British Grenadiers attack up Breeds Hill at the Battle of Bunker Hill, 1775. Painting by E. Percy Moran, 1909.
Following the Battle of Lexington & Concord the town of Boston was effectively under siege. By June it was decided to recapture the Charlestown Peninsular, opposite Boston, before the Rebels brought up artillery and could bombard the town.
On June 17th, 5 British regiments, about 3,000 men, landed and attacked uphill against hastily prepared American defences. The Grenadiers impetuously attacked three, times taking heavy casualties, only forcing their way into the redoubt on Breeds Hill when the American militia ran out of ammunition.
One British officer described the casualties taken “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 or nine men a company left …”. The British suffered 225 dead and 800 wounded to 150 Americans killed.
The victory was pyrrhic, the attack was envisioned to be message to the rebels but the massive casualties inflicted by the untrained American militias on supposedly invincible British regulars gave the rebel’s hope.