The Battle of Bunker Hill

Start Free Trial

How did the geography of Bunker Hill affect the battle strategy?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Battle of Bunker Hill occurred near Boston on June 16, 1775, as part of the American War of Independence. While American forces had been instructed to take possession of Bunker Hill, they accidentally seized Breed's Hill, instead. Their position at the summit of the hill overlooked British forces.

In an attempt to repel the Americans, British troops had to march uphill. This fact slowed their advance considerably. While American forces — due to low ammunition — had to wait until the British were within 15 paces to open fire, the time it would take the British to cross 15 paces was extended due to the uneven terrain, and multiple attempts had to be made to storm the summit.

A second factor of geography that impacted the battle was the marshy conditions of the Mystic River. The Royal Navy could have navigated the river and used her ships to direct ship-to-shore fire against the American positions, however, British commanders were reluctant to take this step as the river was at low tide and they feared losing one or more of their vessels on the river's marshy bottom.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Geography impacted the Battle of Bunker Hill. The colonists had planned to take control of Bunker Hill. However, they instead took control of a nearby smaller hill called Breed’s Hill. The colonists understood they had the geographic advantage as the British would have to come up the hill to capture it. This was a difficult feat to accomplish as the colonists could just attack the British as they went up the hill.

The British tried several times to capture Bunker (Breed’s) Hill. The first two times they were forced to retreat. On their third attempt, they were successful because the colonists had run out of ammunition. While the British were victorious, it was a very costly battle for them.

This battle gave the colonists the belief that they could fight the British and hold their own. It was a boost in confidence for the colonists. It also sent a message to the British that fighting the colonists would not be as easy as some of the British thought it would be.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Battle of Bunker Hill, which actually took place on Breed's Hill in Boston, was the first major battle of the Revolutionary War. Although the Americans lost the battle, they made it a costly victory for the British, because they used the geography of the area to their advantage. The American were supposed to occupy Bunker Hill, but the commander of the Revoltionary Forces decided to take Breed's Hill instead, largely because it had two very steep slopes. The Americans constructed fortifications on top of the hill and waited for the British to attack. The British tried two times to take the hill and were repelled both times because the lesser American force held the high ground and the steep hillsides made progress extremely difficult. Finally, the Americans ran out of ammunition and the British were able to take the hill. However, they suffered over 1000 dead and injured men, while the Americans had only 411 casualities.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial