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Thrilling Incidents In American History

• Title
• Preface

Revolutionary War
• Opening Of The Revolution
• The Boston Massacre
• Affair of the Sloop Liberty
• Affair of the Gaspee
• The Tea Riot
• The Boston Port Bill
• The First Continental Congress-Consequent Parliamentary proceedings
• Organization of the Minute-Men
• Patrick Henry-Second Provincial Congress-First Military Enterprise
• Battles of Lexington and Concord
• Battle of Bunker's Hill
• Capture of Ticonderoga
• Second Continental Congress-Washington's Appointment
• Siege of Boston
• Incidents at the Evacuation of Boston
• Burning of Falmouth
• Arnold's Expedition to Quebec
• Siege of Quebec, and Death of Montgomery
• Scenes at Quebec during the Siege
• Expedition against Charleston
• The Declaration of Independence
• The Battle of Long Island
• Washington's Retreat through New Jersey-Capture of General Lee
• Battle of Trenton
• Battle of Princeton
• Capture of General Prescott
• Battle of Brandywine
• Battle of Germantown
• Battle of Red-Bank
• Attack on Fort Mifflin-Retirement of the Army to Valley Forge
• Battle of Bennington
• Murder of Miss M'Crea
• Battle of Stillwater
• Battle of Bemis' Heights, and Retreat of Burgoyne
• Capture of Forts Clinton and Montgomery
• Surrender of Burgoyne
• The Treaty with France
• Attack on Savannah, and Death of Pulaski
• Storming of Stony Point
• General Sullivan's Campaign against the Mohawks
• Tarleton's Quarters
• Battle of Camden, and Death of De Kalb
• Arnold's Treason
• The Loss of the Randolph
• The British Prison-Ships
• Capture of the Serapis
• Putnam's Feat at Horseneck
• Battle of Eutaw Springs
• Wayne's Charge at Green Spring
• Capture of the General Monk
• The Mutinies
• Battle of the Cowpens
• Capture of New London
• Massacre of Wyoming
• Surrender of Cornwallis

War With France
• Capture of L'Insurgente
• The Constellation and Vengeance

War With Tripoli
• Burning of the Philadelphia
• Bombardment of Tripoli
• Loss of the Intrepid
• Expedition of General Eaton

Second War With England
• Battle of Tippecanoe
• Capture of the Guerriere
• Tragical Affair of an Indian Chief
• Battle and Massacre at the River Raisin
• Captain Holmes's Expedition
• Capture of the Caledonia and Detroit
• The Wasp and Frolic
• Gallant Conduct of Lieutenant Allen at the Capture of the Macedonian
• Capture and Destruction of the Java
• Siege of Fort Meigs
• Capture of York, and Death of General Pike
• Defence of Sackett's Harbour
• Defence of Fort Stephenson
• Battle of Lake Erie
• Battle of the Thames
• Gallant Action of Commodore Chauncey under the guns of Kingston Citadel
• The Sacking of Hampton
• Capture of the Peacock
• Massacre at Fort Mimms
• Surrender of Weatherford
• Battle of Niagara
• BattIe of New Orleans

War With Mexico
• Battle of Palo Alto
• Battle of Resaca de la Palma
• Capture of Monterey
• Battle in the Streets of Monterey
• Thrilling Scenes in the Battle of Buena Vista
• Bombardment of Vera Cruz
• Battle of Cerro Gordo
• Battles of Contreras and Churubusco
• Storming of Chapultepec


HE traveller who visits Boston, cannot fail to associate in his mind the field of battle where the early heroes of the revolution first established the character of that event, marked as it was by undaunted resolution, the offspring of a determined purpose. From the State House of Massachusetts, conspicuously seated on an eminence, the eye ranges over Charles town, a considerable town that now adjoins Boston by a spacious bridge. The patriot will scarcely content himself with a remote view of this impressive scene, designated by the celebrated Bunker's Hill Monument.

Battle of Bunker's Hill
Battle of Bunker's Hill

At a distance of about two miles, some hills are discerned, viz: - Prospect Hill, Plowed Hill, Breed's Hill, and Bunker's Hill. As you advance on the road in the rear of the navy yard at Charlestown, Breed's Hill rears its venerable brow on the left. Here it was, that a detachment from the American army of one thdusand men, under. Colonel Prescott, began at twelve o'clock in the night of the 16th of June, 1775, to throw up some works, extending from Charlestown to the river which separates that town from Boston. They proceeded with such secrecy and despatch, that the officers of a ship-of-war then in the river expressed their astonishment, when in the morning they saw in trenchments reared and fortified in the space of a few hours, where, from the contiguity of the situation, they least expected the Americans would look them in the face.

The alarm being immediately given, orders were issued that a continual fire should be kept playing upon the ufinished works, from the ships, the floating bat. terles In the river, and Copp's Hill, a fortified post of the British in Boston, directly opposite the American redoubt: but with extraordinary perseverance, the Americans continued to strengthen their works, not returning a shot till noon, when a number of boats and barges filled with regular troops from Boston approached Charlestown. The day was exceedingly hot. Ten companies of grenadiers, ten of light infantry, with a proportion of field-artillery, landed at Moreton's Point, the whole commanded by Major-General Howe and Brigadier-General Pigot. These troops having formed, remained in that position till joined by a second detachment of light infantry and grenadier companies, the 47th regiment, and a battalion of marines, making in the whole near three thousand men.

The Americans had not a rifleman amongst them, not one being yet arrived from the southward, nor had they any rifle pieces; they had but common muskets, and these mostly without bayonets; hut then they were almost all marksmen, being accustomed to sporting of one kind or other from their youth. A reinforce- ment of Massachusetts troops was posted in a redoubt, and in part of the breastwork nearest it. The left of the breastwork, and the open ground stretching beyond its point to the water side, along which time did not admit of accomplishing the work, were occupied partly by the Massachusetts, and partly by the Connecticut men under Captain Knowlton of Ashford, and the New Hampshire under Colonel Stark, the whole amounting to about one thousand five hundred men. By direction of the officers the troops upon the open ground pulled up the post and rail-fence, and carrying it forward to another of the same kind, and placing some clods of grass between, formed a slight defence in some parts.

A critical scene now opened to the view. The British regulars, formed in two lines, advanced slowly, frequevtly halting to give time for the artillery to fire. The light infantry were directed to force the left point of the breastwork, and to take the American line in flank. The grenadiers advanced to attack in front, supported by two battalions, under General Howe, while the left, under General Pigot, inclined to the right of the American line. As the British advanced nearer and nearer to the attack, a carcass was discharged from Copp's Hill, which set on fire an old house in Charlestown, and the flames quickly spread to others. The houses at the eastern end of Charlestown were set on fire by seamen from the boats. The whole town, consisting of about three hundred dwelling- houses, and nearly two hundred other buildings, speedily became involved in one great blaze, being chiefly of timber. The large meeting-house, by its aspiring steeple, formed a pyramid of fire above the rest. The houses, heights, and steeples in Boston were covered wIth spectators of this anxious scene, and the surrounding hills were occupied by others.

General Warren

The slow movement of the British troops advancing to the attack, afforded to the Americans the advantage of taking a surer and more deliberate aim. The wind having shifted, carried the smoke from the conflagration in such a direction that the British had not the cover of it in their approach. The destruction of the place, however, served to prevent their opponents from effecting a lodgment in the houses, whence they might have annoyed to advantage. General Warren, who had been appointed by Congreds a major-general in their armies only four days before, was everywhere aiding and encouraging his men. General Pomeroy commanded a brigade, and General Putnam, a brave and meritorious officer, directed the whole on the fall of General Warren. The troops were ordered to reserve their fire until the close approach of the British. They strictly obeyed, with a steadiness and composure that would have done honour to the most approved veterans; and when the enemy had arrived within ten or twelve rods, poured in a discharge of small arms, which arrested and so staggered their foes that they could only for a time return it, without advancing a step. Finding the stream of the American fire so incessant as to mow down whole sections, they retired in disorder to the river. Rallying as well as their extraordinary loss of officers would admit of, the British again advanced, with an apparent resolution of forcing their way, whatever loss of lives it might cost them. The Americans again reserved their fire till the enemy arrived within five or six rods, when, discharging their pieces, which were admirably pointed, they threw the opposing ranks again into confusion. General Clinton, who, with General Gage, the commander-in-chief of the British forces in Boston, was on Copp's Hill, observing the events of the day, when he perceived the disconcerted state of the troops, passed over and joined just in time to be of service. The united and strenuous efforts of the different officers were again successful, and the columns were advanced a third time to the attack, with a desperation increased by the unshaken opposition they experienced. It is probable, from the nature of the resistance, that every effort to dislodge the Americans would have been ineffectual, had not their ammunition failed; on sending for a supply, none could be procured, as there was but a barrel and a half in the magazine. This deficiency prevented them from making the same defence as before; while the British enjoyed a further advantage, by bringing some cannon to bear so as to rake the inside of the breast work from end to end, upon which the Americans were compelled to retreat within their redoubt. The British now made a decisive movement, covered by the fire of the ships, batteries, and field-artillery. The Americans disputed the possession of the works with the butt-ends of, their muskets, until the redoubt, easily mounted and attacked on three sides at once, was taken, and their defences. the labor of only a few hours, had been prostrated by artillery. Whilst these operations were going on at the breastwork and redoubt, the British light infantry were engaged in attempting to force the left point of the former, through the space between that and the water, that they might take the American line in flank. The resistance they met with was as formidable and fatal in its effects as experienced in the other quarter; for here also the Americans, by command, reserved their fire till the enemy's close approach, and then poured in a discharge so well directed, and with such execution, that wide chasms were made in every rank. Some of the Americans were slightly guarded by the rail fences, but others were altogether exposed, so that their bravery in close combat was put to the test, independent of defences neither formed by military rules or workmen. The most determined assaults of their regular opponents, who were now brought to the charge with redoubled fury, could not, after all, compel them to retreat, till they observed that their main body had left the hill, when they retrograded, but with a regularity that could scarcely have been expected of troops newly embodied, and who in general never before saw an engagement. Over powered by numbers, and seeing all hope of reinforcement cut off by the incessant fire of the ships across a neck of land that separated them from the country, they were compelled to quit the ground.

The staunch opposition of this band of patriots saved their comrades, who must otherwise have been cut off, as the enemy, but for them, would have been III rear of the whole. vVhile these brave heroes retired, disputing every inch of ground, and taking up every pew position successively that admitted of defence, their leader, the gallant Warren, unfortunately received a ball through the right side of the skull, and mechanically clapping his hand to the wound, dropped down dead.

The, British, taught by the experience of this day to respect their rustic adversaries, contented themselves with taking post at Bunker's Hill, which they fortified. The Americans, with the enthusiasm of men determined to be free, did the same upon Prospect Hill, a mile in front. It was here that General Putnam regaled the precious remains of his army, after their fatigues, with several hogsheads of beer. Owing to some unaccountable error, the working parties, who had been incessantly labouring the whole of the preceding night, were neither relieved nor supplied with refreshment, but left to engage under all these disadvantages.

This battle was generally admitted, by experienced officers of the British army who witnessed it, and had served at Minden, Dettingen, and throughout the campaigns in Germany, to have been unparalleled for the time it lasted and the numbers engaged. There was a continued sheet of fire from the breastwork for nearly half an hour, and the action was hot for about double that period. In this short space of time, the loss of the British, accortfing to General Gage, amounted to one thousand and fifty-four, of whom two hundred and twenty-six were killed; of these nineteen were commissioned officers, including a lieutenant-colonel, two majors, and seven captains; seventy other officers were wounded.

The battle of Quebec, in the former war, with all its glory, and the vastness of the consequences attending it, was not so disastrous in the loss of officers as this affair of an American intrenchment the work of but a few hours. The fact was, the Americans, accustomed to aim with precision, and to select objects, directed their skill principally against the officers of the British army, justly conceiving that much confusion would ensue on their fall. Nearly all the officers around the person of General Howe were killed or disabled, and the general himself narrowly escaped. At the battle of Minden, where the British regiments sustained the force of the whole French army for a considerable time, the number of officers killed, including two who died soon after of their wounds, was only thirteen, and the wounded sixty-six; the total loss of the army on that occasion was two hundred and ninety-one in killed, and one thousand and thirty-seven wounded.

The British acknowledged the valour of their opponents, which, by no means new to them, surpassed on this occasion what could have been expected of a handful of cottagers, as they termed them, under officers of little military knowledge, and still less experience, whom they affected to hold in contempt.

They pretended to forget that many of the common soldiers who gained such laurels by their singular bravery on the Plains of Abraham, when Wolfe died in the arms of victory, were natives of the Massachusetts Bay. When Martinique was attacked in 1761, and the British force was greatly reduced by sickness and mortality, the timely arrival of the New England troops enabled the British commander to prosecute the reduction of the island to a happy issue. A part of the troops being sent on an expedition to the Havana, the New Englanders, whose health had been much impaired by service and the climate, were embarked in three ships for their native country, with a view to their recovery. Before they had completed their voyage, they found themselves restored, ordered the ships about, steered immediately for the Havana, arrived whek the British were too much weakened to expect success, and by their junction contributed materially to the surrender of the place. Their fidelity, activity, and good conduct, were such as to gain the approbation and unbounded confidence of the British officers. Of such elementary principles were the heroes of Bunker's Hill composed. It surely was a misguided policy to rouse the opposition of men made of these materials.

A spot so fertile in great associations, could not but attract the special notice of President Monroe, during his tour to the eastward. It was precisely where Warren fell that his excellency met the citizens of Charlestown on the occasion, and addressed them as follows:

"It is highly gratifying to me to meet the committee of Charlestown upon a theatre so interesting to the United States. It is impossible to approacb Bunker's Hill, where the war of the revolution commenced with so much honour to the nation, without being deeply affected. The blood spilt here roused the whole American people, and united them in a common cause, in defence of their rigbts.-That union will never be broken."

Whether, indeed, we consider the action of the 17th of June in itself, or as the prelude to succeeding events, we must pronounce it to be the most glorious of our history, for the numbers engaged and the defences made use of. If we except that of New Orleans, no parallel is to be found to it, in the extent of impression produced upon the enemy. But there, time had been afforded for maturing the works, which were constructed under the superintendence of skilful engineers, and extended across a position that could not be outflanked. Twelve hours only were gained for those on Breed's Hill, formed, during a great part of the time, under a heavy fire from the enemy's ships, a number of floating batteries, beside fortifications which poured upon them an incessant shower of shot and shells, and left incomplete, owing to the intolerable cannonade.

We shall close this account with an extract frem General Wilkinson's Memoirs, vol. 1.

"In the temper of the colonists, the deliberate attack on the provincials at Breed's Hill, the 17th of June, ] 775, under the orders of General Gage, became the signal for a general appeal to arms. These, indeed, were times which tried men's souls, but they have passed away, and may they never be forgotten. Tbe personal services and sufferings of those days, ought ever to obtain that consideration which the blessings of liberty and independence secured should inspire.

"On the evacuation of Boston by the enemy, I accompanied Colonels Stark and Reed to take a view of Bunker's Hill,-that memorable theatre of action, where the sword dissevered the ties of consanguinity, and cut asunder the social bonds that united the American colonies to the parent state.

"Arrived on the field of battle, where those officers had performed conspicuous parts, with anxious inquiry I traced the general disposition of our yeomanry on that eventful day, and the particular station of each corps; I marked the vestiges of the post and rail fence on the left, and the breastwork thrown up on the beach of Mystic river, which covered our armed citizens. I paced the distance to the point from whence the British light infantry, after three successive gallant charges, were finally repulsed. I examined the redoubt, the intrenchment, the landings and approaches of the enemy, and every point of attack and defence. Resting on the parapet, Where nine months before 'valour's self might have stood appalled,' I surveyed the whole ground at a glance, and eagerly devoured the information imparted by my brave companions.

"With a throbbing breast I stepped from this ground of unequal conflict, where American farmers, contending for the rights of nature, for their wives and children, and posterity unborn, bared their bosoms to the bayonets of veteran mercenaries-- where victory so long balanced between native courage and disciplined bravery, between freemen who contended for liberty, and the armed ruffian who fights for bread; and following my leaders, we traversed the ruins of Charlestown, lately the abode of thousands animated hy the buzz of active industry and social happiness, now buried in its own ashes.

"The resolution displayed by the provincials on this memorable day, produced effects auspicious to the American. cause, and co-extensive with the war; for, although compelled by superior numbers to yield the ground, the obstinacy of their resistance put an end to that confidence with which they had been first attacked, and produced measures of caution bordering on timidity. There can be no doubt that we were indebted to these causes for the unmolested occu- pancy of our position before Boston, which, to complete the investment, was necessarily extended from Roxbury on the right, to Mystic river on the left, a rectilinear distance of about four miles.

"To the cool courage and obstinacy displayed on the occasion, and the moral influence of the bloody lesson which Sir William Howe received on that day, we must ascribe the military phenomenon of a motley band of undisciplined American yeomanry, scarcely superior in number, holding an army of British veterans in close siege for nine months; and hence it might fairly be inferred, that our independence was essentially promoted by the consquences of this single battle."