The Battle of Bunker Hill: Now We Are at War
- Grade Level:
- Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
- Literacy and Language Arts,Social Studies
- Lesson Duration:
- 90 Minutes
- Common Core Standards:
- 6-8.RH.2, 6-8.RH.3, 6-8.RH.4, 6-8.RH.5, 6-8.RH.6, 6-8.RH.7, 6-8.RH.8, 6-8.RH.9, 6-8.RH.10, 9-10.RH.1, 9-10.RH.2, 9-10.RH.3, 9-10.RH.4, 9-10.RH.5, 9-10.RH.6, 9-10.RH.7, 9-10.RH.8, 9-10.RH.9, 9-10.RH.10
- Additional Standards:
- US History Era 3 Standard 1A: The student understands the causes of the American Revolution.
Curriculum Standards for Social Studies from the National Council for the Social Studies
- Thinking Skills:
- Remembering: Recalling or recognizing information ideas, and principles. Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Applying: Apply an abstract idea in a concrete situation to solve a problem or relate it to a prior experience. Analyzing: Break down a concept or idea into parts and show the relationships among the parts. Creating: Bring together parts (elements, compounds) of knowledge to form a whole and build relationships for NEW situations. Evaluating: Make informed judgements about the value of ideas or materials. Use standards and criteria to support opinions and views.
What were the motivations and consequences of the Battle of Bunker Hill?
1. To determine how the events in Massachusetts in 1775 united colonial forces in opposition to imperial rule;
2. To relate the events of the Battle of Bunker Hill and explain their importance;
3. To compare Boston and Charlestown land masses as they changed from 1775 to the present day;
4. To investigate their own community history to find out if there was a significant event in the past that united or divided the citizens.
Time Period: Late 18th century
Topics: The lesson could be used in units on the Revolutionary War or in courses on conflict resolution.
Today visitors stroll around a peaceful hilltop overlooking shade trees and row houses. A soaring granite obelisk rises where once stood an earthen fortification. A five acre park with stone markers is all that remains of the ground that became a raging battlefield and the site of the first full-scale battle of the American Revolution.
It was in June 1775 that the pent-up anger and hatred between the British and many American colonists exploded into brutal fury at the top of this hill, while the nearby town of Charlestown, Massachusetts, burned from red-hot cannon balls fired by British warships into its wooden buildings.
This Revolutionary War battle, which was supposed to have been fought on Bunker Hill, but which in fact took place on nearby Breed’s Hill, gained the British a narrow victory. At the same time it encouraged the colonists to continue to fight. Now often dotted by school groups eating lunch or resting after they have climbed the 294 steps to the top of the 221-foot monument, the battleground continues to evoke a sense of wonder at the story of one of the bloodiest battles of the Revolutionary War.
After the Boston Tea Party in 1773, British troops quartered in the town of Boston using their warships to keep Boston harbor closed. These actions cut off trade, crippled the economy, and put colonists out of work. British soldiers and colonists, now living in proximity, frequently brawled in the streets and in the taverns. People who had never paid much attention to political affairs now became overt or secret supporters of one side or the other. Biased broadsides and newspaper reports fostered enmity. Tensions came to a head on April 18, 1775, when British General Thomas Gage, appointed royal governor of Massachusetts, sent 700 British soldiers to Lexington and Concord to confiscate arms and ammunition being accumulated by the colonists.
Some of the colonists, forewarned about British troop movements, were waiting on the Lexington Green when the British arrived the next morning. To this day no one knows for sure who fired first, but a shot rang out. The British soldiers fired a volley into the colonial militia, killing eight men and wounding 10. The British then moved on to Concord where minutemen drove back three British infantry units guarding Concord’s North Bridge. On their subsequent march back to Boston they were peppered by patriot snipers. By the time the redcoats reached Boston, they had suffered 273 casualties compared with fewer than 100 for the patriots.
Engravings in local newspapers and broadsides incorrectly reported that the British, after attacking Lexington and Concord, raided and pillaged property all the way back to Boston. That news enraged patriots throughout the colonies. Within 48 hours, militiamen from Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts gathered in and around Cambridge, across the Charles River from Boston. The many differences that had separated the various colonies, including different religions, systems of government, and lifestyles, were set aside for a greater cause.
The Massachusetts Committee of Public Safety, headed by patriot leader Dr. Joseph Warren, selected Artemas Ward to take command of the volunteer soldiers around Boston. Ward, the senior general of the Massachusetts colonial army, reluctantly took command, but some groups of men remained under the control of their colonies’ militia company leaders. Slowly, however, these colonial armies placed themselves under Massachusetts’ command and became a New England army. By mid-June 1775, approximately 7,600 troops were camped in and around Cambridge.
While the patriots were mobilizing, General Gage tried to decide how best to deploy his 5,000 British regulars. He realized that whichever side could take control of the high ground of Charlestown, Roxbury Heights, and Dorchester Heights would have the advantage in a battle. The British army set forth a plan to occupy the hills around Boston by late June. Fortunately for the colonists, patriot leaders and the Massachusetts Committee of Public Safety learned of the plan and resolved that the colonial army should beat the British to the high ground by fortifying the hills of Charlestown.
Getting Started Prompt
Map: Orients the students and encourages them to think about how place affects culture and society
Readings: Primary and secondary source readings provide content and spark critical analysis.
Visual Evidence: Students critique and analyze visual evidence to tackle questions and support their own theories about the subject.
Optional post-lesson activities: If time allows, these will deepen your students' engagement with the topics and themes introduced in the lesson, and to help them develop essential skills.
Boston National Historical Park
Boston National Historical Park is a unit of the National Park System. The park's web page provides details on the park and visitation information. Included on the site is a Virtual Visitor Center that guides you through the Freedom Trail, Charlestown Navy Yard, and other sites that demonstrate Boston's role in our nation's history.
The American Battlefield Protection Program
The National Park Service's American Battlefield Protection Program provides information about major Revolutionary War battles on its website.
National Archives and Records Administration
The National Archives and Records Administration offers a wealth of documents related to the Revolutionary War and the creation of the United States of America in their online exhibit hall. Visit "American Originals" to view documents such as George Washington's account of expenses while Commander in Chief of the Continental Army. Also visit "The Charters of Freedom" to see the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
Library of Congress
Search the digital collections on the Library of Congress web page for further information about the revolutionary time period. The following links are of special interest: Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention: 1774-1789, Words and Deeds in American History, the George Washington Papers, Map Collections: 1544-1999, and An American Time Capsule.
Liberty! The American Revolution
Liberty! is the story of the American Revolution – two and a half decades of debate, rebellion, war, and peace. It begins after the French and Indian War and ends with the creation of the U.S. Constitution. Liberty! is an online companion to the PBS documentary, Liberty! The American Revolution.
Museum of the American Revolution
The Museum of the American Revolution aims to tell inclusive stories of the nation’s founding. The museum website provides educator resources, a timeline of the Revolutionary War, and descriptions of collections objects.
Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI)
The WPI website provides detailed military information about Revolutionary War battles, including the Battle of Breed's Hill/Bunker Hill. Also on the web page is an overview of the events leading to the battle, a brief history of the battle, and a detailed breakdown of battle specifics.