractory fellow, who was killed were brought off. In another of the houses, according to the information of the prisoners, lived seventeen of the enemy's carpenters. As the woman says she went to this house, in order to borrow something, just before our men arrived; but seeing no light, and not being able to get into that part of the house where they kept, she concluded they were all asleep; as it is very certain no one escaped from the house;—and as our [p. 44] men set fire to the building very suddenly, it is thought the whole seventeen perished in the flames. We burnt 10 houses and brought off 6 or 7 muskets. Three or four houses are still standing. The whole was performed in less than an hour, without the loss of a single man, either killed or wounded, notwithstanding the enemy kept up a considerable fire of musketry from Bunker's Hill.’

The Cobble Hill referred to was the eminence on which was for many years the McLean Asylum, and the mill dam afforded the Continentals a short route into the beleaguered town. It also afforded a means of escape for at least one British deserter, as seen in the issue of January, 25:—

‘Since our last we have had several deserters from the enemy,— one of them stationed at Charlestown Mills, pitched his companion over the dam, and then run for Cobble Hill.’

We trust that the other sentinel did not find a watery grave, but ‘all's fair in love and war.’ Charlestown at the time of the ever memorable battle was compactly built between Breed's Hill, where the monument now stands, and Charles River, with a comparatively small number of houses northward along the road now called Main street. The buildings destroyed at this time were probably near the site of the Edes' mansion, now noted as the birthplace of Prof. Morse of telegraph fame.

Between foes and friends, the old town named for King Charles who granted the charter to Matthew Cradock's Company, was well nigh obliterated. Its territory once entirely surrounded that of Medford, and embraced that of Burlington, Wilmington, Woburn, Winchester, Somerville and parts of Arlington, Medford, and Malden. Its corporate existence became finally absorbed in that of Boston in 1874.

The ‘three or four houses’ that Major Knowlton left could have afforded but little shelter to the British troops whom editor or ‘printer’ Hall styled ‘ministerial butchers.’ The result of the action was that the lines were closer drawn against the enemy in Charlestown.

We will refer again to Mr. Hall's paper:— [p. 45]

‘We hear that the enemy, the evening on which troops burnt the houses at Charlestown, were entertaining themselves at the exhibition of a Play, which they called the Blockade of Boston; in the midst of which a person appeared before the audience, and with great earnestness declared that the Yankees were attacking Bunker's Hill. The deluded wretches at first, took this to be merely farcial, and intended as a part of their diversion. But soon convinced that the actor meant to represent a solemn reality, the whole assembly left the house in confusion, and scampered off with great precipitation.’

This play was written by General John Burgoyne. He had presented one in London previously, possibly with more success than attended the one this side the sea. In this, one of the characters was costumed as a ‘Yankee Sergeant’ and the performance was much enjoyed by the British officers and the Tory ladies who were in attendance. It was designed to impress the soldiery with contempt for the ‘Yankees’ and was succeeding finely when the ‘Sergeant’ gave the alarm ‘with great earnestness.’ Soon the order ‘officers, to your posts’ awakened everybody to the situation. In the wild scramble that ensued the fiddles of the orchestra were broken, seats overturned, and the much alarmed ladies were left to find their way home from Faneuil Hall. Their gallant escorts were unceremoniously called to other duties.

It was reported that after the evacuation of Boston the tables were turned and a play called the ‘Blockheads’ (evidently parodied) or the ‘Affrighted Officers’ was produced, in which the names of Lord Percy, Burgoyne and prominent Loyalists were thinly disguised.

Some years ago we heard of a pamphlet that undertook to prove that there never was a Battle of Bunker Hill, which seems a singular effort. It was not on account of the mistake in the name of the hill, but in discredit of the fact.

If the fact of this second battle, in which eighteen persons lost their lives and six prisoners were taken, is discredited by our readers, we refer them to the above detailed account published at the time by a son of old Medford, one of Massachusetts' early journalists.

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