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Title: The Command in the Battle of Bunker Hill - With a Reply to 'Remarks on Frothingham's History of the - battle, by S. Swett'
Author: Frothingham, Richard
Language: English
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    IN THE










The preparation of a History of Charlestown--the occupation of
leisure hours--led to large collections relative to the military
events which occurred in the neighborhood of Boston at the
commencement of the war of the revolution; but as a full account of
them did not appropriately belong to so local a publication, and as
no work had been issued containing a narrative, in much detail, of
these interesting events, it was thought best to prepare the volume
now before the public entitled HISTORY OF THE SIEGE OF BOSTON. The
old subject of the battle of Bunker Hill was so directly in my way
that it could not be avoided; and as an apology for adding another to
the narratives of this event, I determined to construct it, as much
as possible, from contemporary materials.

In a faithful history of the battle, the question of command cannot
properly be avoided. If it is not of the importance which many attach
to it, still it is a curious question, about which there is much
interest. It may be well, in the outset, to state clearly the matter
at issue. The point is, was there a general officer detached to
exercise a general command in the battle? There is great incongruity
in the statements relative to this. It is stated (by Dr Whitney)
that the detachment that fortified Breed's Hill was first put under
the command of Gen. Putnam, that with it he took possession of this
hill, and "ordered the battle from beginning to end;" or as another
(Hon. John Lowell) states it, "General Putnam was detached for the
purpose of fortifying it (Bunker Hill,) and Colonel Prescott was
placed under his orders." On the other hand it is stated, that the
orders to fortify Bunker Hill were given to Colonel Prescott, that
the redoubt was raised by troops under his command, and that at no
time during the whole affair did he act under, or receive an order
from, a general officer. These statements are conflicting and cannot
both be true. It is these rival claims as to Putnam and Prescott that
constitute the delicacy and difficulty of the question.

Whoever investigates this subject must determine the kind of evidence
that will be allowed to influence, mainly, the decision. There are
numerous statements of soldiers who were in the battle, which were
made forty years or more after it took place; after antipathy or
gratitude had biassed them against or for their old commanders;
after what they had heard and had come to believe, had unconsciously
become interwoven with impressions of what they saw; and at a time
of life, too, when exactness as to details of what took place
so long before in such a scene, could not reasonably have been
expected. These relations bear, in some points, the characteristics
of tradition. They mostly harmonize as to the movements of companies
or regiments, but differ, irreconcilably, on points bearing on the
question of command. An argument, or an array of evidence, of equal
authority and of equal positiveness, may be drawn out of this large
reservoir in favor of Putnam, or of Prescott, or that there was
no general commander, or that there was no command at all in the
action. A somewhat laborious study, and critical collation of these
statements forced upon me the conviction, that they ought not to be
relied upon as leading authorities, and that it was idle to expect
to arrive at a satisfactory result by depending on such sources of
information. Hence diligent search was made for contemporary matter.
Much caution and discrimination, however, are necessary in using such
material. The first rumors of events are as apt to be as inaccurate
as reminiscences of those events prepared after years have elapsed.
But these rumors are followed by relations more reliable, and it
is material of this sort that is the most valuable for historical
purposes. It was such material that was selected. There are, however,
but few facts bearing on the question of command in the many
contemporary documents I have examined. Yet what is gleaned from them
is important. Among the documents are letters from Generals Ward and
Putnam, and Col. Prescott. The facts they supply are on some points

Still, in a volume designed to be a simple record of authentic
facts, and in a narrative of the battle prepared without conscious
bias for or against either Putnam or Prescott as the commander, a
labored argument on the question of command seemed neither desirable
nor proper; and in disposing of it, it was thought best to state
concisely, yet fairly, all the evidence of a contemporary nature
relative to both that was known, state the conclusion it seemed
to warrant, and leave the subject with the reader. This course,
right or wrong, it is proper to say, after a remark of Mr Swett in
the pamphlet which has occasioned this publication, was suggested
solely by reflection on the authorities; and the gentlemen to whom
he alludes are hereby exonerated from all responsibility, even for
a suggestion, on this subject. And the "invincible prepossession,"
which seems to puzzle Mr Swett, it will be indeed "useless to
inquire" into because it did not exist. One great reason for
treating the subject in this way was, that the reader, with facts
thus before him, might make up a theory to suit himself. This plan
was, accordingly, carried out. And though Mr Swett is pleased to say
that I labored "throughout a large portion" of the Siege of Boston
to prove a certain "insignificant abstraction," yet, if so, it was
unconscious labor, and to say so is ascribing to the effort far too
much design. The evidence is merely stated and left to speak for
itself. The reader will find it to occupy seven pages.

The conclusion reached is that there was no general commander, other
than Gen. Ward, of the Bunker Hill battle. After quoting the evidence
that bears in favor of Colonel Prescott, the following statement
is made:--"The conclusion warranted by this evidence is, that the
original detachment was placed under the orders of Colonel Prescott,
and that no general officer was authorised to command over him during
the battle." In other words, there is not only no evidence that a
general officer was detached to exercise a general command, but
contemporary authorities bear decidedly against such a conclusion.

Mr Samuel Swett has published a pamphlet entitled--"_Who was the
Commander at Bunker Hill. With Remarks on Frothingham's History of
the Battle, with an Appendix_," in which he labors to overthrow this
conclusion, and to establish the position that General Putnam was
the authorized and general commander. Mr Swett is one of the old
partizan writers on this subject. He began to write at a time (1818)
when there was much excitement relative to the battle. The Analectic
Magazine for February of that year had an account of it; the Port
Folio for March had General Dearborn's extraordinary article,
which opened up the long, bitter, and not yet closed controversy
about General Putnam; Daniel Putnam's able and interesting letter
soon (May) followed, marked by curious anecdote as well as by the
indignant rebuke which filial duty dictated; General Dearborn (June)
issued his "Vindication" with its imposing array of documents;
in July, Hon. John Lowell made his thorough defence of Putnam's
character, in the columns of the Centinel, and Hon. Daniel Webster,
in the North American Review, contributed an invaluable article,
drawing with indelible lines the characteristics of the battle, and
defining, with remarkable accuracy, the positions of Putnam and
Prescott; the subject had got mixed with party politics, and for six
months the press had teemed with articles on one side or the other.
It was, then, at an unfavorable period for healthy investigation,
and after such a surfeit of the subject, that Mr Swett "from his
attention to military subjects," "consented to describe the battle."
He commenced his researches in July, finished them in August, and
early in September was ready to favor the public with his "Historical
and Topographical Sketch of the Battle of Bunker Hill." This account
made up, in great part, from oral or written communications of
actors in the battle, and framed with the theory that General Putnam
was the commander, was regarded as of a partizan character. It was
immediately criticised unfavorably in the Boston Patriot, in a series
of essays which subsequently appeared in pamphlet form, in which
the main object is to show that Putnam was not even in the battle.
Mr Swett has continued his researches, printed two editions of his
history, and several times appeared in defence of it. His statements
relative to the formation of the army and the battle have found
their way into most of the books. It is no injustice to the authors
of subsequent excellent accounts of the battle to remark--for it
is acknowledged--that as to the details they do not go behind Mr
Swett's account. The narrative in the Siege of Boston does. It is
based, as much as possible, on contemporary documents, and, in its
details, will be found to differ in many respects from those of
the same period in Mr Swett's History. A study of the conflicting
evidence relating to this subject, however, ought to excite charity
rather than dogmatism; and it was no purpose in preparing the Siege
of Boston to make of its pages a pillory of error for a respected
pioneer enquirer. Let the language relative to him to be found there,
say whether much was done at the poor business of disparagement,
or whether just credit was withheld. Mr Swett, however, has had
possession of this field so long, that, perhaps, it is not strange he
should regard facts which fearfully disturb old opinions as errors;
or that a conclusion as to the commander which conflicts with a
prepossession which for thirty years has proved invincible, should be
contested. But the spirit, tendency and object of the "_Remarks_" are
too obvious to be misapprehended.

A publication thus by one who has made the Bunker Hill battle his
special study, who has written more on it than any one, and whose
opinions, hence, carry with them a certain authority, seems to
demand a reply. Silence, under such circumstances, might either be
construed into an insult to an older inquirer, or as doing myself
the injustice of admitting the correctness of his strictures.
Besides, those to whom I feel so deeply indebted for criticism as
gratifying as it was unlooked for, on a volume, which gradually and
unexpectedly grew to the form in which it appeared, and who have thus
kindly commended it to the public, have a right to expect, that, when
its integrity is seriously impeached, its author should show his
vindication. Still, I undertake a reply with the greatest repugnance
to controversy.[A] In doing it, and doing it after all, mainly for
the sake of history, what is merely personal will be set aside as
of little account. It is not of so much consequence to the public
how a writer carries his head, whether sometimes under his arm or
always above his shoulders, as it is how he does his work. Besides,
discourteous personal allusions do not strengthen a weak cause, and
are sure to mar a strong one.

   [A] Mr Swett, on the publication of the Siege of Boston,
   favored me with the following note, which, in another note
   written subsequently to the publication of his pamphlet, he
   informed me was intended for publication. Under the present
   circumstances I hope to be excused for printing it:--

    "Richard Frothingham, Jr., Esq.,--

   My dear Sir: For your history of the Siege of Boston I am very
   much obliged to you. Without time to have read it critically,
   I find it a remarkable monument of diligent and successful
   research, candor, impartiality and judgment. It is a very
   valuable addition to history. The subject of Bunker Hill battle
   I thought I had exhausted thirty years ago, but your additional
   information is interesting and important. We differ on one
   point only I believe worth mentioning, and that important only
   as a matter of curiosity, the commander in the battle, which we
   may discuss hereafter.

    With friendly regard and respect,
    S. SWETT."

It is difficult to observe method in dealing with this medley of
accusation. Mr Swett's zeal for his hero is so ardent, and his
imagination is so brisk, that he seems to have misapprehended the
simplest language; and hence, quite unintentionally it may be, he
ascribes to me views I do not express, facts I do not state, and
opinions I do not hold. He is merry over mistakes that have not been
committed, and is indignant at charges that have not been made.
Where, for instance, in the Siege of Boston, is it written that the
"great battle of Bunker Hill was fought on our side by a headless
mob?" Where do I say that it is difficult to assign a "motive" for
this conflict? Where is adduced "the most incontrovertible argument
in the world," or is it even stated, that the army at Cambridge
was "itself a mob?" What "mistake of law" is made where it is said
that Warren had not received his commission? What charge is made
against Col. Sargent? Where is it stated or intimated that General
Putnam was "a mere volunteer" in the army at Cambridge? Where is it
said that "he could not possibly" command at Bunker Hill, because
it was an army of allies? Where is the sentence which reads that,
had he been the commander, he would have "boasted of it," or have
"publicly claimed" it? Where is that "large portion" which contains
the attempt to prove that "General Putnam had no right to command
Col. Prescott?" These allusions, and they might be increased, are
to instances where the meaning has been misstated. Mr Swett does
not quote the language he comments on, and I prefer to be judged by
what is written rather than by what he _says_ is written. Besides
all this, and considerable attempts at ridicule, Mr Swett makes the
serious allegations that I have been "grossly regardless of known
facts," and have even "manufactured" history! Though age, among its
privileges, cannot claim exemption from rebuke for such injustice,
yet I deeply regret the occasion which requires controversy with one,
relative to whom I had felt only respect, exchanged only courtesies,
and written only commendation.

Before going to the question of command, it may be well to examine
some of the errors which Mr Swett alleges the HISTORY OF THE SIEGE OF
BOSTON contains.

1. On page 166 it is related that "when General Warren entered
the redoubt Colonel Prescott tendered him the command; but Warren
replied that he had not received his commission, and should serve as
a volunteer." Mr Swett remarks on this as "Frothingham's mistake in
supposing that Warren told Prescott, as a reason for not assuming
the command, that he had not received his commission. This is a
mistake of fact and law; Warren, according to General Heath, said
not one word about his commission, and his want of one did not
diminish his rights of office--a point that has been settled by the
Supreme Court of the United States," p. 7. Mr Swett does not quote
my language, and the reader cannot find any such "mistake of _law_"
as he comments on in the Siege of Boston. This "point," therefore,
need not be discussed. Now for the mistake of _fact_. Mr Swett had
before him, when preparing his pamphlet, President Sparks's MS.
copy of Judge Prescott's memoir of the battle, and knew this was my
authority for the anecdote. But what does he mean? Who would expect,
after such a charge, to find on page 32 of _Mr Swett's own history_,
the following account of what took place when Warren entered the
redoubt:--"Prescott offered him the command; _but he had not yet
received his commission_, and tendered his services to the colonel as
a volunteer!" And Mr Swett says that he got this conversation from
Colonel Putnam and Dr Jeffries. After three editions of his history
has he concluded that he mistook those gentlemen? Does he mean to
ignore his own authorities? If so, the fact must not be given up,
for Judge Prescott states it as from his father, and it harmonizes
with the records relative to Dr Warren's appointment, as will be seen
in another place. Is this the way my narrative is to be pronounced
incorrect and then ridiculed? As Mr Swett makes himself merry at
what he calls my mistakes, he remarks--"He sometimes, like St.
Patrick, carries his head under his arm instead of wearing it on his
shoulders," p. 13. We know it is said that _St. Denis_ carried his
head _in his hands_, and that the Anthropophagi had heads,

    "----grow beneath their shoulders,"

but it would seem that _St. Patrick's_ head must have been right when
he did his great work for Ireland. Letting this pass--how was Mr
Swett's head located when it worked out this double "_mistake of fact
and law_?"

2. Mr Swett accuses me of charging Colonel Sargent "with disobeying
Gen. Putnam's order for him to go on to Bunker Hill. This injustice
to the reputations of Putnam and Sargent arises from the most
inconceivable misconstruction of Col. Sargent's letter to us," &c.
&c, p. 11. And after considerable indignant comment--nearly two pages
of it!--Mr Swett returns to the charge, and says: "These are all
the facts the author has for the assertion, that Sargent disobeyed
Putnam's order to go on to Bunker Hill," p. 12. Now _where_ is such
an "assertion" made in the Siege of Boston? The reader _cannot find
it_! Mr Swett refers to a note at page 168, but without quoting it.
This note occurs where, in the text, an attempt is made to give a
definite idea of Gen. Putnam's service throughout the whole affair,
from the laying out of the works on Breed's Hill, to his retreat to
Prospect Hill. One sentence reads--"Some of the officers not under
his immediate command respected his authority, while others refused
to obey him." It is to sustain this remark that reference is made to
the following note:--"Captain Trevett, (Mass.) for instance, applied
to Gen. Putnam for orders; while Colonel Sargent, (N. Hampshire) in a
letter, MS., dated Dec. 20, 1825, writes that Putnam 'sent an officer
to order me on to the hill, but finding I did not attend to his order
he sent a second, who I took no notice of. A third came open-mouthed,
saying,'" &c. This is the note referred to, _and this is all that is
stated_ about Colonel Sargent. Now who but Mr Swett names _Bunker_
Hill? And _what charge_ is made here? Let the reader look at p. 92 of
the Siege of Boston, and say whether there was any disposition to do
injustice to this brave officer. No such charge was ever thought of,
much less made. It is one of Mr Swett's inferences. His indignation
is gratuitous.

But the "_injustice_" I have been guilty of, Mr Swett says "arises
from _the most inconceivable misconstruction_" on my part of Colonel
Sargent's Letter. Now to show fully the height of this "injustice"
and the depth of this stupidity, it may be well to let Colonel
Sargent speak for himself. He was applied to by Mr Swett for
information about the battle; and, in a letter dated Dec. 20, 1825,
gives his story. Mr Swett, in this pamphlet, (Appendix,) quotes
from the conclusion of this letter, but does not quote from the
commencement of it,--doubtless relishing its details about fighting
among the islands in Boston harbor far better than its details about
Putnam and Prescott, and the Bunker Hill battle. It is proper now
that the latter should be printed. I put a few words in italics.
Colonel Sargent writes--

"Had General Ward marched the whole of his troops then in Cambridge
to Charlestown not one of the enemy would have escaped, but instead
of that he only walked Hastings's front yard the whole day. He
ordered Stark and Reed from Medford, and those two regiments did all
that was done that day, of any consequence, although the fatigue
party stood their ground better than could be expected after a hard
night's labor. _In my opinion, Col. Prescott is entitled to the honor
of having the command_ in his calico gown. _I doubt much if General
Putnam was on the ground of battle for the whole day_, and that he
had no regiment that I ever heard of. I made application three times
that day to be permitted to march my regiment to Charlestown, but
General Ward feared my post would be attacked, and for once judged
right, for a large schooner, with from five to six hundred men,
attempted to gain the landing, but the wind against her and the tide
turning, she returned. _About 4, P. M._, General Ward permitted me
to march my regiment with one called his own to Charlestown, but too
late to do any good. _Gen. Putnam, then on Prospect Hill, sent an
officer to order me on to the hill, but finding I did not attend to
his order, he sent a second, who I took no notice of. A third came
open-mouth, saying Gen. Putnam says the devil of hell is in you all,
you will be all cut to pieces._ The words were scarcely uttered when
I was left with Lieut. Col. Ward and my waiter. I had before this
received a scratch from a four pound shot--the same shot took off Lt.
Col. Ward's cartouche box, and knocked down a subaltern behind him.
I returned to headquarters."

This, Mr Swett confesses, is the only document relating to Colonel
Sargent. Now with this as authority, what right has Mr Swett, as he
does in his history, to put Col. Sargent under the immediate command
of Gen. Putnam? What right has he to say, as he does in his pamphlet,
that "Sargent found Putnam" on the top of Prospect Hill? As I read
this authority, Putnam sent successively three officers to Sargent
with an order which Sargent "refused to obey," but instead of joining
Putnam, on Prospect Hill, he went to headquarters. It was a case
where a _New Hampshire_ officer declined to acknowledge the superior
authority of a _Connecticut_ officer; Sargent applied directly to
General Ward for orders, but would not respect the orders of Putnam.
The last point is the fact stated in the Siege of Boston. So much
for the "injustice done to the reputations" of these two officers!
So much for my "most inconceivable misconstruction of Col. Sargent's

But there is more to be said about _Prospect Hill_, and here it is
necessary to carry a bit of war into Africa. Mr Swett in his history
(Notes p. 4) quotes from a letter by Rev. Joseph Thaxter, in which
this hill is mentioned, though in the quotation it appears as "_one
of the neighboring hills_"!! This letter was dated "Edgarton, June
15, 1818," and was addressed to Messrs Monroe & Francis. It will do
no harm to print, for the first time, the whole extract. It reads--

"The writer yesterday saw Thos. Cooke, Esq. In 1775 he was a member
of the Provincial Congress, and one of the signers of the sword in
hand money. He was on the day of the Bunker Hill fight at Cambridge.
He went down to Prospect Hill and saw the whole transaction of the
day. He says that all was confusion, there was no command. That he
saw Gen. Putnam, who did all that man could do to get on the men to
Breed's Hill; that he appeared firm and resolute, thoughtless of
personal danger, and that his praise was in the mouth of every one;
that at that time nor ever after did he ever hear any one speak a
disreputable word against him."

Mr Swett, in his history, besides suppressing the _name_ of the hill,
suppressed also the significant remark, "_all was confusion, there
was no command_." And he suppresses also Mr Thaxter's own opinion in
the same letter, viz:--"As to military discipline and command there
was none." Neither suited his purpose! To fit his theory exactly this
letter of Thaxter's must be _garbled_!

On these two letters of Sargent and Thaxter, I remark, 1. They serve
to show the character of this sort of authority, and how cautiously
it must be used. 2. Here two manuscripts, so long unpublished,
harmonize on one point. Sargent (1825) says that about 4 P. M. Putnam
was on Prospect Hill: Thaxter's letter (1818) says that Thomas Cooke
went on to Prospect Hill and saw Putnam, who did all man could do to
induce men to go to Breed's Hill. Now Stiles (June 23, 1775) states
that towards night Putnam went away from the action "to fetch across
reinforcements, and before he could return our men began to retreat."
3. Sargent says Prescott was the commander, while Thaxter and Cooke
say there was no command.

3. Here as well as any where, another charge of Mr Swett may be
noticed, because it serves to show how far partizan feeling has
carried him. He has nearly a page of disparaging remark on the
history, because the name of _this same_ Rev. Joseph Thaxter is not
mentioned in it, and especially in connection with the celebration
of the fiftieth Jubilee (1825) of the battle, when he made the
prayer. Mr Swett, after remarking that he "looked in vain to find his
name," says (p. 27) that, "The author has devoted twenty-two pages
to this jubilee and monument, without one syllable to spare for the
patriotism, eloquence, and unction of this most interesting relic of
olden time, or for the mention of any religious service whatsoever
on the occasion;" and again he remarks that, though I "dwell on
Webster's eloquent address," yet there is "_not the slightest
notice_" of any prayer; and _finally_, his pious indignation
culminates in asserting that, "The neglect of all religious services
on the occasion will be considered by all those who give credit
to the author's history as a serious imputation on our national
character"!! Well, our national character _certainly_ ought to be
looked after. But 1. As to the twenty-two pages of matter. The reader
will find in them accounts of the early celebrations of the battle;
of the first monument on Breed's Hill; of the origin and progress of
the Bunker Hill Monument Association, and the only account of much
length there is existing; a history of the building of the monument;
a general view of the two great celebrations of 1825 and 1843, and of
the Ladies' Fair; the cost of the monument, and a minute description
of it! So much for this twenty-two pages about "this jubilee and
monument!" Cannot Mr Swett state a thing right? 2. "A faint outline"
only is presented of the great celebration of 1825; and of this, _the
whole notice_ in the text of the ceremony of laying the corner stone,
and of the oration, _including_ where I "dwell on Webster's eloquent
address to the sovereign people," and even quote his splendid words,
_makes ten lines_! But it is NOT TRUE that, in them, there "is
_not the slightest notice of religious services_;" for the account
concludes, (p. 345)--"_When the exercises here were concluded_,"
&c. One definition of "_exercise_" is "act of divine worship," and
Mr Swett may look into either Webster's or Worcester's dictionary
as authority! Now the "Address" had been mentioned, and "exercises"
after it, _manifestly_, do not refer to wheeling regiments, but
imply, in _addition_ to the address, _the acts of divine worship_
that, in this Christian land, are common on such occasions. Even the
language itself must be perverted to sustain such libel as Mr Swett
has written! And those who wring out of this account "a serious
imputation of our national character," must hate this character
intensely, be most inveterate word-catchers, and twist language from
its obvious import. 3. It might have been better to have stated that
Rev. Joseph Thaxter made the prayer, but no want of respect for the
memory of this venerable veteran occasioned the "neglect." Better
this omission, however, than to have been guilty of garbling and
falsifying the account of the battle the patriot left behind him.

4. The next alleged error relates to the case of Captain Callender.
Mr Swett lets his pen run as follows: "If any thing could be more
wonderful than the author's mistaking one hill for another, when both
have been before his eyes from his birth, it would be his adducing
this case as one of disobedience, or a case of any kind to disprove
that Putnam was the commander," p. 12. This indeed would be wonder
upon wonder--if it were only true. But that I mistook Prospect Hill
for Bunker Hill is one fancy; that this case of Callender is cited to
disprove that Putnam was the commander, is another fancy. _Where_
is it so "adduced?" Really Mr Swett's devotion to his hero leads him
into strange misapprehensions. The reader will _look in vain_ for
such mistakes and citations in the pages of the Siege of Boston.
Once more I ask, what in the name of common sense _does_ Mr Swett
mean? On page 164 of the Siege _this very case_ is "adduced" among
the things that bear _in favor_ of Putnam, and _no where_ is it
cited against his "claims!" _The very report_ made to the provincial
congress, which Mr Swett accuses me of _neglecting_, was thoroughly
studied, (_and Mr Swett knew it_) and is fairly quoted, and in favor
of Putnam! Indeed this report, and the evidence given on the trial of
Colonel Scammans were the main authorities for stating that General
Putnam _gave orders_ to the reinforcements.

But the strictures on pages 12, 13, relative to Callender, were
not enough, and so Mr Swett (p. 22) adverts to this case again,
and says:--"But allow the gentleman, as in regard to Callender, to
manufacture his own case, grossly regardless of all known facts."
_What case_ have I manufactured? What "_known facts_" have I been
regardless of? The chief thing that appears to be specified in this
case is this:--"The author's declaration that Callender was tried for
disobedience 27th June, seems to be a poetic license. Ward orders the
court martial at that time, without the slightest intention of such
a charge," p. 13. Why does not Mr Swett quote my language? But 1.
He alludes here, I presume, to a remark (p. 185) of the Siege, when
_the question of command is not alluded to_, but where an account is
given of Callender, and it reads--"Capt. Callender, for disobedience
of orders _and alleged cowardice_ was tried June 27th." And again
I say--"Captain Callender despised the _charge of cowardice_, and
determining to wipe out the _unjust stigma_," &c. Now what sort of
"license" has Mr Swett taken with my "declaration"? Something more
than a poet's license, I fancy! 2. Any one would suppose, from Mr
Swett's words, that Ward's order for a court martial specified what
the charge was. Here it is--June 27, "The general orders that a
general court martial be held this day at the lines, to try Captain
Callender of the train of artillery. Witnesses on both sides to be
duly summoned to attend a court which is to sit at 8 o'clock A. M.,
Col. Little president, Capt. Mosely judge advocate." What light does
this throw on the matter? And _what must be said of the character of
Mr Swett's appeal to it_?

5. Mr Swett, in denying that a portion of the troops refused to obey
General Putnam, writes as follows:--"Now, we say with the utmost
confidence, that, any few cases of cowardice out of the question,
no military despot was ever obeyed with more implicit subjection
than Putnam was throughout the battle, by every one, officers and
men,"--p. 10. This, coming from so thorough an investigator, from a
thirty years' student of the battle, is worth examination; though,
had it come from another, it might be passed over with the simple
remark, that it indicated more dogmatism than knowledge. Mr Swett,
however, confesses that he is leading "a forlorn hope."

Now General Putnam had little or nothing to do with the original
detachment, if the two hundred Connecticut men, after they got to
the rail fence, be excepted. There is no proof that he gave an
order to it throughout the whole affair, but on the contrary, this
is denied in the strongest terms. But his principal service was
rendered in connection with the reinforcements, which arrived at the
scene of action in the afternoon. After the first attack, he rode
to Bunker Hill, and to the rear of it, to urge them forward. But
they hesitated. He used every effort, especially, it is stated, at
Charlestown Neck and on Bunker Hill, to overcome this reluctance.
He ordered, entreated, encouraged and threatened, but all in vain.
"The plea was"--I quote a report made in 1775--"the artillery was
gone, and they stood no chance for their lives in such circumstances,
declaring they had no officers to lead them." They could not be
prevailed upon to go where fighting was, and so large bodies of the
troops remained out of the action. This fact is one of the most
reliable, as well as most discreditable, relative to the battle. In
truth, the state of things on Bunker Hill and in the rear of it,
during the afternoon, was more like positive disobedience, than like
"implicit subjection." However it may have been at Prescott's post
there was no such efficient command in other parts of the field as
is expressed in Mr Swett's language, anything he has written, or may
write, to the contrary notwithstanding. There was confusion when he
leaves the inference that there was order. The evidence on this point
is conclusive--overwhelming.

Thus Captain Chester (1775) states:--"Those that came up as recruits
were most terribly frightened, many of them, and did not march up
with that true courage that their leader ought to have inspired
them with." William Tudor (1775) says--"They were discouraged from
advancing." Rev. John Martin (1775) says--"During the whole or
most of the action Colonel Gerrish, with one thousand men was at
the bottom of Bunker Hill and ought to have come up but did not."
Contemporary authority as decisively connects General Putnam with
the reinforcements. This is not denied. Thus Daniel Putnam, his
son, states that he rode to the rear "to urge on reinforcements;"
and Stiles states that he left the field to urge them on. Mr Swett,
in his history, has no such "implicit subjection." He relates (p.
35) the efforts Putnam made at Charlestown Neck to induce the
reinforcements that reached there to pass across; and although
he "_entreated, encouraged, and threatened_," he could only get
"_some of the troops_" "to venture over." Again, when Gerrish was
on Bunker Hill with part of his regiment, the men disorganized and
dispersed, "Putnam"--_it is Mr Swett_ who writes this--"_ordered
them on to the lines_; he entreated and threatened them, and some
of the most cowardly he knocked down with his sword, _but all in
vain_!" Once more, p. 41, he says--"Putnam rode to the rear and
exhausted every art and effort to bring them on. Capt. Bailey only
reached the lines." The evidence as to the confusion is equally
clear. John Pitts (1775) says--"There never was more confusion and
less command." In Major Gridley's sentence (1775) emphatic allusion
is made to "the great confusion that attended" the transactions.
Captain Chester (1775) says of things on Bunker Hill near the close
of the battle--"When we arrived there was not a company in any kind
of order." But why multiply testimony on this point? Mr Swett himself
says, in his history, p. 50--"Great allowance must be made for those
unable, and those _unwilling to go on; the men went on or off as they
pleased and when they pleased_!"

Now with such evidence--and this is but a tithe of what may be
adduced--is it not surprising that such a claim of efficient command
should be set up at this late day, with nothing but bare assertion to
support it? If it were so, if there were this implicit subjection,
this ready obedience, the enemies of General Putnam might ask with
force, what they have asked in weakness--'Why, if he was so obeyed,
were not the troops at the lines? Could he not have _led_ them up?'
To affirm that he was _obeyed implicitly_, by officers and men,
and then to be obliged to admit that _those he commanded_ were not
in battle raging _a stone's throw off_, is to place the brave old
general in an awkward position, a position he never filled in his
life time. Mr Swett's zeal here lacks discretion.

6. Another mistake seems to astonish Mr Swett "by its magnitude,
nay its sublimity." He says--"According to him, the great battle
of Bunker Hill was fought, on our side, by a headless mob; and, to
prove this, he adduces the most incontrovertible argument in the
world, were it true, that the army at Cambridge, which had been for
two months collecting and organizing under the able and experienced
Gen. Ward, assisted by a host of accomplished veteran officers, was
itself a mob,"--p. 3. No quotation is made to sustain these remarks,
and _none can be made_. Nothing to warrant it can be found in the
book, and it is enough to stamp it as glaring misrepresentation. I
hold no such opinion. I adduce no such argument. It may be cruel to
annihilate so much "magnitude" and "sublimity," but I must state that
they have no better basis than Mr Swett's imagination.

In opposition to this "mob" theory, Mr Swett goes to the other
extreme, and affirms, p. 18--"That the army at Cambridge was
regularly organized and consolidated under Ward, Warren, Putnam,
and other officers in regular gradation, without any distinction
in regard to the colonies whence the troops came." And this is
repeated on p. 21, and again on p. 29. In fact this constitutes the
foundation of one of Mr Swett's "incontrovertible" proofs that Putnam
was the commander. It is strange that Mr Swett should venture upon
such assertions flatly in the face of the most positive evidence. He
makes no attempt to disprove the facts, first brought together in
the Siege of Boston, (pp. 98 to 104) relative to the action of the
colonies, and which were drawn entirely from contemporary MSS. and
authorities. It is not necessary to repeat them here. They show that
each of the four colonies commissioned its troops, supplied them
with provisions, directed their disposition, and that it was not
until after the battle of Bunker Hill that the Committee of War of
Connecticut ordered Generals Spencer and Putnam, while their troops
were in Massachusetts, to obey General Ward as commander-in-chief, in
order that there might be "a due subordination;" and also advised the
colonies of Rhode Island and New Hampshire to do the same respecting
their troops. That the army (June 17, 1775) was regularly organized
and consolidated is not true.

The evidence in relation to the want of organization in the
Massachusetts army is ample. This army certainly cannot be said to
have been settled under officers in "_regular gradation_." I have
a report made to the provincial congress of Massachusetts, dated
June 15, 1775, by a committee appointed "to consider the claims and
pretensions of the colonels," which goes with much particularity
into many cases, and recommends several to be commissioned, which
was not done, however, until after the battle. _On the 21st of
June_ an important committee was raised "to inquire into the reason
of the present want of discipline in the Massachusetts army, and
to report to this congress what _is the proper way to put said
army into a proper regulation_;" and on the next day, the congress
ordered the committee of safety to present lists of persons worthy
to be commissioned, "_that so our army may be organized as soon as
possible_." The army regularly organized and consolidated! I beg Mr
Swett will make himself acquainted with the facts, from authentic
sources, before he writes again.

The old soldiers gave Mr Swett, when he prepared his history,
better information than he writes in his last pamphlet. On page 11
(edition of 1826) he says:--"They (the troops) were strangers to
discipline and almost _to subordination_. Though nominally organized
into regiments, these were deficient in numbers, many of them only
skeletons, _and their respective ranks not ascertained_. Some of
the troops were yet serving as minute men, and the officers in a
number of regiments _were not yet commissioned_." Again, p. 14: The
Americans "were unable to appreciate the necessity of discipline
DEPARTMENT!!" But in 1850 the same writer has it that this same
army was "_regularly organized and consolidated_," and in "_regular
gradation_." It really seems only necessary to adduce Mr Swett's
facts to correct Mr Swett's imagination.

The reminiscences of the veterans go so far in this direction as to
border even on injustice to the army, if they do not make it a mob.
Thus, Gen. Dearborn states that "nothing like discipline had entered
into the army," and Mr Thaxter, whom Mr Swett likes as an authority,
writes severely on this point. He says:--"As to military discipline
and command (in the battle) there was none; both officers and men
acted as volunteers, each one doing that which he thought right."
* * "At that time our army was little better than a mob, without
discipline, and with little command till General Washington came,
and Gates, and gave it some regularity." It would be quite easy to
increase quotations of this character. But this will answer. It
conveys a very incorrect idea of the army to say that it was a mob,
but it is as incorrect to say that it was regularly organized and

7. Mr Swett, p. 16, writes--"We are delighted to discover, at last,
something amusing in one of the author's mistakes. He says Putnam had
the command of a regiment, because he was complimented with the empty
title of colonel of a particular regiment," &c. &c. And then follows
nearly a page of matter in which "signing humble servant" in letters,
"the king of Prussia," "the virgin Mary," "wolves heads," figure,
along with surmises about my "hallucination," and my ideas about
"the odd notion" of "perdition," and of "the head of the wolf Putnam
slew." Here, as usual all through the pamphlet, if I am quoted at
all, it is with gross injustice. But what _is_ all this for? What is
the _offence_? I am _really_ at a loss to know what _it is_. On page
100, the action of Connecticut is stated, and that the regiments of
Spencer and Putnam, and part of Parson's, were ordered to Cambridge.
Will _this_ be contested? On p. 168, it is stated that Putnam "was
in _command of the Connecticut troops_ stationed at Cambridge," and
in another place are specified, the regiments and parts of regiments
that were here. Will _this_ be disputed? Again, I state, p. 168--"No
service was more brilliant than that of _the Connecticut troops_
whom he (Putnam) _was authorized to command_." Again, p. 188--"_The
Connecticut forces at Cambridge were under the command of General
Putnam_." Is there any thing wrong _here_? What _is_ there then so
_amusing_? What has drawn forth nearly a page of _such_ attempt at
ridicule? Is it that I name the _undoubted fact_ from the records of
the Connecticut assembly, that General Putnam _had a regiment_? Has
Mr Swett forgotten how he _commences his own account of the battle_?
His first paragraph, p. 18, reads--"The same order issued for one
hundred and twenty _of Gen. Putnam's regiment_, and Capt. Gridley's
company of artillery with two field pieces;" a statement, by the
way, nearly all wrong: for "the same order" for Prescott's, Frye's,
and Bridge's regiments to parade (see Fenno's MS. Orderly Book,) 1,
did _not_ embrace the Connecticut men; 2, nor Gridley's company; 3,
there were _two hundred men_; and 4, they were _not_ all taken from
"Putnam's regiment"--four errors in less than three lines! But to
return. Once more I ask, what is the _mistake_ I have committed about
Gen. Putnam's regiment? What is there so _amusing_? Where is the
point of the ridicule?

Mr Swett throughout his pages has much matter rather personal, which
may pass for what it is worth. He supposes how I would write on
"_chemistry_" and "_astronomy_;" he compares me to a character Colman
has in his "_Broad Grins_," and to a clergyman "fulminating" against
the "_flaunting top-knots our foremothers wore_;" and he accuses
me of mooting questions "_on a par with that of free agency or the
origin of evil_." It is not, however, necessary even to specify
other such matter. He makes President Adams, Sen., and Judge Tudor,
after failing "_so egregiously_" on a certain question, jump into a
"_quickset hedge_," and ascribes to me a power of _following_ them
with my "_eyes shut_." I feel honored in being put in such society,
and as yet suffer no inconvenience from the place we occupy. But
one remark I protest against. On p. 10 he says we are writing on a
subject technical, and "concerning which _both of us confess_ we know
_little or nothing_." Here I claim at least the privilege of the
dying. Positively, Mr Swett has no authority to act as my confessor.
And how a person, who, in 1818, stated that "from _his attention to
military subjects_," he consented to describe the battle, and who
since, has had a thirty years' study of it, can in 1850 "_confess_"
that professionally, he knows "_little or nothing_" about it, seems
"_most inconceivable_."

The errors that have been examined appear to be the most material
which Mr Swett has specified, though he names others, and even grows
desponding over their number. He remarks, p. 10--"We have made the
supposition of the author's fundamental error being solitary; but
errors, like misfortunes, never come alone. The lost traveller who
wanders from the right road enters a boundless field of aberration,
and at every step plunges deeper into a chaos of mistakes." The
right road in this case is probably the beaten path of Mr Swett's
history, and every step from it is aberration and a plunge deeper
into "chaos." The reader can judge of the nature of some of these
mistakes. Others are of like character. It is however, entirely
inadmissible that facts resting on contemporary documents are to be
proved errors by the recollection of aged people. Is it not a waste
of words to refute charges based on this sort of proof? I have aimed
to give a faithful relation of facts, and on this score fear no
investigation and ask no quarter. But more of this in another place.

But in spite of this endeavor to state things exactly, it would be
strange indeed if the "_Siege of Boston_" did not contain errors,
for what book is without them? As yet none of much importance have
been pointed out, though I should thank any one who will inform me
of such as there are and should be glad to correct them. Two may be
here acknowledged: one on page 135 where "_to_ a slough," should
read "_towards_ a slough." I regret to have met with no particular
contemporary description of the entrenchments, _and hence quoted Mr
Swett's words_, and this error was copied from his History! (This
quotation is acknowledged on p. 135 of Siege of Boston as from p. 20
of his History.) Another error is on page 164, where "_riding_ down
the hill" should read "_going_ down the hill," an error inadvertantly
made in copying for the press. _Long before_ Mr Swett printed his
pamphlet he _knew how these errors occurred_, and also knew _they
were acknowledged and corrected_ for a subsequent edition of the
Siege of Boston. What more could be done?

When this is considered let the reader judge the spirit or purpose
or honor that could have dictated Mr Swett's comments on these two
errors. 1. Of the breastwork error, he says--"By describing it as
reaching down to the slough he has represented it as longer than it
was, and has marred and obscured by this mistake one of the principal
features of the battle," &c., &c., p. 5. Indeed! Is this so? Let
both descriptions be examined and it will be seen who, in this, has
"marred and obscured" this battle the most. The Siege says, page
135--"A breastwork beginning a short distance from the redoubt, and
on a line with its eastern side, extended about _one hundred yards_
north to a slough." The distance specified was taken by measure
from Page's Plan--"to a slough" was taken from Mr Swett's History!
The error is mostly corrected by the limitation. Now Mr Swett's
description (History, p. 20, 1823 edition) reads--"A breastwork
ran in a line with it _north down to the slough_." The error here
has no corrective! My breastwork runs only "_about one hundred
yards north_." Mr Swett's breastwork _runs north down splash to the
slough_,--marring and obscuring (_he_ says,) the principal features
of the memorable Bunker Hill battle! But really he is altogether too
severe on his mistake! 2. On the other error Mr Swett writes--"As if
purposely to declare he did not think anything relative to Putnam
deserving of ordinary care or attention, he says--'This report states
Callender was riding down the hill, when there is not a syllable of
the kind,'" p. 13. Now, 1st, the words put upon me between quotation
marks are not mine. This is not what I say. The statement in the
Siege, p. 164, is--"In the report (1775) made to the Massachusetts
provincial congress it is stated that on Bunker Hill he (Putnam)
ordered Capt. Callender, who was riding down the hill, 'to stop and
go back.'" This statement, substituting _going_ for _riding_, is
correct. The exact statement of the report is that "an officer of
the train was drawing his cannon down" Bunker Hill, when General
Putnam met him and ordered him "to stop and go back." "He refused,
until the General threatened him with immediate death, upon which
he returned up the hill again, but soon deserted his post. Another
officer, who had the direction of another cannon, conducted much in
the same manner." And in another place Captains Gridley and Callender
are named as being the officers. Now, by comparing this report with
an article on Callender in the Centinel (1818), it will be seen
that it was Callender "_who was going down the hill_." The sentence
in the Siege is quoted simply to show that Gen. Putnam gave orders
in the battle, and is _concise_, but it was written with "_care
and attention_." I fearlessly appeal to the report to sustain this
remark. Let Mr Swett look at it closely, calmly, and surely he cannot
again write that "there is _not a syllable of the kind there_!"
As though I had manufactured the whole statement! Here, then, an
inexact quotation from the Siege, and a false statement as to fact,
are prefaced by an illiberal, unjust and even wanton remark. Let the
Siege of Boston, I had almost written _everywhere_, answer whether
its author "did not think anything" "deserving of ordinary care and
attention" relative to General Putnam. While Mr Swett is dealing out
such rank injustice, accusing me of "sacrificing" Putnam's character,
of "_racking my fancy_" to discover objections against "his claims,"
and I know not what else, it is peculiarly gratifying to me to be
able to show the impression which the pages of this volume, as far
as they relate to Putnam, made on a candid critic. An article on the
Siege of Boston, in the Philadelphia Bulletin--understood to be from
the pen of WILLIAM B. REED, Esq., the accomplished author of the
Life of President Reed--after, I fear, too favorable a notice of my
labors, reads:--

"For one thing we especially thank Mr Frothingham--his defence
of Putnam from the miserable imputations which anonymous or
irresponsible writers of a late day have sought to cast on his
memory. He does it thoroughly, and shows that at Bunker Hill, as on
all occasions where he had a chance, the old man valiant did his duty

What but partizan feeling could have dictated such gross and
groundless attacks on the integrity of the Siege of Boston as abound
on nearly every page of Mr Swett's pamphlet?

Having thus shown what some of the accusations made against the
History of the Siege of Boston amount to, I might here stop. If
remarks on the Battle of Bunker Hill, to which I apprehended no
intelligent inquirer would object, and a fair citation of the
evidence on both sides, which it would have been grave neglect to
have omitted, be excepted, the whole statement relative to the
question of command is given in a few lines, and seemed to be
such as the authorities quoted necessarily demanded. They will
do it injustice who discover in it, or fancy they discover,
any disposition to make out an exclusive hero, or to fortify an
"invincible prepossession." The question really seems of little
practical account. General Putnam acted throughout with that bravery
that marked his nature,--at the rail fence and on the brow of Bunker
Hill in the heat of the action, and in the rear of these urging
on the reinforcements. Gen. Warren, armed with a musket, fought
in the redoubt, where he remained throughout the action; General
Pomeroy, in the same way, kept at the rail fence; Colonel Prescott
commanded at the original entrenchments. How much would it add to
the fame of either of these patriots, were it made out clear that
either exercised, or was authorized to exercise, a general command?
How much would it increase the gratitude posterity owes to their
memory for their gallant conduct? With such views, even the zeal
and positiveness, and injustice, of Mr Swett shall not make me a
partizan. I have only gone where the evidence carried me.

But the question of the command--a really curious historical
question--had to be met, and I endeavored to account for the
incongruity of the statements relative to it, and to dispose of it,
in a way, which, if free from non-committalism, should also be free
from dogmatism. The candid must judge whether the attempt has been
successful. Mr Swett is not satisfied with the disposition, and
announces his intention as follows:--"It will be our duty to enter
into a thorough investigation of this subject of the command." It
may be well, therefore, to follow him, and see how thorough has been
his investigation, how sound is his reasoning, and how satisfactory
is his conclusion. There is matter bearing on this subject in the
Siege of Boston, never before printed, never before alluded to,
consisting of extracts from original letters from General Ward and
General Putnam; an entire and most important letter from Colonel
Prescott; copious extracts from Judge William Prescott's memoir;
an important document from Rev. Peter Thatcher; Rev. John Martin's
statement; a fine letter from Captain John Chester, a brave and
accomplished officer, who was in the battle; to say nothing of
various other contemporary MS. letters and documents referred to
and quoted. It is rather a question of fact than of argument. The
positive language of contemporaries has, at least, as much to do
with it, as considerations relative to military rank. Now, whoever
professes to thoroughly investigate this subject, and does not cite
these authorities fully and fairly, and consider them candidly, makes
an unfortunate mistake. How does Mr Swett deal with them?

Mr Swett first notices, for he cannot be said to quote them, the
authorities that bear in favor of Colonel Prescott. He does not
allege that they are inaccurately presented in the Siege of Boston,
but complains that they are "left unexplained," and hence that
they may "mislead" readers. Now the intention was to cite these
authorities, relating both to Putnam and Prescott,--_leaving out
the soldiers' statements_--as concisely as possible, and let them
make their own impression. It was no part of my plan to stretch them,
or shorten them, or twist them, or explain them, so as to sustain
a favorite theory. Such work was left for others. Mr Swett has
explained some of this testimony and what is the explanation? Passing
by sundry inferences that are unwarranted, and sundry statements
relative to Prescott, put upon me that I never made, it will be
sufficient to notice his manner of dealing with the two Thatchers',
Ward's and Scammans's testimony. The admirable letter of Colonel
William Prescott is not in this connection, noticed or named by him!
Mr Swett will find it, copied I think correctly from the original,
on pp. 395 and 396 of the Siege of Boston! Neither does he appear to
have _seen_ Rev. Peter Thatcher's important statement. This, also, he
will find, in the same volume, pp. 385 and 386! I commend them to his

1. Mr Swett comments on the statement of Rev. Peter Thatcher as
follows:--"The report of the committee of safety says--'The commander
of the party gave orders to retreat from the redoubt'; and one of
the writers of the report is supposed to have called Prescott 'the
commander of the provincials.' That is, Prescott commanded the
_party_, the _provincials_, who raised the redoubt, and those of them
who fought there under him, till he gave them orders to retreat."
But, 1, as to the character of this evidence. What _supposition_
is there about this authority? _Supposed_ to have called Prescott
the commander! I print from the original a statement made by Rev.
Peter Thatcher in his own handwriting, under his own signature,
relative to his own account of the battle, which is the basis of all
the accounts; and I state that the sheet on which this statement
is written encloses a manuscript copy of this account, with the
interlineations preserved, and that I found this at Worcester. Now
this document--page 385 of the Siege of Boston--is either false, or
it is true. If false, let Mr Swett say so; if true, there can be no
supposition. It is as much _a fact_ that Rev. Peter Thatcher says
that Colonel Prescott was the commander, as it is that the battle
was fought. 2. Let the authority bear as it will, even though it
cut a theory at right angles, there is no such limitation about it
as Mr Swett puts to it. Here it is--that part of it relating to the
command:--"The following account was written by a person who was an
eye witness of the Battle of Bunker Hill. Some of the circumstances
the intervention of the hill prevented him from seeing, for he stood
on the north side of Mystic river. What facts he did not see himself
were communicated from Col. Prescott (who commanded the provincials),
and by other persons, who were personally conversant in the scenes
which this narrative describes." Such is the authority. Where is the
limitation that Mr Swett applies to it? Mr Thatcher is talking about
the _whole_ battle. What right has Mr Swett to restrict his language
to the party who raised the redoubt and fought _there_ under him? If
Prescott's _position_ during the battle is confined to his post, the
original entrenchments, it must be deduced from other circumstances
and authorities, and not from Thatcher's words. If Prescott did not
go to the rail fence, his sagacity saw the necessity of this new
position, and his order occasioned it to be taken. But more of this
is in the sequel.

2. Mr Swett next comments on the letter of General Ward. So important
an authority required an exact quotation, but he introduces it as
follows:--"Gen. Ward, in his letter to President Adams, 30th Oct.,
'75, says that Bunker Hill battle was conducted by a Massachusetts
officer," p. 6. These words are put in quotation marks. But whose
language is it? Not Ward's, for he says, October 30, 1775,--"I think
there has been no one action with the enemy which has not been
conducted by an officer of this colony, except that at Chelsea, which
was conducted by Gen. Putnam:" not mine, for this is an opinion on
these words expressed as follows:--"General Ward's remark is decisive
that a Massachusetts officer conducted the battle." Who, then, is
quoted? There were no such words to quote. They were manufactured by
Mr Swett.

And the comment is of a piece with the coinage. Mr Swett sees the
difficulty--with these words of Ward to take into the account--a
writer who desires to be accurate has to meet, if he ascribes to a
Connecticut officer the command of the battle, but he removes it
in the following curious way:--"Ward was endeavoring to make out a
strong case for the Massachusetts against the southern officers. As
he knew it was physically impossible for Prescott to have conducted
the battle--because he was on foot, and militarily so; because there
were generals and other officers older than Prescott on the field--he
must have intended to designate himself or Warren as the conductor
of the battle. Possibly he intended to claim the honor himself. The
first syllable of the word "conducted" has been altered by the pen:
he began, perhaps, to write the word "commanded," but, recollecting
that he could not claim the command, altered it into "conducted," p.
7. This twisting and syllable business will not answer. General Ward
must be dealt with in a straighter way and with more breadth of view.

It adds force to this remark of General Ward, that it was written at
a time when the circumstances of the battle of Bunker Hill were much
talked of in the American camp. Nobody at this time (October, 1775,)
thought of ascribing much credit to the plan of the enterprise to
Charlestown. At this time it was no glory to have had the general
command, or conduct, or responsibility of the Bunker Hill battle. But
those who really fought this battle stood out then, as they do now,
in envied prominence. An article in the Connecticut Courant, which
does not say that Putnam commanded, had much to say in praise of the
Connecticut officers, but not a word about such officers as Prescott,
Brewer, Gardner, Parker, &c. "This account," General Heath writes
October 23, 1775, "was detested by the brave Putnam." The trials,
also, had for months been going on for the ill behavior of officers.
The battle, then, was no obsolete affair. The camp was alive with
talk about it. It is at such a time, that General Ward writes to John
Adams, October 30, 1775--"I think there has been no one action with
the enemy which has not been conducted by an officer of this colony,
except that at Chelsea, which was conducted by General Putnam." The
action at Chelsea took place in the previous May, in which General
Putnam commanded, and led the men with great bravery. Now, General
Ward was thinking over the actions there had been with the enemy, and
thinking also of General Putnam's agency in them. Had there been, as
to the Bunker Hill enterprise, an express agreement between Ward and
Putnam--had Putnam been detached as the general officer to exercise
the command--had he conducted so important a battle--is it probable,
is it possible, that a person of the strict integrity of General
Ward would have written in this way only four months afterwards? Is
not the inference from his words a _necessary_ one, that General
Putnam did not conduct, or command, in the battle of Bunker Hill,
as he conducted or commanded in the battle at Chelsea, but that it
was a Massachusetts officer who performed this duty? It would not be
inconsistent with these words to ascribe the conduct or command of
the battle to Ward, or to Warren, or to Prescott--all _Massachusetts_
officers--but it is utterly inconsistent with them to ascribe it
to General Putnam, a _Connecticut_ officer. This remark has this
significance or it has none.

The way Mr Swett treats this authority deserves notice. He first
garbles it, and then endeavors to evade its force. He tells, with
due gravity, what General Ward began to write, but did not write
and to crown all, tells who he probably intended to name as the
commander, but somehow did not name. Mr Swett says that he meant
to say "That Warren was the conductor or commander of Bunker Hill
battle"!! Now really all this looks like "manufacturing a case." Is
not this modest in one who professes to be so indignantly averse to
such discreditable business? But Mr Swett, on this _fifth_ page of
twisting, surely did not so faithfully reflect as he did on the ninth
page, that, "We were dealing with hard characters. Ward, Warren,
Putnam and Prescott," he there rousingly writes, "are not rag babies,
that an historian may bend and distort according to his fancy. The
whole kingdom of Great Britain could not bend one of them," &c.
Why then does he try to bend Ward's words to suit his theory, or
distort them according to his fancy? This is no way to deal with
authorities. This is trifling with history. Mr Swett must take the
language of Ward as it is, even though unaltered it consigns a
theory, nursed with parental care for more than a generation, to the
tomb of the Capulets.

3. The remark of Colonel Scammans--that "there was no general officer
who commanded at Bunker Hill"--made too as though it were a perfectly
well known fact, is first denied, and then characteristically
explained so as to mean nothing. "The author," Mr Swett says,
"attributes to Colonel Scammans an anonymous note in a newspaper,
written perhaps by the editor." Now if the note were written by the
editor, it was not anonymous! But let this absurdity pass. Let any
one turn to the New England Chronicle of February 29, 1776, read
there a letter requesting the editor "to print the proceedings of the
court martial, _with some remarks upon the depositions then taken_,"
and signed "James Scammans," _Colonel_ Scammans, and then say how
cool it is in Mr Swett to write that "the note was anonymous" or that
it was "written by the editor." The remark, I repeat, was undoubtedly
made by Colonel Scammans, and it is so plain that it speaks for
itself. Besides this, Mr Swett charges me with omitting to mention
here, that "Scammans, during the battle, sent to General Putnam, at
Bunker Hill, to see if he was wanted," and that afterward "General
Putnam came up and ordered the regiment to advance." Now truly this
is not omitted, but it all appears on page 164 of the Siege of Boston
among the things _bearing in favor of General Putnam_! Mr Swett
however plies his ridicule here: but really I do not see the cause
of it, without he designed it to rebuke me for the presumption of
putting corn into his hopper. Up stream or down stream it seems to
be all the same. Mr Swett's zeal for his hero has even a lover's
jealousy. He frankly admits (p. 4,) that I treat General Putnam's
character "with the utmost candor and kindness," but still to his
mind, there is a heathenish heart in it,--for he says, it is done,
"as animals destined for the altar are pampered, to be sacrificed at
last." The renowned Mr Burchell would say _fudge_.

4. Mr Swett's remark on Dr J. Thatcher's statement,--a surgeon in
the army--the first, I think, to make such a statement, is still
worse. He says Thatcher is unequivocal in favor of Putnam's command,
by placing him at the head of all the officers in the following
words: "Generals Putnam, Warren, Pomeroy, and Colonel Prescott were
emphatically the heroes of the day." And Mr Swett writes this,
too, when Dr Thatcher goes on to say that "though _several general
officers were present, Colonel Prescott retained the command during
the action_"!! Comment on this is unnecessary.

It is not very surprising that Mr Swett, after such a sham review
of the authorities bearing in favor of Colonel Prescott, should
venture to write that "in the whole of them there is not a shadow of
an excuse" for my conclusion, one half of which he actually quotes,
but the other half he characteristically suppresses! Is it then
possible that such authorities, the whole of them, do not supply even
"_a shadow_ of an excuse" for stating that "the original detachment
was placed under the orders of Colonel Prescott, and that no general
officer was authorized to command over him during the battle?" What!
When, according to General Ward, a Massachusetts officer must have
conducted the battle; when, according to Judge Tudor, there _was no
authorised general officer on the field_; when Col. Scammans says
no general officer commanded; when Martin, Gordon, Thatcher, and
Prescott himself state explicitly that the original detachment was
put under Col. Prescott's orders; when James Thatcher states that,
though several general officers were present, Prescott retained
the command during the action; when Peter Thatcher states that he
commanded; when John Pitts states that no one but Prescott appeared
to have any command; and when Judge Prescott states that he had
orders in writing, and that no officer exercised or claimed any
authority over him during the battle! When a writer confesses that
evidences of this sort "come like shadows, so depart," all that need
be said is, that the difficulty is not with them, it is not that they
lack character, directness, or substance, but it is in the writer's
mind, it is what metaphysicians term _subjective_--perhaps it is a
"_prepossession_" that is "_invincible_"--and it therefore cannot be
reached and removed.

In direct conflict with this conclusion, however, is the statement
made first by Rev. Mr Whitney in 1790, as from conversations with
General Putnam--"That the detachment was put under the command of
General Putnam; with it he took possession of the hill, and ordered
the battle from beginning to end;" or as Hon. John Lowell (1818)
states it:--"If General Putnam is to be believed, he first proposed
the taking possession of Bunker Hill, and was detached for the
purpose of fortifying it, and Col. Prescott was placed under his
orders;" or as Mr Swett (1818) states it--"General Putnam having
the general superintendence of the expedition," accompanied the
detachment; or (in 1850) he went to Breed's Hill, p. 23, "under the
express agreement with General Ward that he was to do so, and to
have the direction and superintendence of the whole expedition."
The proof to sustain this consists, 1. Notices in diaries, letters,
or newspapers, giving the earliest rumors of the action, as Stiles'
Boyle's, S. Ward's, Jackson's, Clarke. None of these are dated later
than June 1775. Or, 2. Matter commencing with Whitney's declaration,
May, 1790, and supported in 1818, and afterwards, by the statements
of the soldiers and others; as, Putnam, Grosvenor, Dexter, Bancroft,
Cleaveland, Allen, Trevett, Dearborn, Thaxter, Keyes, Smith, and
Low. The character of this sort of evidence has been sufficiently
dwelt upon. It is granted that a specious argument may be framed out
of it, either in favor of Prescott or of Putnam, and still a more
specious one, I am sure, in favor of the position that there was no
command in the action. A re-reading of this matter has only served
to strengthen a conviction of its unsatisfactory nature, and that
contemporary testimony, of a proper character, ought to determine
the question. As to proof of this sort, it will only be remarked,
that I have not met with _a single statement_, in manuscript or in
print, to the effect that General Putnam commanded in the battle of
Bunker Hill, _between the dates of June, 1775 and May, 1790_. Mr
Swett does not produce any such statement. On the contrary, every
contemporary allusion to his conduct in the battle, I could find, has
been faithfully quoted. But the same allusions to Colonel Prescott,
which also might be supported by soldiers' statements, are of the
most positive character, and they state that the orders to occupy
Bunker Hill were given to him, and that no general officer interfered
with his command. In accounting for this conflict of testimony, in
page 166 of the Siege of Boston, I remark--"Without intending to
question the honor or the veracity of any one, it is more reasonable
to conclude that the facts communicated by the general (Putnam) have
not been stated exactly, and with the proper discriminations, than it
is to conclude that so many independent contemporary authorities are
incorrect in stating that the first detachment was placed under the
orders of Colonel Prescott."

Mr Swett has over a page of comment, as unjust to me as usual,
on the extracts I make from Stiles' MS. Diary. President Stiles
resided in Newport, and was in the habit of writing in his journal,
very minutely, of the occurrences of the day; and in long entries,
under the dates of June 18, 19, 20, 23, and 30, he writes of the
all engrossing subject of this battle, as he could gather facts
from letters, or from persons from the camp. The extracts before
me are of much length, and they furnish an excellent and curious
specimen of the rumors that went abroad relative to this battle,
and show how cautiously this material must be used. From all this I
selected two extracts, one to the effect that Gen. Putnam with 300
men took possession of Bunker Hill; another, that detailed _from his
own lips_, his course in the action. Mr Swett does not quote these
extracts, nor others fully. Why does he not do it? I here give a
specimen. Stiles, June 18, journalizes: "A gentleman" from camp
"this morning" "informs" among other things "that Col. Putnam is
encamped in Charlestown, on Bunker Hill, and has lost one of his best
captains, but is determined to stand his ground, having men enough,"
&c., &c. June 19. "Every one filled with the greatest solicitude." *
* * "Charlestown is in ashes." * * "We have various accounts--some
that Gen. Putnam is surrounded by the king's troops--some that he
repulsed them," &c. June 20. William Ellery comes in and shows
copies of several letters from camp, one from General Greene, "dated
Lord's day evening, (June 18) giving an account of the battle."
"General Greene says General Putnam _with 300 men_ took possession
and entrenched _on Bunker Hill_ on Friday night the 16th inst." I
said (p. 164) this was a rumor from camp, and say so again. Why does
not Mr Swett quote _the whole_ of it? Why _leave out the 300 men_?
Various other rumors, and also opinions of Greene's, are given. To
return to Stiles. He writes: "Upon news of the action or landing the
congress _instantly broke up_ and those who had arms repaired to the
field of action. _Hence Dr Warren's being in the action_," &c. Why
does not Mr Swett quote? "Sterling gold," he says, "stamped at the
highest mint in America!" But to go on with Stiles. The next entry I
have is dated June 23, and here we _first come to authentic history.
It is General Putnam's own account_, and it is so curious, _that it
ought to be in print_. I quote here, therefore, all I have of this
entry, which is from Bancroft's copy:--

"June 23, 1775. Messrs Ellery, Chang, &c., returned here from a visit
to the camp which they left on Saturday last. They spent an hour
with General Putnam in his tent on Prospect Hill, about half way
between Cambridge and Charlestown. The general gave them an account
of the battle last Saturday, said the number on one side was not
ascertained, but the nearest account was, that we had about fifty
(not sixty) killed, and about twenty wounded. We lost few till the
retreat. We repulsed the regulars three times, fought four hours. The
small arms and six field pieces made great havoc among the regulars
till our powder failed. General Putnam said by accounts from within
Boston, the regulars confessed their loss of killed, wounded, and
missing, was about one thousand. Our body on Bunker Hill, where was
the action, was about 1500 first and 700 afterwards. Putnam says
he judged the regulars were 3000. There was a reinforcement within
perhaps half a mile and ought to have come up to their assistance,
but they must pass an open causeway, where the regulars kept up a
heavy fire from floating batteries. _Putnam was not at Bunker Hill
at the beginning, but soon repaired thither, and was in the heat of
the action till towards night, when he went away to fetch across this
reinforcement which ought to have come before. Soon after, and before
he could return, our men began to retreat_; for some imprudently
calling out the powder is gone, the regulars heard it, and rallied
again, and came on with fury, and forced the trenches, and then
our people retreated leaving the heroic General Warren mortally
wounded in the trenches. * * * The army are in high spirits. They
consider this scarcely a repulse, considering the damage they did
to the enemy; and indeed, if, with the loss of 50 or 60 killed, our
people killed and damaged the regulars more than a thousand, it is a
wonderful Providence. The troops landed under fire of the shipping,
then set fire to Charlestown in which were 300 houses, all which, but
2 or 3, were reduced to ashes and ruins. Then about 1 or 2 o'clock P.
M. they marched for the attack, and continued it four hours till near

Now it seems almost incredible that Mr Swett should have made the
hard remarks upon me he has, pp. 14, 15, for selecting, of this
entry, the _paragraph in italics_ relative to General Putnam's
personal service in the battle; and even ascribe to me a motive for
quoting it that I did not dream of! One more extract from Stiles
must suffice. "In June 30, Rev. Mr Martin visited me and gave me
an account of the battle of Charlestown." "Mr Martin was in the
whole affair from first to last." "He says that about 1500 went on
Friday night and took possession of Bunker Hill, _under the command
of Colonel Prescott_." And this is the first mention of Prescott's
name there is in such extracts of this journal as I have. Then
follows several pages of details, some of which are interwoven
in the narrative in the Siege of Boston. All I have to add is,
that those who rely on such rumors from the camp as Stiles' first
chronicles,--which however have their value as the life-like talk of
the day--will be liable to frame just such an account of this battle
as Humphries in his life of Putnam has, where (in the beginning) the
original detachment is put under Warren, and in the end, the British
pursues to Winter Hill, Putnam there makes a stand, and drives them
back under cover of their ships!

In connection with this testimony in favor of General Putnam, Mr
Swett finds what he calls "the most astonishing inadvertence of the
author, though (bless the charitable admission) mere inadvertence we
believe," p. 25. It consists in "never hinting" that in Rivington's
New York Gazette, June 29, 1775, it is stated that 'Putnam on the
evening of June 16, took possession of Bunker Hill, and began an
entrenchment,' and this extract from Rivington was mentioned in a
publication of ours, which he had among our documents," p. 25. I am
not indebted to Mr Swett for a single contemporary document; and as
for Rivington's paper, I examined the fine file of it in the rooms of
the New York Historical Society, and made the extract, but found the
same sentence in other newspapers, for they copied from each other.
What an "astonishing inadvertence" it was in "_never hinting_" this,
the reader may easily see by looking at page 124 of the Siege of
Boston, for there the fact of such a statement being in the papers
is given to show that Putnam was on the hill at night; and once more
at page 164, where it is _a second time_ named among the facts
bearing in his favor, in the evidence on the question of command! Is
Mr Swett's remark, however, "_mere_ inadvertence?"

The _only new piece of evidence_ adduced is an extract from John
Boyle's manuscript annals. Mr Swett says, He "writes in his diary,
16th of June, 1775, General Putnam, with a detachment of about
a thousand American forces, went from Cambridge and began an
entrenchment on an eminence below Bunker Hill." This MS., which I
did not hear of until after the publication of the Siege of Boston,
is not a diary written at the time. Certainly, Mr Swett must, at
least, have known that the record about Bunker Hill battle could
not possibly have been put there on the day it was dated, for it
contains Gage's official account of the killed and wounded, and the
American account from the Providence Gazette, which did not appear
till _months afterwards_, and could not have been then known! And
it requires but a moderate acquaintance with the newspapers of
this period to see, at a glance, that this interesting MS. is a
compilation mostly from them, and often, as in this case, in their
language. Yet Mr Swett quotes this in a diary _written at the time_!
The fact stated by Boyle is taken from the newspapers, and is given
on p. 164 of the Siege!

To supply the place of this diary, thus struck away, I cheerfully
quote a _real_ diary, which I did not see until the Siege was in
type, and which will answer Mr Swett's purpose as well as Boyle's,
if not better. It is the account of Samuel Bixby, at the time of the
battle a soldier at Roxbury. It begins:--"June 17, Saturday, Colonel
Putnam, with a large party, went on to a hill in Charlestown, called
Bunker Hill, last night to entrench"--and all through the relation,
no officer is even named but "Colonel Putnam." The simple explanation
of the whole of these early rumors, or reports, is, that from General
Putnam's being so active during the day of the battle, the _report_
went abroad, that the entrenching party went on under him; when the
_fact_ was that it went on under the orders of Colonel Prescott.

Mr Swett's statements about Putnam, Warren, Prescott, and the
question of command, when brought together, make a singular medley.

1. He represents (p. 22,) that Putnam at last persuaded "the prudent
Ward" "to grant him a detachment" "to meet the enemy;" and went to
Breed's Hill under "an express agreement" that he was "to have the
direction and superintendence of the whole expedition" (p. 23,): and
he proves that Putnam was the commander by the nature of the army, by
his rank, and a third and fourth time, by his conduct in the battle,
during which "there was scarcely a regiment, corps, or individual
of the army that Putnam did not personally command, direct, or
encourage" (p. 28,): for "he was galloping from end to end of the
line, encouraging, directing, commanding every body." In fact "no
military despot was ever obeyed with more implicit subjection." He
was "the bright particular star, to which, during all the storm and
tempest of the battle every eye was turned for guidance and for
victory," p. 29. This is exclusive enough, dogmatic enough, and
general enough, to satisfy any body. Here General Putnam, if words
mean anything, is from first to last, and by special agreement, the
authorized, sole general commander.

2. Mr Swett, however, states (p. 7,) that Gen. Warren "was on the
field, vested with all the rights and authority of a major general;"
and (p. 29,) "notwithstanding he declined to issue any orders,
was authorized to do so whenever he pleased," and "thus was the
authorized, and for many years the supposed commander." Knowing this,
Ward, (p. 7,) "probably intended to say that he was the conductor
or commander" in his letter. But (p. 29,) General Putnam was the
actual, and _on Warren's declining_, the "authorized commander."
Ward was (p. 7,) "doubtless ignorant of the fact that Warren refused
to exercise any command on the occasion"!! But what becomes of the
"express agreement" between Ward and Putnam? Was this contingency of
Warren's declination in it? Was Putnam to have the whole direction
only in case Warren did not choose to assume it? Is it for a moment
admissible that General Ward did not know when he wrote his letter,
who was detached to the command, who exercised it, or who conducted
the battle? Is it not a direct attack on Ward's reputation to impute
to him such disgraceful ignorance?

3. Mr Swett states (p. 30,) "Colonel Prescott was commander at
Bunker (Breed's) Hill the night before the battle, and the next day
till Gen. Putnam came on with the reinforcements; and during the
battle, the commander at the redoubt." What is the authority for
such a statement? If Dr Whitney, Mr Lowell, and Mr Daniel Putnam are
exact in giving General Putnam's conversation, he stated that the
original detachment was placed under his command, and that Colonel
Prescott acted under his orders. This indeed must have been so,
if General Putnam, according to Mr Swett, by express agreement,
had the superintendence of the whole expedition. How then could
Prescott have been the commander the night before the battle and up
to noon the next day? If Putnam and Prescott had differed any time
previous to noon on the 17th, then, according to this last theory,
the responsibility of decision rested on Prescott. Was this in the
agreement? Did a general agree to be commanded by a colonel? There
could have been no such incongruity.

4. Mr Swett viewing General Ward as, in one sense, the commander,
comes to the conclusion, (p. 30,) that, "There were then four who in
some sense participated in the command of Bunker Hill battle"--not
the exact truth, but nearer to it than any theory of the pamphlet.
And he says, "It may be impossible to demonstrate who was exclusively
the commander as to discover the author of Junius or the birth place
of Homer." _Et tu Brute!_ And alter so much "incontrovertible,"
"perfectly decisive proof," "express agreement," despotic command,
and "implicit subjection" relative to Putnam? After charging me
with treating his character with candor only to sacrifice it at
last--with robbing him of the command and not enriching any one?
Who is doing sacrifice here? Who is committing robbery here? Who is
enriching any one here? However, Mr Swett is correct if he means that
it is impossible, from the known evidence, to demonstrate who was
exclusively the commander, for it all tends to show that there was on
the field no general officer who exercised a general command. Such
at least is the view that will be found to be taken in the Siege of

5. Mr Swett (p. 10,) says: "All the world knows that he (Putnam)
did come forward and exercise the command most effectually from the
beginning to the end of the engagement:" on p. 29, Mr Swett says:
"Seventy-five years ago the battle of Bunker Hill was fought. Who
the commander was has ever since remained a mystery." Now these two
things cannot be. What "_all the world knows_" certainly cannot be
a "_mystery_," i. e. a profound secret, (see Webster) on something
wholly unknown. If Mr Swett clings to the mystery he must give up the

Such are the conclusions on the subject of command in the Bunker Hill
battle, of "an author in spite of himself," who "thirty-two years ago
consented to write an account" of it, and who this year considered it
his "duty to enter into a thorough investigation" of this question.
History cannot be worth much that resolves itself into such a mass of
absurdity and contradiction.

But there is something more serious than inconsistency to allege
against Mr Swett's conclusions. What is the authority for the
following, I think, _new_ statement?--"Maj. Gen. Ward was the
commander in chief of the army at Cambridge; Maj. Gen. Warren, the
next; Brig. Gen. Putnam the third in command; and Col. Prescott,
another officer of the army," p. 29. This is neither correct,
_first_, as to the _general_ army, even if it were "consolidated;"
for General Thomas was the second in command; General Whitcomb
ranked above General Warren; General Pomeroy probably (for he was an
older officer) ranked above General Spencer, and Spencer certainly
ranked Putnam. It is difficult to say who would have ranked as
between Brigadier General Putnam and Brigadier General Greene. Nor
_second_, as to that portion of the army stationed immediately at
Cambridge, for Major General Whitcomb ranked above Major General
Warren, and General Pomeroy ranked above General Putnam. Nor was
General Ward, in either case, at the date of the battle, the regular
commander-in-chief, excepting of the Massachusetts forces. But more
about these officers in another place. The only strictly accurate
thing in the statement is, that Col. Prescott was another officer of
the army! Mr Swett's facts being taken from him his theory falls.

I have done with Mr Swett's pamphlet. A remark relative to his
History needs justification.

It has been stated that the narrative of the organization of the army
and of the battle of Bunker Hill in the Siege of Boston, differs
materially in details from the account of the same events in Mr
Swett's History. As an instance of this, as to the former, take the
two statements of the action of Rhode Island,--selected because they
are the shortest:--

_From the Siege of Boston._

   "The Rhode Island assembly, April 25, voted to raise fifteen
   hundred men, to constitute 'an army of observation,' and
   ordered it to 'join and coöperate with the forces of the
   neighboring colonies.' This force was organized into _three
   regiments_, of eight companies each, under Colonels Varnum,
   Hitchcock, and Church, and placed under the command of
   _Nathaniel Greene_, with the rank of _brigadier-general_. One
   of the companies was a train of artillery, and had the colony's
   field pieces. General Greene, on arriving at the camp, Jamaica
   Plains, found his command in great disorder: and it was only
   by his judicious labors, and great personal influence, that
   it was kept together. In the rules and regulations for the
   government of this force, it is called 'The Rhode Island army.'
   They provide that 'all public stores, taken in the enemy's camp
   or magazines,' should be 'secured for the use of the colony of
   Rhode Island.' It was not until June 28 that this colony passed
   an act putting its troops under the orders of the general of
   the combined army."

_From Mr Swett's History._

   "Rhode Island had sent _a regiment_ to Massachusetts imbued
   with the determined spirit of civil and religious liberty,
   which the founder of their state maintained through every
   peril. _Colonel_ Greene was their commander, one of the
   most prominent heroes of the revolution. The elements of a
   soldier were so mixed in him, that his elevated rank among
   distinguished warriors was already anticipated. Under him
   were Lieut. Col. Olney, and Maj. Box, an experienced English
   soldier. An artillery company with four field pieces was
   attached to the corps."

And the variations, as to the details of the action of the other
three colonies, are still greater.

The same thing will be found to prevail as to the battle. Take, as an
illustration, the two first paragraphs of the two accounts.

_From the Siege of Boston._

   "On Friday, the sixteenth of June, the commanders of the
   army, in accordance with the recommendation of the committee
   of safety, took measures to fortify Bunker Hill. Orders were
   issued for Prescott's, Frye's, and Bridge's regiments, and a
   fatigue party of two hundred Connecticut troops, to parade at
   six o'clock in the evening, with all the entrenching tools
   in the Cambridge camp. They were also ordered to furnish
   themselves with packs and blankets, and with provisions for
   twenty-four hours. Also, Captain Samuel Gridley's company
   of artillery, of forty-nine men and two field-pieces, was
   ordered to parade. The Connecticut men, draughted from several
   companies, were put _under the command of the gallant Captain
   Knowlton_, a captain in General Putnam's regiment." p. 122.

_From Mr Swett's History._

   "On the 16th of June, 75, the sun fell with its full force on
   the American camp, the earth was parched up, but the vigorous
   frames and patriotic spirit of the soldiers were proof against
   its influence. With the advice of the council of war General
   Ward issued orders to Col. William Prescott, Col. Bridge,
   and the commandant of Frye's regiment, to be prepared for an
   expedition, with all their men fit for service, and one day's
   provisions. The same order issued for one hundred and twenty
   _of Gen. Putnam's regiment_, and Capt. Gridley's company of
   artillery with two field pieces." p. 18.

These extracts will serve to show the character of such variations
between the two narratives of the battle, as will be found to run
through them. Other paragraphs might be quoted containing things of
far more consequence. The variations as to the parts individuals
bore, are also important. To do justice to the actors, they should
be named in connection with the service they rendered. With this
in view, let the critical reader, as an illustration, compare the
notices in the two accounts, of what the brave Knowlton did. Mr
Swett's first and last mention of him, in describing the battle,
is on p. 26, as follows: "While the enemy were landing, Putnam
ordered Knowlton with the Connecticut troops, to take post behind a
rail fence." Passing the correctness of this, it is every syllable
there is about Knowlton, until p. 56 of the supplementary chapter,
where there is, so far as this battle is concerned, only a general,
but deserved, compliment to him. In the whole, the reader is not
told that he had the command of the Connecticut fatigue party of
two hundred, one fifth of the whole, or even went on at night. In
the "Notes" of Mr Swett, his name will be found to occur twice in
depositions. Now is not Knowlton's well won reputation as dear as
Putnam's or Prescott's? With this, compare the notices of him on pp.
122, 134, 136, 151, 189, 190, of the Siege of Boston, which rest on
authorities that are named. Before these details, or others that
may differ _in toto_ from Mr Swett's History, be unceremoniously
shovelled aside as a "_chaos of mistakes_," I have a right to demand
that the authorities on which they rest, shall go through the process

It is then frankly admitted that the two histories, as far as they go
on together, will not harmonize in their details. All that need be
said on my part is, that an endeavor was made to frame the account
in the Siege of Boston with care and with a partiality only for well
directed effort, and lofty patriotism, and noble self-sacrifice, by
whomsoever manifested, going directly to original authorities in all
cases where it was practicable; and at a risk of being charged with
pedantry, references are made in notes to authorities, especially
where this battle is described, that will justify every line of the
text. It is these that are to decide who is most in error. The appeal
is cheerfully and confidently made to the candid and unprejudiced.
But whatever the judgment may be as to my selection of authorities,
I feel incapable of manufacturing facts, or of intentionally
disparaging the services, or of doing injustice to the reputation,
of any of the patriots who took a part in the great work of the

Having thus done with Mr Swett, who really deserves much credit for
his patriotic and indefatigable pioneer labors, and done, it is
hoped, finally with controversy on this subject, this opportunity is
embraced of making a few remarks on the character of the army and the
commanding officers of the battle of Bunker Hill. This is done the
more readily, as it will serve as an occasion to-weave in additional
contemporary matter, not in print, that may afford aid to a future
enquirer in settling this question.

The organization of the American army besieging the British army
in Boston at the time of the Battle of Bunker Hill, was peculiar.
The Massachusetts forces, though all of them had enlisted either
as minute men, or as part of the quota of this colony, were less
regularly organized, perhaps, than the troops of at least two of
the other colonies. Several of the colonels, and other officers,
had not been commissioned, and their rank had not been determined.
Up to this time, and all through the records and the documents of
the Provincial Congress, the forces of this province are called
"_The Massachusetts Army_." General Ward's commission terms him the
commander-in-chief of the Massachusetts forces, and he signs his
name, June 4, as such. The troops of Rhode Island, under Brigadier
General Greene, were also termed "The Rhode Island Army"--and "The
Army of Observation," and all the captures by it were to enure to the
benefit of the colony of Rhode Island. In like manner the Connecticut
forces, under Brigadier General Spencer, (the senior officer,) and
Putnam, were controlled by a Connecticut "committee of war" and all
captures were to enure to the benefit of that colony. Rhode Island
and Connecticut had not instructed their generals--June 17, 1775--to
put themselves under General Ward. The troops of New Hampshire were
differently situated from those of the two other colonies. The minute
men who flocked to the neighborhood of Boston on the Lexington alarm,
were advised by the New Hampshire officers to enlist in the service
of the Massachusetts colony, until their colony could have time to
act. These troops, then under Colonel Stark, were adopted by the New
Hampshire Provincial Congress, (May 20th) and put under the command
of Brigadier General Folsom. He did not arrive at camp until just
after the battle, but he gave an order to Colonel Reed, whom the
congress had also appointed colonel, to collect his regiment, a part
of which was under Stark at Medford, and put himself under General
Ward. The latter ordered him (June 15) to take post at Charlestown

The facts relative to the army, whatever bearing they may have on the
question of command, show that it was an army of allies. The four New
England colonies came together as equals, respecting each other's
equality, and with no idea in one of claiming precedence over the
others. The description of President John Adams is strictly correct,
and is borne out by contemporary documents. "Massachusetts had her
army, Connecticut her army, New Hampshire her army, and Rhode Island
her army. These four armies met together and imprisoned the British
army in Boston. But who was the sovereign of this united, or rather
congregated army? It had none." And he goes on to remark, that the
commanding officers of each colony were independent of each other.
Hence Elbridge Gerry (June 4, 1775) writes "We want a regular general
to assist us in disciplining the army." Hence the "committee of war"
of the colony of Connecticut, to remedy this evil of the want of a
commander-in-chief, on June 19th, 1775, considered the following
important votes:--

"On motion of the difficulties the army are and must be under for the
want of a general and commander-in-chief of the whole body, raised by
different colonies &c., and a due subordination, in consideration, &c.

"_Voted_, That his honor the governor be advised to give orders to
our officers and soldiers to be subordinate and yield obedience to
the general and commanding officer of the troops of the Massachusetts
Bay, while they act in that province, and until the governor, with
advice, shall see fit to order otherwise."

On the next day (June 20, 1775) the committee passed this order, when
the votes were as follows:--

"An order subjecting our officers and soldiers to the command of the
Massachusetts commander-in-chief, during their continuance in that
province, or until further orders, was read and agreed to.

A letter to General Ward, informing him thereof, and endorsing a copy
of said order, read and approved.

A letter to Deputy Governor Cook, of Rhode Island, informing him of
the same, and moving him to do the same respecting the troops of that
colony, read and approved.

A letter to the New Hampshire Congress of the like tenor and for the
same purpose, also read and approved.

A letter to General Spencer enclosing a copy of said order of
subordination, &c., read and approved.

And another letter to the same purpose, and copy, to General Putnam."

These facts certainly warrant the important inference, that there
was no _regular_ commander-in-chief; that the evil of not having one
had been felt; and that it had been determined to apply the needed
remedy, even as it regarded the four New England colonies. Besides
this, the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts (May 3) had _suggested
to the Continental Congress_ (convened May 10) the expediency of
raising "a powerful army:" and on the 15th it had sent an express
advising that body to assume the general direction and regulation of
the forces besieging Boston. Thus it was before the army had been
consolidated, before there was a commander-in-chief "of the whole
body," before the ranks of its officers had been determined, and
while it was in a transition state, that the Battle of Bunker Hill
was fought. It was while the troops were under the control of the
several colonies that had raised them, and before they had become
as Washington's first order (July 4, 1775) terms them, "the troops
of the United Provinces of North America." There was great want of
discipline, and there were many irregularities, but it gives a very
erroneous idea of the army to term it a mob; for even the hastily
assembled bands that fought the British troops from Concord, on the
Nineteenth of April, cannot justly be called an armed mob, but they
were an organized power, set apart, and trained, to do the thorough
and immortal work that was done that day. It also gives an idea quite
as erroneous to term the army regularly organized and consolidated.

The operations of this army were decided by its general
officers,--Ward, Thomas, Whitcomb, Pomeroy, Heath, Spencer, Putnam,
Greene, and perhaps others,--convened in council, and hence called
"The council of war." The Massachusetts committee of safety had no
power over it as a whole, though it was clothed with ample authority
to control the Massachusetts generals. Thus when it acted in the
important matter of occupying Bunker Hill, it passed but an advisory
vote. The ultimate, directing power was in the council of war. It is
however stated, that the orders of the day were copied by all the
troops, and that a voluntary obedience was yielded to General Ward as
the commander-in-chief.

The immediate occasion of this battle hardly needs a passing
remark. "_The commanders of the New England Army_" (the words
of the committee of safety account,) received authentic advice
that the British intended to penetrate into the country; when the
Massachusetts committee of safety (June 15) unanimously recommended
to the council of war to occupy Bunker Hill. This recommendation
was complied with. Hence the building of the memorable redoubt. The
object of the British was to drive the Americans from it.

The remarks that follow are not designed to present a narrative of
the battle, but as suggestions that may aid in showing more precisely
its character, and the agency that general officers exercised in it.

Artemas Ward, the commander of the Massachusetts army, graduated,
at Harvard University in 1748, had been a firm and useful member
of the general court and provincial congress, and had also seen
service in the military line. He was major in the Canada expedition
of 1758, and the next year was appointed colonel, but he had the
honor of having it revoked by the royal governor on account of his
prominence in the patriot cause. When forcible resistance had been
resolved on, and the first provincial congress, (October 1774) took
such admirable measures to keep the patriot cause free from any thing
like mob action, it appointed him (Oct. 27, 1774) one of the generals
to command, what then was very properly called "_the constitutional
army_," or minute men, or militia, whenever the committee of
safety should call them out to defend the colony. He was reëlected
Feb. 9, 1775, and in a long resolve commencing as follows:--"That
the Honorable Jedediah Preble, Esq., Honorable Artemas Ward, Esq.,
Colonel Seth Pomeroy, Colonel John Thomas, and Colonel William Heath,
be and they are, hereby appointed general officers," &c. Preble
declined, which left Ward the highest officer, and accordingly when
the minute men were summoned to the field on the nineteenth of April,
he on the next day took the command. But his commission was not
delivered to him until May 20, 1775, and it constituted him general
and commander-in-chief of all the forces raised by the Massachusetts
provincial congress; and it instructed him to obey the directions
of the committee of safety. General Ward had gained distinction
in Canada, was of great integrity of character, was a calm, cool,
intrepid man, and ranked high in public estimation; but he was
thought to be a better civilian than general.

General Ward's headquarters were at Cambridge on the day of the
battle. It is represented that, in the council of war, his opinion
was decidedly adverse to the measure of occupying so exposed a post
as Bunker Hill, and this would be in keeping with his cautious
character. At any rate, so thought the majority of this council,
until the resolution was suddenly taken (June 15) to occupy this
hill. Few contemporary allusions occur as to Ward's personal agency
in the battle. Dr Belknap's Diary (Oct. 20, 1775) supplies one:--"In
conversation with Mr Ward at Roxbury, I learned that the reason of
our throwing up the entrenchment at Charlestown, on the night of
the 16th June, was, that there had been intelligence received, such
as could be depended on, that the regulars had determined to make
a push for Cambridge after the arrival of their three generals and
reinforcements, who landed a few days before." There is nothing
satisfactory to show that General Ward did not concur with this
decision of the council of war.

His orderly book contains no orders relative to the expedition; but
Fenno's, contains a copy of the order issued to the Massachusetts
forces to parade. It was as follows: "June 16. Frye's, Bridge's and
William Prescott's regiments to parade this evening at six o'clock,
with all the entrenching tools in this encampment." This order,
it will be noticed, did not include the Connecticut forces, which
were also ordered to parade at this time. Now depositions say, that
General Putnam ordered these to parade. They did not consist of a
company under the command of Captain Knowlton, and were not all from
one regiment, but were ordered by Putnam to be draughted out of
several companies; and the next day, when more Connecticut troops
were ordered on, the fact is given by Chester, that Putnam also
ordered them on. But contemporary authorities and depositions, unite
in the fact, that the orders for the troops of New Hampshire and
Massachusetts to go on, went directly from General Ward. Thus Colonel
Stark, (June 20, 1775) states that he "_was required by the General_"
to send a party to Bunker Hill. So Prescott received his orders from
Ward, and when he applied for reinforcements, it was directly to him.
The orders of Ward to the forces of these two colonies, therefore,
did not _go through any other officer_, as they would have done had
one been specially detached to exercise a general command.

Throughout the action Gen. Ward had constant and frequent
communications with Charlestown. Henry Knox, afterward General Knox,
and Samuel Osgood, acted as his aids. Col. Joseph Gilbert is named
in the newspapers as having "at the request of General Ward" freely
exposed his life on this day by crossing the Neck several times "in
the time of action and under a galling fire to carry intelligence to
and from headquarters." But Ward remained at Cambridge. He considered
the attack on the redoubt as only a part of the object of the British
general, but that his main object was to march out of Boston, attack
his stores, break up his army, and then proceed to Charlestown Neck,
and enclose the Americans in the peninsula. It was not until the
intentions of the British general were clearly revealed, that he
detached large reinforcements to Charlestown. Such is the statement
made by General Ward's friends. And had the valor of the patriot band
on Breed's Hill been less, the greater might have been the estimate
placed on Ward's judgment.

The circumstances already stated, with others that might be named,
would seem to indicate that General Ward controlled the movements in
such a way, that he may be regarded as the general commander, if any
one can be so regarded. This view is supported by several allusions
that occur to him in contemporary letters. It should be borne in mind
that the result of the battle, the loss of the ground, occasioned
great indignation, and naturally gave rise to much unfavorable
comment. In some of this comment General Ward is spoken of _as the
direct commander_ of the battle. I will name here as one instance, a
letter of James Warren, (June 20, 1775) who was elected president of
the Massachusetts provincial congress, in the place of Joseph Warren.
He regards him and writes of him as the commander.

General Ward was in long and important service subsequently to the
battle. He was appointed by the continental congress first major
general, commanded the right wing of the army during the Siege of
Boston, and was left in command of the eastern department on the
removal of Washington to New York. He soon resigned his commission,
but at the request of congress, continued in service until the
close of the year. He subsequently filled most responsible offices,
being in 1777 president of the executive council of the colony,
in 1779 a member of the continental congress, in 1786 speaker of
the Massachusetts house of representatives, and sixteen years a
representative of the town of Shrewsbury. He died October 27, 1800,
age 73, leaving behind him an unblemished character, and a name
"precious among the friends of liberty and religion."

John Whitcomb was the officer next in rank who gave orders on the
day of the battle. He was chosen general by the provincial congress,
Feb. 15, 1775. He was an old veteran--took the field promptly on the
nineteenth of April, and, according to the orderly books, was one
of the three generals who formed the first council of war convened
on the 20th of April, at Cambridge. He was one of the sterling,
disinterested, uneducated patriot officers of the early revolution,
and appears to have enjoyed to a great degree the respect and
confidence of his contemporaries; and so valuable were his services
considered that when the provincial congress resolved, June 12, to
elect two major generals, on the next day (13th,) they elected him
the "first major general." He expressed an unwillingness to accept
this appointment, but on a "complaisant letter," dated June 16, being
sent to him by order of congress, strongly urging his acceptance,
the brave patriot replied, that "as the circumstances of the army
were so difficult and the enemy so near" he would accept. He was not
commissioned, however, until the 23d of June. But if Warren is to
be considered a major general--and his commission is to date from
the day of his appointment--so is Whitcomb. Indeed the evidence in
Scammans's trial shows that he was on duty on the 17th, and gave
orders in the afternoon. A letter of Samuel Gray, July 12, 1775,
states that two generals and the engineer went on to Breed's Hill
on the night of June 16, and reconnoitred the ground. One of them,
certainly, was General Putnam, and the other might have been General
Whitcomb. There is no mention, however, of his having been in the
battle, and no special service appears in connection with his name.
He was certainly in the field that day, gave orders, and was also the
officer next in rank to General Ward at Cambridge.

Joseph Warren was the officer next in rank, having been on 14th of
June elected the second major general of the Massachusetts army. It
is not necessary here to recount his history; but no one represented
more completely the fine enthusiasm and the self-sacrificing
patriotism that rallied to the support of the revolution, and no
one saw more clearly the great principle involved in this contest.
If he was of a high, chivalrous spirit, and of fascinating social
qualities, he had also a judgment beyond his years, and wielded
surprising influence with his contemporaries. He had been an active
and most efficient working patriot, in the civil line, and as such
he acted, as president of the Massachusetts provincial congress and
member of the committee of safety up to the day, and almost to the
hour of his death. He had twice exposed his life in the battle field,
once on the Lexington day, when he is said to have been the most
active man on the field, and again at Noddle's Island in May, under
General Putnam, yet it was as a volunteer and without a command; and
there is nothing on the records of the provincial congress, or among
its documents, to indicate that a commission as major general had
been made out for him, or that he had accepted this appointment; nor
does his name appear on such orderly books, as I have seen; neither
is it stated that General Ward ordered him, on the 17th of June, to
Charlestown, but on the contrary, his friends were urgent in their
entreaties that his valuable life should not be exposed in battle.
He went voluntarily, deaf to the most affectionate remonstrances,
listening only to the call of patriotic duty, in his own lofty spirit
of self-sacrifice, and to give the patriot band when it was in peril
the benefit of his presence. He went on, in his own simple words,
uttered after he got to the redoubt, "To encourage a good cause." On
his way from Cambridge he armed himself with a musket, took position
in the redoubt, and declined to give orders to Colonel Prescott.
Here I quote an entire note in Judge Prescott's MS. Memoir. It
indicates the cautious manner in which that eminent man wrote on this
interesting subject:--"General Warren came to the redoubt a short
time before the action commenced with a musket in his hand. Col.
Prescott went to him and proposed that he should take the command,
observing, he understood he had been appointed a major general a day
or two before, by the provincial congress. General Warren replied, 'I
shall take no command here, I have not yet received my commission;
I came as a volunteer with my musket to serve under you, and shall
be happy to learn from a soldier of your experience.' General Warren
fought gallantly with his musket, and unfortunately for his country,
fell; but, whether killed during the battle or on the retreat, is
made a question. I believe it was just after he left the redoubt, but
am not positive that I ever heard my father state it."

Deacon Samuel Lawrence, of Groton--the father of the Hon. Abbott
Lawrence--who went on under Colonel Prescott, aided in raising the
redoubt, was in it during the whole battle until the retreat, and
whose subsequent life was marked by great usefulness, integrity,
and public spirit, says of General Warren--"Just before the battle
commenced Gen. Warren came to the redoubt. He had on a blue coat
and white waistcoat, and, I think, a cocked hat, but of this I am
not certain. Colonel Prescott advanced to him, said 'He was glad
to see him, and hoped he would take the command.' General Warren
replied--'No, he came to see the action, but not to take the command;
that he was only a volunteer on that day.'" He further states--"I
knew General Warren well by sight, and recollected him perfectly
when Colonel Prescott offered him the command, and was sorry to see
him so dangerously situated, as I knew him to be a distinguished
character, and thought he ought not to have risked his life without
command on that occasion."

The determined spirit with which the leading officers went into this
battle could hardly have been exceeded. Putnam, Pomeroy, and Stark
were veterans beyond fear, and their names had become associated
with daring enterprise. Prescott went on to the hill on the night of
June 16th, with the resolution not to be taken alive--"I will never
be taken alive," he had remarked. "The tories shall never have the
satisfaction of seeing me hanged." Warren's high spirit had been
often stirred by the taunts which the British officers were wont
to indulge against the colonists. Indeed he felt them as keenly as
though they had been personal insults. It was only a few weeks before
the battle, that he remarked to William Eustis, afterwards governor,
at a moment when his spirit was galled by such insolence: "These
fellows say we won't fight! By heavens, I hope I shall die up to my
knees in blood." The report at first was that he disdained to fly. Mr
Bancroft, during his late residence abroad, got the account of the
battle which the French ambassador in London sent to Vergennes, the
French minister, which gives, with much particularity, an account
of the battle. It says--"Il (Warren) a refusé de le (Putnam) suivre
dans sa retraite; il est resté lui septième dans les entrenchments
de Charlestown et n'a pas voulu accepter de quartier." "He (Warren)
refused to follow him (Putnam) in the retreat; he remained one of
seven in the entrenchments at Charlestown and would not accept
quarter." General Ward (October 20, 1775) told Dr Belknap--"That
Dr Warren was the last man in the trenches after they were forced,
and died on the breastwork with his sword in his hand. That his
body was stripped naked, and buried so; his coat was sold in Boston
by a soldier for eight dollars. His body was dug up several times,
and buried again, to gratify the curiosity of those who came to see
it." In connection with the death of Warren is the chivalric act
attributed to the British Major Small, (which figures so largely
in Trumbull's picture,) who, in return for a similar service which
General Putnam had rendered him in the battle, it is said, endeavored
to save Warren's life. The whole relation, however, about Major
Small, bears too much the aspect of romance to be relied upon.

The most probable account, of the many accounts of his fall, is, that
he was killed early in the retreat, just outside the trenches. As the
contemporary notices of his death are interesting, a few more of them
are here quoted:--

The Remembrancer, (British) vol. 1, p. 250, says--"When the
provincials were retreating, of the three concurring circumstances,
Charlestown being on fire, the ships cannonading, and the regulars
advancing, the Doctor, with that intrepidity and contempt of danger
which peculiarly marked his character, stood alone for some time,
endeavoring to rally the troops and animate them by his example.
He was observed in this situation, and known by an officer in the
regulars, who, wresting a musket out of the hands of one of his men,
took aim, and lodged a bullet in his breast, of which he expired
without a pang."

A British lieutenant in the battle, John Clarke, in his pamphlet
account, printed in London, 1775, writes as follows of Dr Warren:--

"A report having prevailed that Dr Warren was not killed, I think
it necessary to contradict it, as I saw a soldier, after the Doctor
was wounded and lying in the trenches, going to run him through the
body with his bayonet; on which the Doctor desired he would not
kill him, for he was much wounded and could not live a great while
longer; on which the soldier swore that he would, for that he had
done more mischief than any one else, and immediately run him through
the body. The Doctor's dress was a light-colored coat, with a white
satin waistcoat laced with silver, and white breeches with silver
loops; which I saw the soldier soon after strip off his body. He
was supposed to be the commander of the American army that day; for
General Putnam was about three miles distant, and formed an ambuscade
with about three thousand men."

If John Clarke could stand idle and see this barbarity, he must have
been a fiend in human form. Both of these British accounts cannot be

James Warren, MS. letter, June 20, 1775, says: "Here fell our worthy
and much lamented friend Dr Warren, with as much glory as Wolfe on
the plains of Abraham, alter performing many feats of bravery, and
exhibiting a coolness and conduct which did honor to the judgment of
his country in appointing him a few days before one of their major
generals; at once admired and lamented in such a manner as to make it
difficult to determine whether regret or envy predominates."

J. Palmer, Cambridge, MS., June 19, 1775, says: "We yet have about
60 or 70 killed and missing; but--among these, is--what shall I say?
How shall I write the name of our worthy friend, the great and good
Dr W----. You will hear by others who will write to-morrow, such
particulars as I am not possessed of."

William Tudor, MS., June 26, 1775, writes:--"The loss of Dr Warren is
irreparable--his death is generally and greatly lamented. But

    'Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.'

This is a day of heroes. The fall of one will inspire the surviving
glorious band to emulate his virtues and revenge his death on the
foes of liberty and our country."[B]

   [B] I am indebted to Hon. Charles Francis Adams for the three
   letters from which these extracts are made.

Immediately after the battle it was reported in Boston that Dr Warren
had the command during the action, and statements to this effect
were written to England. Hence, in nearly all the British accounts,
this honor is awarded to him. The same thing is stated in some of
the almanacks of 1776. George's Cambridge Almanack, or the Essex
Calendar for 1776, says that he was the "commander in chief on the
occasion." The same account was printed in a handbill, with a parcel
of wretched rhyme, some of which also appeared in the newspapers.
Governor Trumbull, of Connecticut, in his Historical Letter, printed
in vol. VI. of the Massachusetts Historical Collection, dated August
31, 1779, gives an account of the action, and states that "the
brave General Warren" was the "commanding officer." The same thing
is stated in a History of the War in America, published by Coverly
& Hodge in Boston in 1781, and is repeated in an account in the
Analectic Magazine, (1818,) where it is stated that "General Putnam
directed the whole on the fall of General Warren."

That General Warren, in being present, and behaving so heroically,
exerted great influence in the battle by infusing his own spirit into
the patriot band, cannot be doubted. He acted, however, only as a
volunteer. There is no reliable account which states that he assumed
any command--that he performed any military duty in the army previous
to the battle, or that he gave an order during the engagement. He was
in the redoubt, and Colonel Prescott's letter makes it certain that
here he (Prescott) commanded throughout the action.

Seth Pomeroy was the next officer in rank, as he was the oldest
officer, being one of the first generals elected. He was one of the
intrepid veterans of the French wars, having commanded a company
under Sir William Johnson, when he defeated the army under Baron
Dieskau. He exerted large influence in Hampshire county, and had
a marked character for intrepidity, generosity, frankness and
patriotism. He was a delegate in the first and second provincial
congress from Northampton, and a colleague with the celebrated Major
Hawley. His name often appears on important committees. He was
elected a general officer Oct. 27, 1774, and again Feb. 9, 1775; and
probably preferring military service, was not returned a delegate to
the third provincial congress, which met on the 31st of May, 1775. He
aided in organizing the army that assembled at Cambridge to besiege
the British army, and was in service at the time of the battle. It
is stated that he had not received a commission in the Massachusetts
army, as Ward and Thomas had, but served under "his old commission;"
but the authority for this is not given. I have met with but few
authentic notices of him in connection with the battle. But it is
admitted that he went on to the field as a volunteer, and though he
ranked above Putnam, there is no evidence that he gave him an order.
He is said to have borrowed a horse of General Ward to carry him
on; but on arriving at Charlestown Neck, and seeing the severe fire
that raked it, he refused to risk the borrowed animal, but walked
across. He fought with a musket at the rail fence breastwork. He
behaved bravely during the battle, and in some accounts, figures as
the commander of a brigade. But he appears to have had no special
command. He was elected a brigadier general by the continental
congress, but declined on account of his age.

Israel Putnam, of Connecticut, was the general next in rank stationed
at Cambridge. Not an officer of the army, if Warren be excepted, had
a larger measure of popularity. His daring exploits at home, and on
the Canada frontier, had established his character for bravery, while
his public spirit and efficient political action, on trying occasions
during the ten years controversy from 1764 to 1775, had made him
widely known as a decided and bold patriot. But it is unnecessary to
relate his history. The Connecticut assembly, in April, made him a
brigadier general, and he was second in command of the forces of that
colony. At the time of the battle of Bunker Hill, the greater part of
these forces was stationed at Cambridge--the remainder, under General
Spencer, the senior officer, was at Roxbury. It was not, I think,
until subsequently to the battle, that Patterson's, Sargent's, and
other regiments (Mass.) were placed under his command.

No reliable contemporary account states that the detachment which
was detailed to take possession of Bunker Hill, was placed under
the orders of General Putnam, or gives him by express agreement
the superintendence of the whole expedition, or puts Col. Prescott
under him. On the other hand, the negative evidence is decisive and
conclusive. Scammans writes as though it were well known that there
was no general officer in command; James Thatcher states that though
several general officers came on to the field, no one assumed the
command; William Tudor says there was no authorised general command;
and Judge Prescott says that neither General Putnam nor any other
officer claimed or exercised any command over Prescott. It is also
a singular fact, that the patriot governor of Connecticut, Governor
Trumbull, the head of the committee of war of that colony, under
whose direct orders Spencer and Putnam acted, who speaks in the
most friendly manner of Putnam in his letters, who would be likely
to know the fact if he had commanded, and to claim the honor for
his colony if he justly could, yet in his historical letter (Aug.
31, 1779) names General Warren as the commanding officer. General
Putnam, too, in a letter dated May 22, 1776, speaks of venturing "his
life in the high places of the field," and of "taking possession
of Prospect Hill the very night after the fight on Bunker Hill,
_without having any orders from any person_." This does not indicate
that he was the commander in this fight, or had entrusted to him the
whole direction of the expedition. Nor does the relation that Stiles
has given--already quoted--indicate such a responsibility; but if
it indicates any thing, it is that he was not responsible for the
result. To all this must be added the decisive negative testimony
of the letter of General Ward, which is clearly to the point, that a
Massachusetts officer conducted the battle.

In order to show how decided is the denial that General Putnam
was detached to exercise a general command, or that the original
detachment was put under his orders, or that he gave an order to Col.
Prescott, I now add the following extract of a letter of the late
Judge William Prescott, the son of Colonel Prescott, which has not
before been printed. It is appended to his MS. memoir of the battle.
After remarking on Mr. Swett's history, he says (October 30, 1838)--

"There is one (fact) however, in which I cannot concur with the
statement in the history. This, as I understand it, represents that
General Putnam had the command of all the troops engaged in the
action. I have not the smallest disposition to disparage Gen. P. or
his services, but I believe no authority or reason can be found for
this supposition, other than his rank, and that he was on the heights
during the battle.

The detachment that marched from Cambridge the night before,
including the one hundred and twenty Connecticut men, was placed
under the command of Colonel Prescott, by an order in writing from
the commander-in-chief, with instructions to proceed to Bunker Hill
and fortify it till relieved. Colonel Prescott conferred with his
officers and Colonel Gridley (General Putnam might be present) as to
the place intended for the fortification; but Colonel Prescott took
on himself the responsibility of deciding, as well he might, for on
him it would rest.

I know from evidence that with me is conclusive, that General Putnam
never exercised any authority over this detachment, or any part of
it; and that he never at any time, before, during, or after the
battle, gave an order or command to Colonel Prescott."

These authorities and _facts_ in the case are put together without
the slightest disposition to do injustice to this brave old general.
Still, if there be any authority, _in manuscript or in print_,
between June 1775 and May 1790, which assigns to him the command of
the original detachment, or of the battle of Bunker Hill, let it be

But General Putnam had been an efficient officer since the rustic
army gathered at Cambridge, was one of the council of war, is
understood to have been in favor of fortifying Bunker Hill, and
was the last to shrink from a perilous enterprise. His patriotic
zeal carried him to the heights during the watches of the memorable
night when the redoubt was built, and also early on the next day,
to give the entrenching party the benefit of his presence and
council; and this carried him also into the heat of the fight,
at the commencement, at the rail fence--at its conclusion, on
the brow of Bunker Hill. The contemporary accounts that name him
in connection with the battle, harmonize as to the nature of his
service. Chester gives the fact that about noon he ordered on all
the Connecticut troops at Cambridge; Martin states that he came on
with a reinforcement; Gordon states that he was employed in aiding
and encouraging the troops here and there, as the case required;
Pitts states that he was employed in collecting the men; and Williams
(secretary of the Connecticut committee of war) states he received it
that he commanded the troops, perhaps not in chief. And thus, while
the negative testimony is against the idea of his being detached
to exercise a general command, that of a positive cast is that as
a general officer he acted the part of an aid, an assistant, a

And in such capacity he did his duty fearlessly, faithfully, well. He
was on horseback, and rode quickly from place to place.[C] His main
service was in connection with the reinforcements. He gave orders to
them, not in the redoubt, not, I think, near the redoubt, but at the
rail fence, and on Bunker Hill, and in the rear of this. He stated
himself--so Stiles says--that there was "a reinforcement within half
a mile" that ought to have gone on to the hill, but the heavy fire at
"the open causeway" deterred it, and that "in the heat of the action
he went away to fetch across _this reinforcement_." Now this service
is consistent with the duty of a patriotic volunteer "collecting
men," but is it consistent with the duty of a responsible commander,
ordering a battle? What would be thought of a general, who, in the
heat of an action, should leave the field, and go half a mile after
a reinforcement, and not get back until a retreat had commenced? Is
it not at considerable hazard to General Putnam's reputation that,
with such contemporary evidence to meet as there is in this case--the
authenticity of which cannot be successfully impugned--the position
is maintained that he was the immediate and responsible commander
of this battle? But to return: General Putnam most probably left
the hill after the first attack. He next is seen braving the balls
at Charlestown Neck, and, in the rear of it, urging on the backward
troops. Thus Samuel Bassett says he came in full gallop to Ploughed
Hill (Mount Benedict) from the neck, (which, probably, was _after_
the first attack) exclaiming, "Up my brave boys, for God's sake!
We drive them;" and Sargent and Cooke say that he was at Prospect
Hill, at an hour and under circumstances, which must have been while
the battle was going on. Here the contemporary evidence (Stiles and
Pitts) and the soldiers' statements (Bassett, Sargent and Cooke)
harmonize. The retreat (Stiles says) had commenced before he got
back. But he must soon have rode to Bunker Hill, for he is found here
by a messenger Col. Scammans sent; and when his regiment got to this
hill he ordered it forward. On the brow of this hill, where there
was hot fighting, he put himself between the retreating throng and
the advancing enemy; and, regardless of personal danger, he urged
the flying troops to stop. "Make a stand here!" he exclaimed, "We
can stop them yet! In God's name form! and give them one shot more!"
There are other circumstances that will harmonize with this detail;
and if it will not furnish a stage on which to act the Major Small
romance--where Putnam saves Small's life--all that need be said is,
that it is time to ignore _some_ of the romance that has accumulated
about the battle of Bunker Hill.

   [C] Here I quote an extract from p. 169 of the SIEGE OF
   BOSTON. To sustain the statement I have before me several
   pages (MS.) in which the notices of General Putnam's movements
   to be found in the soldiers' statements, are compared with
   such contemporary notices of his conduct as I have been able
   to glean. I see no cause to alter a line of it:--"The mass
   of matter relative to General Putnam's movements on this day
   presents the following account of them as the most probable. On
   the evening of June 16, he joined the detachment at Charlestown
   Neck; took part in the consultation as to the place to be
   fortified; returned in the night to Cambridge; went to the
   heights on the firing of the Lively, but immediately returned
   to Cambridge; went again to the heights about ten o'clock;
   was in Cambridge after the British landed; ordered on the
   Connecticut troops, and then went to the heights; was at the
   rail fence at the time the action commenced; was in the heat of
   the battle, and during its continuance made great efforts to
   induce the reinforcements to advance to the lines; urged labor
   on works at Bunker Hill; was on the brow of this hill when the
   retreat took place; retreated with that part of the army that
   went to Prospect Hill, and remained here through the night. He
   was on horseback, and in a few minutes' space of time could be
   not only in any part of the heights, but even at Cambridge. It
   is not, therefore, at all strange, that statements made by the
   soldiers as to the time when, and the place where, they saw the
   general, amid the confusion of so terrific a scene, cannot be
   reconciled; and more especially as these statements were made
   after an expiration of forty or fifty years."

In all this, General Putnam acted as a general officer would have
acted. He gave orders, undoubtedly, not only to the Connecticut
officers and troops, over whom he had a specific command, but to
others over whom he had no special command. If it be true that even
in an army of allies the oldest or highest officer ranks, still it
is also true there must be the requisite discipline, regularity and
subordination, to allow this principle to operate, and that the
officer who appears on a field of battle to take the command from
an inferior officer, must be _ordered on by his superior_. Such
in either particular is not the case here. Every thing was in an
irregular, half-organized, transition state, and there is no more
evidence that Ward ordered Putnam on than that he ordered Pomeroy
(his senior) or Warren on. Besides: he was neither the highest nor
oldest allied officer, for Whitcomb, Warren, and Pomeroy ranked him.
Indeed it has been stated, by those defending Putnam, that Ward could
not order him on. Thus Hon. John Lowell remarks: "It is certainly
true that there could not in the nature of the case have been any
authorized commander." General Putnam might give orders, even
accompany them with threats, and yet not be detached to supercede
Prescott. In so trying a scene, an officer so popular on being seen
in the field, would naturally be looked up to for advice and applied
to for orders. A case in point is that of Arnold at Saratoga. He was
only not ordered by Gates on to the field, but was actually under
arrest, yet seeing the necessity of prompt and decisive action, he
galloped about, giving orders, leading on the troops, and was obeyed
as though he were ordered on. So with General Putnam during the
Bunker Hill battle. He rode about from place to place, cheering all
with whom he came in contact, "aiding and encouraging where the case
required." Some of the officers and troops not under his immediate
command respected his authority, while others refused to obey him.
Some of the Connecticut forces whom he ordered to the field, did a
brilliant service, and indeed no service was more brilliant; but some
of the Massachusetts forces, whom he labored hard to get into the
battle, behaved badly. Indeed in the afternoon, during the battle,
and in the rear of Bunker Hill, there was great confusion, as Captain
Chester's excellent and life-like letter (July 12, 1775) firmly
establishes. That Gen. Putnam was not successful in getting these
backward troops into action, in sheer justice, ought to be ascribed
neither to his lack of energy nor of conduct, but to the hesitancy
of inexperienced troops, to the want of spirit in some of their
officers, and to the general lack of discipline and subordination in
the army. General Putnam was not blamed for this at the time, but on
the contrary, his services as an officer throughout the siege are
spoken of in letters in terms of lively approbation. Indeed among
all the documents of the time--I mean those I have seen--in print
or in manuscript, there is not a disparaging remark on his services
this day; and none occur until the unjust comments made by General
Wilkinson in his memoirs, printed in 1816. Still, to represent that
the detachment sent to Bunker Hill was under his command, and that
Colonel Prescott acted under his orders, is to contradict the most
positive evidence and violate the integrity of history.

William Prescott was one of the French war veterans. He served as a
lieutenant of a company under General Winslow at the capture of Cape
Breton, and so decided was the military talent he displayed, that he
attracted the particular notice of the British commander-in-chief,
who urged him to accept a commission of a lieutenancy in the regular
army. This he declined, as he was unwilling to adopt a military
profession and leave his native country. He was born in Groton, but
he lived in that part of it which was set off, and became Pepperell.
Here he took a prominent part in the questions that arose between
the colonies and the mother country, and on the popular side. He
represented Pepperell in the celebrated convention of committees
held in Boston in 1768, in the convention of Middlesex county Aug.
30, 1774, when the boldest measures were determined upon, and in the
provincial congress of October. He is called on the records of this
congress Captain William Prescott. He was not a member at the time of
the battle. He had been also chairman of the Pepperell committee of
safety. He was chosen colonel of the minute men, when they organized
agreeably to the advice of the provincial congress, and it was in
this capacity that, on the "Lexington Alarm," he hastened at the head
of his men to Cambridge, and acted as one of the members of the first
council of war. To him were assigned some of the earliest duties of
the campaign. On the 27th of May he received a colonel's commission
in "the Massachusetts army," being then about fifty years of age.

Among the Massachusetts colonels there was, at that time, no one
more distinguished, both in the civil and military line, than
Colonel Prescott. And when the resolution to occupy Bunker Hill, so
unanimously advised by the Massachusetts committee of safety, was so
suddenly taken by the council of war, the selection of an officer to
perform this service could not have fallen upon a patriot of greater
decision of character, or a soldier of more dauntless resolution. His
established reputation furnishes a sufficient reason for his being
selected for so dangerous and trying a duty. Though in the afternoon
of June 16, his regiment, with Frye's and Bridge's, was required to
parade at six o'clock, yet it was not until evening that he received
orders in writing to take the command of a detachment. He received
them directly from General Ward. They required him to proceed, at
the head of his detachment, to Bunker Hill, and there erect such
fortifications as he and Colonel Gridley--the chief engineer of the
Massachusetts army--should judge proper for its defence; and he was
instructed not to communicate his orders until after he had passed
Charlestown Neck. Thus he was regularly detached for a special
service, and as such marched at the head of his troops. "General
Putnam"--so Judge Prescott expressly states from information from his
father--"did not head the detachment from Cambridge to Bunker Hill,
_nor march with it_." It was under the entire command of Colonel

In all the evidence, it is only twice that Colonel Prescott, up to
about the time of the attack, appears in consultation with general
officers: once in the night, in reference to the place to be
fortified, and once just before the enemy made his first landing, in
reference to the removal of the entrenching tools. It may be well to
look at both these cases.

When Colonel Prescott, in the evening of June 16th, arrived at
Charlestown Neck, he halted, and sent a small party, under Captain
Nutting, to the lower part of the town, to serve as a guard. He
soon marched over to Bunker Hill, and again halted. It was here,
probably, that he communicated his orders to his officers, and held
a consultation as to the place to be fortified. Other officers, who
did not march with the detachment, were present, and took part in
the discussion. Samuel Gray (Letter July 12, 1775,) gives the best
account of what took place. He states that "the engineer 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
entrench on Charlestown Hill (Breed's Hill) 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
as was done." One of these generals was General Putnam. There is no
data to determine who the other was, but rather from the estimation
which Gen. Whitcomb's character was held, his recent appointment as
major general, and the fact he was on active duty, than from anything
else, it may be inferred that he was the general. No account states
that Colonel Prescott here received an order; but Judge Prescott does
say that the responsibility of the decision rested with him. When the
troops got to the spot, so Prescott states, "the lines were drawn
by the engineer." After the men were at labor General Putnam, and
probably the other general, returned to Cambridge.

The other instance, which was before the British landed, occurred
between eleven and twelve o'clock in the forenoon. The men had mostly
ceased to labor on the entrenchments, and the entrenching tools had
been piled in the rear of them. General Putnam rode on horseback to
the redoubt, and consulted Colonel Prescott relative to beginning
works on Bunker Hill; he also remarked to the colonel that the
entrenching tools ought to be sent off or they might be lost. General
Heath first relates this circumstance, and he is supported by the
depositions of several soldiers. Col. Prescott replied that if he
(Prescott) sent any of the men away not one of them would return.
To this Putnam replied, "they shall every man return." "A large
party," Heath says, "was then sent off with the tools, and not one
of them returned. In this instance the colonel was the best judge
of human nature." No order was given to Colonel Prescott, and the
collision of opinion was merely as to whether the men would return
to the redoubt. It is probable, by the way, that this affair of the
tools is the kernel of truth there is in the stories told of Putnam's
riding off the field with parcels of "pickaxes," "spades," "tents,"
or "tent-poles," on his horse. As though an officer with his reins
in one hand and his sword in the other, would or could have, in the
thick fight of such a retreat as that of Bunker Hill, such gear about
him. These stories are neither consistent with a general's duty nor
with a coward's fear.

Such are the only two occasions where mention is made of any thing
done when Colonel Prescott, up to about the hour of the attack, was
in consultation with general officers. It is, however, now admitted,
that he was the commander during the night of June 16th, and until
the next day about two o'clock in the afternoon. He detached guards
to the shores, convened his officers in council, applied directly
to General Ward for reinforcements, and no general officer gave him
an order. It is at the precise time when Generals Warren, Pomeroy
and Putnam came on to the field that the command is said to have
changed. But no authority states that General Ward _ordered on one
of these generals to supercede Prescott_; and that their volunteer
presence, so far as the _fact_ is concerned, changed the command, is
expressly denied by contemporary testimony. Besides, it is thoroughly
refuted by Colonel Prescott's admirable letter giving an account
of the action. This letter throws great light on the battle; for
it specifies, for the first time, important dispositions that were
made, and important orders that were given, and who gave them. It
indicates any thing rather than a change of command at this precise
time. If this letter is characterised by directness and modesty, it
has also a soldier's frankness.

But there may be said to have been, in the action, a divided command.
Colonel Prescott's letter, in connection with another contemporary
letter (July 22, 1775,) of almost equal interest and authority,
written by Captain John Chester, an accomplished Connecticut officer
in the battle, clearly shows this; and, in fact, it is only necessary
to put together a few passages from these two letters, which have so
long lain in manuscript, to show minutely how it originated. At the
time the British first landed, between one and two o'clock, there
had been _but one position taken_, (the small parties stationed
in Charlestown, and, possibly, slight works just began on Bunker
Hill, excepted)--namely, that of the first entrenchments, close
together, on Breed's Hill. Here were the Massachusetts troops and the
two hundred Connecticut men,--the New Hampshire forces not having
arrived. The enemy, on landing at Moulton's Point, immediately
formed in three solid columns; but soon there were indications that
he intended to surround the redoubt. It might have been as General
Howe, with a party, reconnoitered the entrenchments, or on the
appearance of a flanking party. Colonel Prescott saw the necessity
of a counteracting movement. But let the two letters tell the story.
Chester says: "They (the British) were very near Mystic River, and,
by their movements, had determined to outflank our men and surround
them and their fort. But our officers in command, soon perceiving
their intention, ordered a large party of men (chiefly Connecticut)
to leave the fort, and march down and oppose the enemy's right wing."
That is, the enemy appeared determined to move his right wing along
the shore of Mystic River and surround the fort, and this "large
party" was detached to take a position to prevent him. Now Prescott
says: "I ordered the train, with two field pieces, to go and oppose
them (the British) and the Connecticut forces to support them." The
train did not do the required service, but it was otherwise with
the Connecticut forces. Chester adds: "This they did, and had time
to form somewhat regularly behind a fence half of stone and two
rails of wood. Here nature had formed something of a breastwork, or
else there had been a ditch many years agone. They grounded arms,
and went to a neighboring parallel fence and brought rails, and
made a slight fortification against musket ball." Now Samuel Gray,
(July 12, 1775,) states that this party was under the command of
Captain Thomas Knowlton. Here, then, is a clear, circumstantial and
authentic contemporary account, which cannot be set aside. _It was
Colonel Prescott, not General Putnam_, who gave the important order
for Captain Knowlton to leave the fort and "oppose the enemy's right
wing," which occasioned the construction of the rail fence breastwork
that ran down to Mystic River; and to this gallant and noble
soldier, of keen military eye, who had admirable discretion as well
as marked bravery, belongs the honor of beginning this celebrated
defence. In a short time after it had been commenced, and while his
men were thus occupied, Colonel Stark, and, closely following him,
Colonel Reed, each at the head of a New Hampshire regiment, came on,
took position here, and went on extending this work. General Putnam
also came here, and what more like him than that, as the companies
were falling into line, and the British were slowly marching to the
attack, he should ride about, and speak cheering words, and give
them orders, and tell them how to place the rails, and exclaim, "Man
the rail fence, for the enemy is flanking on us fast!" "Men, you are
all marksmen; don't any of you fire until you see the white of their
eyes." Such facts are stated by several of the soldiers in their
depositions. Indeed the evidence, with few exceptions, will agree
well in fixing Putnam, on the first attack, at the rail fence. This
attack was made about half past three.

In this way, there had been _two positions_ taken, when the British
made their assault, the last one--the rail fence--being at the base
of Bunker Hill, some six hundred feet in the rear of the first one at
Breed's Hill; the diagonal line between the two being but slightly
protected, if protected at all. It was General Howe's plan first to
turn this last position, "to penetrate" the rail fence by his light
infantry, surround the fort, and cut off a retreat. Lieut. Page's
plan of the battle, which has been accurately engraved for the Siege
of Boston, by far the best plan, (so correct that its ground work
finely agrees with Felton & Parker's excellent plan of Charlestown,
taken in 1848,) has named on it the order in which it was intended
the British troops should advance upon the redoubt, after this part
of the defence had been forced. "But," says a British letter, July
5, 1775, "how could we penetrate? Most of our grenadiers and light
infantry, the moment of presenting themselves, lost three fourths,
and many nine-tenths of their men; some had only eight and nine men
a company left; some only three, four, five." Another British letter
says it "was found to be the strongest post ever occupied by any set
of men." The noble service done here is universally acknowledged.
General Putnam was here during the first attack, but after it he rode
to the rear to urge on the reinforcements. Pomeroy, Stark, Reed,
McClary and Knowlton, however, remained here during the battle, and
towards the close they were joined by others. This brave band did
not retreat until the main body under Prescott was obliged to leave
the hill. Where all behaved so gallantly, it is delicate to name the
most active officer. After Putnam left, Colonel Stark was the senior
officer, who had a special command. But there was little military
order, or general command here. Hence Colonel Stark, his son Major
Stark, General Dearborn, and others, were in the habit of stating
that there was no general command, and even no efficient command at
all, but that every one fought pretty much on his own hook.

But Colonel Prescott did not go to the rail fence. His letter clearly
warrants the inference that, after he ordered Captain Knowlton out of
the fort, he had no intercourse with him or with the forces that took
position there. Of Knowlton's party he says, they went "I suppose to
Bunker Hill." (The rail fence was at the base of this hill.) Of the
New Hampshire troops he says--"There was a party of Hampshire, in
conjunction with some other forces, lined a fence at a distance of
threescore rods back of the fort, partly to the north." The committee
of safety account also indicates that this was a separate party.
Other authorities are to the same point. Wilkinson, for instance,
states that there was no concert or coöperation between the party
at the fence and the main position at the redoubt. Pomeroy, Putnam,
Stark, Knowlton, and other officers, named as being at the fence,
are not named as being, during the battle, in the redoubt. But
Colonel Prescott remained at the original entrenchments. Soon after
he detached Captain Knowlton to the important duty assigned to him,
he detached the lieutenant colonel and major of his own regiment
for other duty. He says--"I commanded my Lieut. Col. Robinson and
Major Woods, each with a detachment, to flank the enemy, who, I have
reason to think, behaved with prudence and courage." The depositions
of the soldiers are too confused to admit of a satisfactory detail
of the movements of these two parties. The service performed by the
brave Captain Walker, of Chelmsford, so far from being a reckless
volunteer dash, was probably done by Prescott's order, and under
one of those higher officers. The letter of Prescott mentions other
particulars, indicating independent command, and states that he kept
"the fort about one hour and twenty minutes after the attack with
small arms." He then gave the order to retreat. The first position
was the important post of the day, the main object of the enemy; and
here Prescott remained certainly the regular, responsible, authorized
commander--"the proper commanding officer," Heath writes, "during the
whole action." Dr Eliot, I think, of all the contemporary authorities
who name the officers, observes this distinction between the two
positions. He says--"Colonel Prescott commanded the party within the
lines, and Colonel Stark the men who were without, behind a rail

Now such efficient, uncontrolled, command--without, however, this
discrimination--is positively asserted by the contemporary evidence
and sustained by subsequent depositions. Thus James Thatcher says:
"The incomparable Colonel Prescott marched at the head of the
detachment, and though several general officers were present he
retained the command during the action." John Pitts says: "No one
appeared to have any command but Colonel Prescott, whose bravery
can never be enough acknowledged and applauded." Peter Thatcher
says that he "commanded the provincials." William Tudor says
"Colonel Prescott appeared to have been the chief." To this may
be added subsequent statements. I select, here, only two. Judge
Prescott states that no general officer "ever exercised or claimed
any authority or control over him, before or in the battle;" and
the anecdotes he gives, as woven into the narrative in the Siege
of Boston, harmonize with this independent command. Several of the
soldiers mention his efficiency in glowing terms. Thus the brave
Captain Bancroft, in the redoubt, says: "He continued throughout
the hottest of the fight to display admirable coolness and a
self-possession that would do honor to the greatest hero of any
age. He gave his orders deliberately, and how effectually they were
obeyed I need not tell." What the estimate of his services by his
contemporaries was, may be gathered from the enthusiastic remark of
Samuel Adams, (Sept. 26, 1775,)--"Until I visited headquarters, at
Cambridge, I never heard of the valor of Prescott at Bunker Hill."
"Too much praise," Heath also says, "can never be bestowed on the
conduct of Colonel William Prescott."

Colonel Prescott continued in the service through the year 1776;
distinguished himself again at the memorable retreat from the city of
New York, and served under Gates at the capture of Burgoyne. He died
at Pepperell, Oct. 13, 1795. A simple tablet over his grave marks the
place where his ashes repose. It is time that a monument worthy of
his deeds should be erected to his memory.

Such were the parts which general officers, on or off the field,
performed in this memorable battle. Colonel PRESCOTT, acting
under written orders, was regularly detailed for the service of
fortifying Bunker Hill, and, from the time he ordered ground to
be broken until he ordered the ground to be abandoned, he kept at
the original entrenchments, and acted the part of a commanding
officer, no general officer giving him an order, and none having
been ordered to supercede him; General WARREN, a volunteer in spite
of the affection that would have kept him from the field, without
having any special command, remained in the redoubt and fought side
by side with Prescott; General POMEROY, fighting with a bravery
worthy of his veteran renown, but with no special command, remained
at the rail fence; General PUTNAM, in the regular command of the
Connecticut troops stationed at Cambridge, was active, energetic and
fearless throughout, ordering them on to the field, giving orders to
other troops, and aiding and encouraging, as a patriotic volunteer,
wherever his services seem to have been required; and General WARD,
keeping at his headquarters, having frequent communication with
the battle field, directed the general movements of the troops to
such a degree that, at the time, he was regarded as the responsible
general commander. Such seems to be the conclusion which the evidence

But if to no one can be assigned a general command of all the troops
in the battle, yet to all may be justly and gratefully assigned the
award of having done a great work, which made an immediate mark on
events. The Americans were victorious enough to answer every purpose
that was necessary for the good of their cause--the British were not
beaten badly enough to prompt the ministry to resolve upon a crushing
blow. Indeed, the importance of this service can hardly be overrated.
The Americans, with defences, soon to become so formidable, hardly
commenced, for there were but slight defences on Cambridge road, and
slighter still at Roxbury--with their inefficient organization--with
their scanty supply of ammunition--were hardly in a condition to act
either offensively or defensively; while the ten thousand veterans
in Boston, supplied with every art of war, were in high discipline,
arrogant in their confidence, and exasperated at the presumption of
the "rebel" force in pretending to hold them in a state of siege.
Suppose Prescott, and Warren, and Pomeroy, and Putnam, had been of
less resolute hearts; suppose the patriot band instead of their
steady valor, and wonderful execution, had made but a feeble defence
and left the works; suppose about three o'clock on the memorable
seventeenth of June a panic had commenced on Breed's Hill--what
might not have been the disastrous result! The whole British army
in Boston was under arms and ready for any service. Only about a
third of it, say three thousand, was in the first attack. Had Howe
gone uninterruptedly forward, instead of the astounding repulse, and
rushed over Bunker Hill, and so onward, General Gage would have seen
that no more of his troops were needed there; and the seven thousand
remaining in Boston, with Clinton and Burgoyne to lead them, would
have been ready for other work. It was no chimera of General Ward
that the enemy might concentrate his force in Cambridge.

But the work done on Breed's Hill stopped all this. In less than an
hour and a half more than a thousand gallant British veterans, who
certainly behaved with remarkable courage, lay maimed or dead, on
this bloody field. Such an unlooked for, astounding result, shook out
of the British generals their arrogance and confidence, and changed
boldness into timidity; while it filled the Americans with nerve and
resolution. Contemporary language, uttered in the camp, shows best
the effect of the action--"The battle has been of infinite service,"
writes one; "Our troops are in high spirits and their resolution
increases," writes another; "I wish we could sell them another hill
at the same price," writes a third. William Tudor, (June 26, 1775,)
tells the whole in a few words--"The unanimous voice is, if the
continent approve and assist, we will die or be free. The sword is
drawn, and the scabbard thrown away, till it can be sheathed with
security and honor." So true is the remark of Daniel Webster, that
when the sun went down that day there could not be peace except on

NOTE.--Mr. Swett has made much account of the entry in Stiles's Diary
of June 20, 1775. I therefore print that portion of it relating to
the Bunker Hill Battle:--

   "June 20, 1775. Mr. William Ellery came in last evening from
   Providence, and showed me a copy of His Excellency Gen. Ward's
   letter of Saturday morning last, to the congress, informing the
   landing of the king's troops. Also a letter from the Chamber
   of Supplies, and another from Gen. Greene to Lieut. Gov. Cook,
   dated on Lord's day evening, giving an account of the battle.
   Gen. Greene says _Gen. Putnam with 300 men took possession_ and
   entrenched on Bunker Hill on Friday night the 16th. The Chamber
   of Supplies says that _Saturday morning early, the king's
   troops landed on the bank of that hill_, under discharge of
   cannon from the ships of the line drawn up before Charlestown,
   and from the battery on Copp's Hill in Boston. That afterwards
   they attacked General Putnam, who defended himself with bravery
   till overpowered and obliged to retreat--that the loss was not
   ascertained, but more of the enemy was killed than of us. Gen.
   Greene says that Gen. Ward had published from headquarters that
   our loss was about 40 killed and 100 wounded, and that the
   enemy's loss was judged three times as much. Greene seemed to
   doubt this at first, but from after enquiry, and considering
   that Putnam fired from the trenches, and that it was said the
   dead of the enemy covered an acre of ground, Gen. Greene seemed
   rather to credit the superior loss of the regulars.

   Upon news of the action or landing, the congress instantly
   broke up, and those who had arms repaired to the field of
   action. Hence Dr Warren's being in the action where he fell
   dying gloriously. Others went off each way into the towns to
   rally and convene the militia, which poured in vast multitudes
   to sustain the army if necessary. A cannonade was also began
   from the Neck, firing red-hot balls, &c. upon Roxbury. And this
   firing was continued all Saturday, Lord's day and yesterday,
   and was heard at Dighton, Warren, &c. Mr. Cook, of Tiverton,
   came from the camp, where he yesterday morning was on Winter
   Hill, and there saw Gen. Putnam entrenching and in good
   spirits, being fully reinforced. All are expecting another

Transcriber's notes

Text in italics is _underscored_.

Clear printer's errors were corrected, but original spelling was not

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