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The Hill That Bled

Actually, it happened on Breed's Hill, which is to the east of Bunker Hill, a grassy green slope, a place where children played and lovers came in the late sunlight to sit on the hillside and watch the ships passing in the bay. This bit of earth, meadow, and hillside, was connected with Boston by a narrow neck of land, and there, on a sunny afternoon, in June of 1775, the first large-scale bloody drama of our revolution was enacted.

You remember how the farmers stood before the British on Lexington Green; that was two months ago, in April of '75; but there is still no war, no army, no nation even--only partisan bands. From all over New England they have converged on the Massachusetts town of Boston. Farmers, smiths, millers, artisans and journeymen.

They bring their own arms, muskets, fowling pieces, blunderbusses; some have only pikes, crude, homemade spears. There is no army, no uniform, no commander in chief. There is only a people who have left their homes and their work to drive out the invader.

And one night they creep across the neck of land that connects Breed's Hill with the mainland, and dragging their heavy guns, they climb to the top of the hill. Now, in the moonlight, they can see the British fleet in the bay beneath them. They waste no time. All night they dig, panting, laughing and swearing softly, yet afraid.

And in the morning, half exhausted yet tense with excitement, they lie down behind their crude barricade and wait for the enemy. They tense as boatload after boatload of British troops row in from the warships and disgorge hundreds and then thousands of redcoats.

They crouch in the ditch, and when the enemy artillery fire is over and they look over the barricade, they see the enemy coming to the attack, endless red files, rippling bayonets, trained troops.

And now their leader roars at them: "Not now! Wait until you see the whites of their eyes!"

So they wait, and then, at fifteen yards they fire--and they know that the enemy, however fierce, is mortal too. And that they will never forget.

A thousand of the enemy spill their blood in the sun-drenched grass, and yet they come on. And the farmers fight with clubbed muskets, knives, rocks and bare hands. Driven back, they go back like bears, on their hind legs, clawing. For eight long years they will claw like that, and though they give the enemy more fields than this, they will come back again, and in the end, win.